Rolling Stone Baits A Hook, And The Internet Bites

Rolling Stone Baits A Hook, And The Internet Bites

Shane BarnhillWednesday,3 December 2014

The Snap:

Earlier this week, Rolling Stone released its list of the 50 best albums of 2014. The list includes solid (and, IMO obvious) picks such as Taylor Swift’s 1989, St. Vincent’s eponymous release, and Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days. But the top spot on the list was reserved for a surprise winner: Songs of Innocence, by U2. According to Rolling Stone, “There was no bigger album of 2014 – in terms of surprise, generosity and controversy.”

The Download:

To be fair to Rolling Stone, they’re right about two of those aspects. The album’s launch at an Apple event back in September, as a temporary iTunes-exclusive release, certainly stunned Apple fans, who of course immediately hopped on Twitter to not only express their surprise, but also to mock the publicity stunt. And controversy? Yep. Wired called the forced download of Songs of Innocence onto millions of Apple devices “Even Worse Than Spam,” and U2’s Bono eventually offered a mild apology for the stunt.

But generosity? Please. Songs of Innocence wasn’t offered up out of the goodness of anyone’s heart. The straight-to-Tunes release was part of a reported $100 million marketing partnership between Apple and U2. The band received big money and Apple’s promotional might in return for a small window of exclusivity. Meanwhile, Apple grabbed headlines and stayed top of mind with music consumers at a critical time — the company is both absorbing Beats Music and navigating a transition from direct music sales to music streaming.

So U2’s latest release generated surprise and controversy. Fine. Those metrics are as useful as any other subjective measures for inclusion on a “best of the year” list. Sales and positive Twitter mentions could have been other (equally valid) measures. Whether Songs of Innocence is really any good is a matter of personal preference. For what it’s worth, here’s my tl;dr review: It’s fine. The album is about what you’d expect from U2 at this stage of the band’s career. Highly polished. Well (perhaps overly) produced. No big stinker songs, but no timeless classics either. Not very innovative, but not terrible.

While my brief synopsis diverges highly from Rolling Stone‘s gushing praise, I want to congratulate the publication on a job well done, because, let’s face it, Rolling Stone’s real objective wasn’t to crown a champion from within a definitive guide to the best albums of 2014. The true goal was to troll the internet, create even more controversy surrounding Songs of Innocence, provoke outcries and bait readers into panning or ridiculing Rolling Stone. And guess what? It worked:










You’ll notice, of course, that most of these comments included handy links back to Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of 2014 list, thereby increasing page views for the Rolling Stone website and raising enough awareness to help spur sales of dead tree versions of Rolling Stone magazine.

Masterful, A+ trolling. Bravo, Rolling Stone.


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Hat Tips:

Rolling Stone, The New York Times, NMEImage Credit: Flickr

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