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U2 have announced the release of their 13th studio album, Songs Of Innocence, available now and free to all i Tunes customers.
And, after several years' gestation, five producers, ever-shifting release dates and Bono publicly fretting that the biggest band in the world was on the verge of irrelevance, fans will be relieved to hear that it sounds a lot like U2.
On first impressions, Songs of Innocence is not an attempt to create a grand masterpiece that redefines the band, but rather, as the title suggests, to reconnect them with an elusive pop elixir of youthful energy and passion.
Lyrically, it reflects on the past, on their origins as a band and as individuals, which is unusual territory for the usually forward-looking Bono and the Edge (who share lyrical duties).
Two Eleven debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200 with first week sales of 65,000 copies, becoming Norwood's fourth top ten and her first in eight years.
It also debuted on top of on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, her second album to do so.
There were long sessions with cool American producer Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, who started working with the band in 2010.
The album was first mooted for release at the beginning of 2014 (hence the release of a one off single, Invisible, in February), but since then there have been sessions with Paul Epworth (British producer for Adele, Coldplay and Florence And The Machine) and Ryan Tedder (top songwriting collaborator with the likes of Adele, Taylor Swift and Beyonce), both highly commercial producers who bring some contemporary sheen.
It is one of the songs that hints at ideas and feelings in the deeper currents of an album made up of dazzling surfaces. It is six years since No Line On The Horizon (itself widely deemed a flawed album) and three years since they completed their record breaking 360 Degree tour.There are songs about growing up on the north side of Dublin (the fierce and strange Raised By Wolves and the dense, somewhat ungainly Cedarwood Road), memories of Bono’s late mother (the chiming disco driving Iris (Hold Me Close)) and appreciations of musical inspirations (the loose, groovy This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now is dedicated to Joe Strummer, and celebrates the Clash spirit of passion and purposefulness).Each track seems very defined in itself, opening with a trio of songs aimed directly at American radio (The Miracle, Every Breaking Wave and California (There Is No End To Love)), packed with chiming guitars, synth hooks and epic choruses.The first single, "Put It Down", features Chris Brown and was released from May 2012.
It peaked in the top-five of the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, becoming Norwood's tenth top ten single on the chart and her first in a decade.
But it's more pop than Pop ever was, and it certainly does the job it apparently sets out to do, delivering addictive pop rock with hooks, energy, substance and ideas that linger in the mind after you’ve heard them.