Tuesday, February 4, 2014

U2 - Invisible [song review]

Released February 2nd

U2, in typically unsubtle fashion, debuted "Invisible" during Sunday's Super Bowl game with a flashy one minute teaser commercial for the track that directed fans to iTunes to download the song for free for the next 24 hours. Every download during that period resulted in $1 being donated by Bank of America to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is affiliated with (RED), U2 singer Bono's charity. Over $3 million was raised, surpassing Bank of America's original commitment of up to $2 million, with a million downloads coming in the first hour alone after the commercial aired. As much as I was initially quite uncomfortable with my favourite band aligning themselves with a company from an industry as crooked as the U.S. banking industry, the highly worthwhile end result of the pair's venture helps ease that discomfort. A little.

"Invisible" is not a radical departure for the band: there's the familiar electronic elements (a keyboard refrain, electronic drums, and a strobing percussive beat not dissimilar to the one from "Beautiful Day"), The Edge's power chords and chiming guitars, and a fine vocal performance conveying Bono's defiant and uplifting lyrics (inspired by the band's early days as they struggled to find their identity and stand out in the musical crowd). As fairly "safe" as the song may be for the quartet, it's still damn good and inspires strong optimism for the rest of their highly anticipated new album, which is being finished up and is slated for a late spring/early summer release. It's certainly far better than the song they released late last year for the film Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, "Ordinary Love". 

Unorthodoxly, "Invisible" is not the album's first official single, just a sneak preview of things to come (and was chosen because "it's the first one we finished", Bono jokingly told USA Today in a recent interview). In another interview with the BBC following the release of "Invisible", he also revealed that the band wanted to return to smaller venues for their next tour and interestingly questioned the accessibility of "Invisible", as well as U2's relevance today. That the biggest band on the planet doesn't appear to be feeling complacent and sounds hungry to prove that the disappointing critical and commercial reception of their last release, 2009's first-rate No Line On The Horizon, was not the beginning of U2's downward spiral also bodes well for the upcoming album. All I know is that seeing the group in full-on performance mode once again in the commercial, complete with Bono doing a cocksure strut on stage that surely must add fuel to the fire for his many haters (and makes us fans love him even more), has me mightily jacked up for U2 in 2014.

Rating: A  

(February 12th edit: I replaced the one minute "Invisible" clip/commercial with the full official video that was released yesterday)

Related Mediaboy Musings posts: my September 2009 review of U2's Toronto show on their 360 Tour, June 2010 review of U2's 360° At The Rose Bowl Blu-ray, July 2011 review of U2's Toronto show on their 360 Tour, and October 2011 review of the band's From The Sky Down documentary