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Songs of Innocence is the thirteenth studio album by Irish rock band U2, released on 9 September 2014. It was produced by Danger Mouse, with additional production from Paul Epworth, Ryan Tedder, Declan Gaffney, and Flood. The album was announced at an Apple Inc. product launch event and released the same day to all iTunes Store customers at no cost. It was exclusive to iTunes, iTunes Radio, and Beats Music until 13 October 2014, when it received a physical release on Island and Interscope Records. The digital release made the record available to more than 500 million iTunes customers, for what Apple CEO Tim Cook marketed as "the largest album release of all time".
The lead single "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)" was featured in an Apple television advertisement as part of a promotional campaign for the band on which the company reportedly spent US$100 million. Approximately 81 million iTunes users listened to the album in its first month of release, 26 million of whom downloaded the entire record. Songs of Innocence received generally mixed reviews and drew criticism for its digital release; the album was automatically added to users' iTunes accounts, which for many triggered an unprompted download to their electronic devices. Upon its commercial release, Songs of Innocence sold just 101,000 copies in North America and charted for just eight and nine weeks in the US and UK, respectively. The group's press tour for the album was interrupted after Bono was seriously injured in a bicycle accident. The record received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Album. U2 supported the album with the successful Innocence + Experience Tour in 2015, and followed it up with a companion record, Songs of Experience, in 2017.
In February 2009, U2 released their 12th studio album, No Line on the Horizon. The album received generally favourable reviews and debuted at number one in more than 30 countries, but its sales of 5 million units were comparatively low by U2 standards and it did not contain a hit single. Having spent time in Fez, Morocco, recording and absorbing exotic musical influences, the group intended the record to be more experimental than their previous two. However, critics found it to be more conventional than expected. During the five-and-a-half-year gestation period for Songs of Innocence, lead singer Bono expressed uncertainty on several occasions that U2 could remain relevant musically after the relatively lukewarm commercial performance of No Line on the Horizon.
Around the release date of No Line on the Horizon, Bono mentioned tentative plans for the group to release a follow-up record of songs from the album's recording sessions called Songs of Ascent. Planned as a sister release to No Line on the Horizon (similar to Zooropa's relationship to Achtung Baby), the project was described by Bono as "a meditative, reflective piece of work" with the theme of pilgrimage. The band said that the first single was intended to be "Every Breaking Wave". However, the project was continually delayed, as U2 struggled to complete an album to their satisfaction and were limited by other commitments; these included the group's U2 360° Tour from 2009 to 2011, as well as Bono's and guitarist the Edge's commitment to writing the music and lyrics to the musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which itself experienced numerous delays and creative changes before its debut in June 2011.
In June 2009, Bono said that although the group had nine pieces of music they considered worth pursuing, the album would only be released if its quality surpassed that of No Line on the Horizon. In September, he first made claims that U2 were working on three separate album projects: a "rocking club album" comprising material the group previously wrote with producer Rick Rubin but shelved; the songs that he and the Edge had written for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark; and Songs of Ascent. Bassist Adam Clayton was sceptical about Bono's statements, believing their material to still be in its infancy, while the Edge said he was not sure if the Spider-Man songs would be released as a U2 album or a cast recording, adding: "The Spider-Man collection is the most developed but the least appropriate to the band. We've got so much material at different stages of completion, it's going to be a nice problem when we've got a few weeks to look at it." After the band performed at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in November, Bono and the Edge traveled to the South of France for a two-week songwriting session, followed by a studio session in New York City in December.
In August 2010, new reports emerged regarding U2's multiple album projects, claiming that the band were working on: a traditional rock album produced by Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton; a dance-centric album produced by David Guetta, RedOne, and will.i.am; and the meditative material comprising Songs of Ascent. Bono and the Edge continued to express an interest in releasing the songs written for the Spider-Man musical. When the U2 360° Tour resumed that month, the group debuted several unreleased tracks live, including "Every Breaking Wave". In October 2010, Bono said that U2's new album would be produced by Burton, and that 12 songs had been completed, while McGuinness said it was slated for an early 2011 release. Bono described the music from the sessions with Burton as "more airborne, more light-footed". The band continued to make "great progress" on the record in January 2011 working with Burton in New York. However, after holding a creative meeting to review their schedule, they realized they would not be able to complete the record that year; their touring commitments limited their availability to work on the album and they had not yet completed the material written during Bono's rehabilitation.
In February 2011, McGuinness said that the album was almost complete and had a tentative release date of May 2011, although he noted that Songs of Ascent was no longer the likely title. The Songs of Ascent project ultimately did not come to fruition and has not been released; its evolution and apparent abandonment are examined in the book The Greatest Albums You'll Never Hear. Bassist Adam Clayton said: "We thought there was more material left over from No Line... we now feel a long way from that material." The dance-centric album was ultimately aborted as well; Clayton said: "The work we did with RedOne was very, very exciting. But again, I'm not sure it was the essence of what U2 is good at... we have to do what we do best and we have to focus on that, and the work we did with Danger Mouse came closest to that." Guetta clarified in June that he was not involved in the dance project and had only discussed a possible collaboration with Bono.
U2 spent three months in the studio in late 2011, taking a break only for Bono to recuperate from the flu. In June 2012, he appeared on The Late Late Show and said that the group had just concluded its "best three weeks in the studio since 1979". In January 2013, the band members said their new album would be released by September and that its working title was 10 Reasons to Exist. Early that year, at Burton's invitation, Swedish singer Lykke Li travelled to Los Angeles to record backing vocals for the song "The Troubles" without U2 present. In May, U2 spent time at New York's Electric Lady Studios with Burton, who was completing his mixing duties for the record. After working with the band for two years, Burton was forced to return to his side project Broken Bells.
The group subsequently enlisted Ryan Tedder, Paul Epworth, Declan Gaffney, and long-time collaborator Flood to help them complete the album, hoping their opposing perspectives from Burton would benefit the songs. Flood's time working on the record briefly overlapped with Burton's, and Gaffney served as U2's recording engineer for the entirety of the album sessions, but otherwise the group worked with each producer separately. Tedder initially critiqued in-progress songs and identified which ones were "worth chasing because [the band] had a limited amount of time". He compared himself to a music critic in the way he had "to sit there and tear their songs apart and give [his] honest opinion". Tedder alternated between working remotely and joining the band in the studio. One of the songs that he changed most was "Every Breaking Wave", as he devised a new chorus melody and moved the old one to the song's bridge.
With U2 having released two standalone singles written during their sessions with him, Burton admitted in March 2014 that he did not know the fate of the record or if he was even still its producer. That month, Billboard reported that the album and its supporting tour would be pushed back until 2015, which was denied by a spokesperson for the band. The report also stated that U2 had scheduled additional recording sessions with Tedder and Epworth; the band were seen shortly thereafter with Epworth in London and believed to be working at Church Studios. In mid-2014, Li met up with the band in London to re-record her vocals for "The Troubles" after they decided to change the song's key. After trying a few different approaches to her vocals, Li said, "We turned off all the music and sang only to the drums, so it was really getting to what the core of the song meant."
U2's partnership with Apple Inc. for the album release ultimately imposed a much-needed deadline by which to complete the record. Burton returned to help the group during the final sessions. They spent the final month working with Gaffney in Malibu, California. The Edge said: "the bulk of it was done pretty quickly at the end. So much was achieved in the last couple of weeks." He described the last four days in particular as "full-on". The album was completed on 2 September 2014, one week prior to its release. At that point, the band delivered a 10-track version of the album to Apple and opted to exclude the song "Volcano", as it was unfinished. However, the group subsequently had a crisis of faith, believing the record sounded "lopsided". After convincing Apple to give them a couple more days, the band finished the song and included it on the final version of the album. 2b1af7f3a8