U2 Release Free Album Songs Of Innocence And Debut “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” At Apple Event

U2 just pulled a Beyoncé plus a Jay Z. As of a few minutes ago, the band’s new album Songs Of Innocence was delivered for free to all iTunes customers, just after U2 performed new single “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” on stage at the Flint Center in Cupertino. Until mid-October, all iTunes users will have access to the album for free. You don’t even have to visit the iTunes store because it’s already in your iTunes library listed as purchased. (Awesome! And creepy!) Apple CEO Tim Cook called it the largest album launch of all time.

“We have made several albums, we just haven’t released them,” Bono said of the band’s activity in recent years. “We wanted to wait until we had one that was as good as our very best work.” We’ll wait a while to decide whether Songs Of Innocence lives up to that standard, but on first listen, “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” is a jaunty mid-tempo jock jam with a stadium-ready chant. It’s perfectly fine but not sounding like a classic on par with “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” to these ears. Bono dedicated it “to Joey Ramone and the Ramones,” obviously. Watch a series of clips from the performance and their promo spot below.

“We’re the blood in your machines, oh Zen master of hard- and software Tim Cook,” Bono also said, because of course he did. Rolling Stone has comments from Bono about the album — which features Lykke Li on closer “The Troubles” — including this:

“We wanted to make a very personal album,” Bono told Rolling Stone’s Gus Wenner the day before the press conference in an exclusive interview. “Let’s try to figure out why we wanted to be in a band, the relationships around the band, our friendships, our lovers, our family. The whole album is first journeys — first journeys geographically, spiritually, sexually. And that’s hard. But we went there.”

The band worked on Innocence for two years with producer Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton), then brought in additional help: Flood, their collaborator since 1987’s The Joshua Tree, plus Adele producers Paul Epworth and Ryan Tedder. “I think having them around really helped,” says Bono, “Some of the music out there now that people call pop, it’s not pop – it’s just truly great. And we wanted to have the discipline of the Beatles or the Stones in the Sixties, when you had real songs. There’s nowhere to hide in them: clear thoughts, clear melodies.”

Songs Of Innocence will see official release 10/13 via Island. During the webcast Cook and the band joked about a “white label” copy of the album, so it’s unclear whether the Yeezus-like barebones image below (distributed by the band’s publicist after the show) is the actual album cover or just a temporary placeholder.

UPDATE: BIllboard reports that Songs Of Innocence will not be eligible for the 57th Grammy Awards, which will be held next year. The eligibility window for the Grammys closes on 9/30 and, because the album will not be officially released until the middle of October, it misses out on that window. A representative close to the band talked to Billboard and said that it was unaware of the Grammy situation, but that they would reach out to the Academy soon: “We’re celebrating this moment, and tomorrow we’ll figure out what this means.”

The charts magazine also announced that the album will not appear on the Billboard 200 until its official release on 10/14 because it’s being given away for free. The same thing happened to Jay Z when he released Magna Carta … Holy Grail last year through Samsung.

Here’s the tracklist, which notably doesn’t include “Invisible,” the song they debuted in a Super Bowl ad:

01 “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”
02 “Every Breaking Wave”
03 “California (There Is No End To Love)”
04 “Song For Someone”
05 “Iris (Hold Me Close)”
06 “Volcano”
07 “Raised By Wolves”
08 “Cedarwood Road”
09 “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight”
10 “This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now”
11 “The Troubles” (Feat. Lykke Li)

Deluxe edition bonus tracks:
12 “Lucifer’s Hands”
13 “The Crystal Ballroom”
14 “The Troubles” (Alternative version)
15 “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight” (Alternative Perspective Mix by Tchad Blake)

Here’s the single artwork for “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” too:

Apple also revealed the Apple Watch, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus at today’s event, and they announced their intention to render wallets irrelevant (with mobile payment technology called ApplePay) as well as camcorders (with camera tech including Retina HD and Focus Pixels). As for other musical involvement: Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon lent their voices to a series of new iPhone ads, including an a cappella parody of the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Also Coldplay’s “A Sky Full Of Stars” and some Diplo music were used in the Apple Watch demo:

Finally, the iPod Classic has been discontinued.

Anyway, go listen to the new U2 album if you want!