A U2-Related Letter to the Editor from the Archives

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U2, with the assistance of Apple, jumped into your iTunes library the other day without so much as knocking on the door. This caused things to be written on the internet. One of those things was written by Deadspin culture editor Rob Harvilla, a noted music writer who's done time at Spin and Rhapsody and elsewhere, including Scene when he was music editor for Village Voice.

He wasn't a fan of U2 back in the day, as we'll get to in a second, and he certainly isn't one now.
And so you get songs about Bono's heroes—see tame, soon-to-be-Apple-ad-ubiquitous lead single "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)"—and Bono's dearly departed mother and Bono's first trip to California and Bono's childhood home. It's all vaguely catchy and self-consciously "soaring" and largely antiseptic in the style of every U2 album since 1997's reviled but daring and fascinating Pop. "This is a sonnnggg," goes the aching chorus to "Song for Someone" (about Bono's wife), and that's what every song here does: Goes, This is a sonnnnng, more or less. It's remarkably poor background music, released in a manner that insures it will only serve as background music, as you suss out whether you're buying an iPhone 6 or an iPhone 6 Plus, and/or Googling "delete iTunes cloud."
Anyway, the point: Back in 2001, Harvilla penned a less than tepid preview of a U2 tour stop in Cleveland. This caused letters to be written (this was back in 2001). One of those is below. It might be our favorite one ever. Thanks to Rob for reminding us of its existence.

I have to question your criteria for hiring music writers. It seems that you have one too many young punks whose heads are still stuck in the Seattle grunge phase and who apparently know squat about good rock music. As a longtime U2 fan, I have to take issue with Rob Harvilla's short-sighted preview of the Elevation tour [Nightwatch, May 3]. I was at the concert. It was one of several U2 concerts I've attended, and I can assure you that the band is better than ever, and Bono is still a rock and roll god.

I suppose we can't expect much from a writer whose favorite bands while growing up included Hall & Oates, M.C. Hammer, and yes, even Vanilla Ice. But it's particularly disturbing to me, since I bought Rob's very first concert ticket. At the age of 14, he went to see U2 and thought they were "the bomb." As parents, we do the best we can, but we can't control the direction our kids take when they grow up.

This too shall pass. We'll still set a place for Rob at Thanksgiving dinner.

Barb Harvilla (Rob's mom)

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