Yes, you are still eating leftover turkey and the calendar hasn’t even flipped to December, but for many publications, it’s already year-end list posting time. And among the early adopters is Rolling Stone, who yearly manage to entertainingly mix the best of music’s rising stars with big event albums and legacy acts for their Albums Of The Year list. It’s one of the only places you’ll find Randy Newman sharing space with Japanese Breakfast, and if Bob Dylan or The Rolling Stones released literally anything, you’ll be sure to find it in the top 50.
This year, Rolling Stone pulled possibly the most Rolling Stone move of all: they included a U2 album at No. 3 that hasn’t even been released yet. Yes, promos of Songs Of Experience have gone out to the media, but it still reads as a surprising piece before the public even has the opportunity to hear the album.
Of course, this is complicated further by the history between U2 and Rolling Stone. In 2014, the magazine declared the last U2 album, Songs Of Innocence, as its No. 1 album in a move that was later explained in RS founder Jann Wenner’s biography. According to writer Joe Hagan’s book Sticky Fingers: The Life And Times Of Jann Wenner And Rolling Stone Magazine, the move was made because Wenner and U2’s Bono are close friends, with Wenner quoted as saying, “My dictate. By fiat, buddy. That’s that.” It should be noted that Wenner and Hagan are no longer speaking because of the contents of the book.
So, maybe U2’s new album is really great and we’re all going to be blown away. Or maybe this is the continuation of Rolling Stone‘s favorable treatment of the band because of their founder’s relationship with the singer. Songs Of Experience comes out on Friday, and then we can all make up our own mind.