Rolling Stone: "U2 Plot Their Future"
In a recent Rolling Stone article, the periodical reveals its greatest hopes and fears for 2012:
Hope: U2’s 2009 album No Line On The Horizon was an extremely ambitious record that sold millions of copies all over the world. Songs like “Moment of Surrender” and “Magnificent” rank with the band’s best work, but the singles failed to connect with a mass audience and by U2’s standards it was a disappointment. We hope that they realize that radio is unlikely to put any song they ever write into heavy rotation; instead, they should just focus on making another great record, and then hit the road on an arena tour that drops some of the old warhorses in favor of great songs from the past. How about “Acrobat,” “Drowning Man” and “Numb”? “Pride (In The Name of Love)” is a great song, but enough’s enough.
Fear: U2 tends to end each decade with a commercial disappointment, and then begin the new decade with an album that’s the exact opposite of their last work. The failure of Rattle and Hum gave the world Achtung Baby and the failure of the (criminally underrated) Pop led to the back-to-basics approach on All That You Can’t Leave Behind. They have spent much of the last two years working with a rotating cast of producers, including Danger Mouse and RedOne. We fear their primary focus is competing with Lady Gaga on the radio. It’s a fight they’re going to lose. Hey Bono, don’t overthink this next record. Just make it great. It’ll serve you better in the long run. Remember that awful charity single “Stranded” you cut with Jay-Z and Rihanna? Never do anything like that again.
I would be surprised if U2 produce another album in 2012. I can foresee a compilation to be released, such as The Best of 2000-2010 including songs like Vertigo, Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own, City of Blinding Lights, Magnificent, Moment of Surrender, Mercy, and Electrical Storm. A never-before-heard song could be added too in this Best-Of. I do not know how many albums U2 has committed to producing for Live Nation, but another Best-Of album is an easy way to fulfill that mandate.
Additionally, if a brand new album was released in 2012, U2 would be expected to go on tour in 2013, only two years since the end of the 360 Tour. Judging by the pattern of gaps between the end and beginning of recent tours (Popmart [1997-1998] – Elevation  – Vertigo [2005-2006] – 360 [2009-2011], U2 have averaged three to four years in between tours.
Ever since Popmart, they are not eager to release an album just for the sake of releasing it to satiate the appetite of the record and touring companies as well as fans. I reckon that U2 would rather have an album that satisfies their high standards before it is released to the critical public. While they may be sitting on a mountain of new material, I imagine U2 would prefer to refine those songs, build a cohesive album, and try to outdo their previously high standards.
Moreover, I believe Bono had said (granted, take all he says with a grain of salt) that U2 is in danger of over-exposure and need to keep a low profile for a little bit. The 360 Tour was the largest tour in history, and they may want to temper expectation for what may come next. Plus, having a larger gap than two years allows the band, the crew, and their families to re-energize after a long tour.
I can see U2 having a very low profile in 2012. An occasional appearance by Bono and the Edge on TV or a fundraiser. Larry could dabble in another film and Adam enjoying his new status as a father. To keep the U2 coffers full and giving us fans our U2 fix, a Best-Of 2000-2010 to be released in the fall of 2012 in time for the holiday shopping season.
It seems more plausible if U2 releases an album in the fall of 2013 in time for the holiday season, compliment it with a promo tour that same fall, and then have a North American tour starting late spring of 2014 (when hockey season is wrapped up) and a stadium tour in Europe the same summer (when the football season is over). That would leave, at most, a four year gap between the 360 tour and the new tour. Of course, if U2 decides to release a brand new album and fires up a tour later this year, you know where to find me!