U2 and Inhaler: Two Generations of Irish Rock Bands
Published on April 29, 2023, at 8:10 a.m.
by Hailey Castillo.
Irish rock band U2, which formed in the 1970s, has consistently been popular for almost 50 years thanks to several avenues. Whether it be “With or Without You” (aka Ross and Rachel’s song from “Friends”) or frontman Bono’s starring role in “Sing 2,” U2 has managed to remain relevant, even when their relevance was unwarranted.
U2 made headlines when their album “Songs of Innocence” was automatically downloaded on every person’s iPhone free of charge in 2014. Both U2 and Apple received backlash because users were stuck with an album that they didn’t necessarily want, despite it being free. This situation has since been meme-ified and talked about years after it happened, as it’s been considered a PR nightmare for the band.
Apart from the controversy, during the same year, U2’s song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was performed on the hundredth episode of “Glee” to pay tribute to the late Cory Monteith. In 2021, seven years later, the same song was performed by Academy Award nominee Scarlett Johansson in “Sing 2.”
Over time, U2 has continued to be prominent in the music world. In 1985, they performed at Live Aid along with acts including Queen, Madonna and David Bowie, and their 12-minute performance is what brought them international recognition. Since 1988, they have won 22 Grammys, and they are considered one of the best-selling music artists in history. But in 1999, Bono did the unthinkable — he helped bring a “nepo baby” into the world.
In 2012, Elijah Hewson, otherwise known as Bono’s son, formed Inhaler, a Dublin-based rock band, with his friends from school. Since 2018, Inhaler has released one extended play, multiple singles and two full-length albums. However, this is just the beginning.
As of 2023, Hewson’s band has opened gigs for Noel Gallagher of Oasis (thanks to Hewson being friends with his daughter, Anais), received praise from Elton John, and is set to perform at multiple music festivals across the United States and United Kingdom.
From U2’s first performance in a school gym in 1977 to their worldwide tours, the band had to work hard to get to where they are today — especially since the internet didn’t become popular in households until 1995. Inhaler, however, has a leg up given their association with Bono. And more importantly, they have social media to thank for their fast growth in such a short period of time.
Before the internet and social media were mainstream, bands and artists had to rely on traditional record labels for promotions. Unlike U2, the members of Inhaler are all digital natives and have had the opportunity to utilize online media — for musical inspiration and marketing purposes — throughout their journey as a band so far.
One way Inhaler has mastered social media is by utilizing their TikTok account to promote their music, respond to fans and make fun videos to show the members’ personalities. In one of their videos, they provided fans with disposable cameras and created a slideshow with all the photos taken. One user commented, “I love how even though they’re growing, they still interact with fans.”
In another video, the band posted a slideshow of fans — all wearing cowboy hats — with the caption “Keep the cowboy hats coming” as their single “If You’re Gonna Break My Heart” played in the background. Guitarist Josh Jenkinson also posted a photo on Twitter of the different cowboy hats fans have given to them at their shows.
Their different interactions across social media build fan engagement, and fans interact with Inhaler’s social media to hopefully get a “reply” or “like” from one of the members of the band. Similarly, fans also do PR work for the band by posting their own videos of Inhaler to TikTok. Some have garnered almost 140,000 views and have essentially given the boys free press with virality alone.
Inhaler’s social media presence is mutually beneficial for the band and their fans. Not only do fans have the potential to connect with their favorite artists outside of their music, but artists also have the opportunity to build their fanbases through social media by appealing to specific audiences’ algorithms. While Inhaler can interact with the fans they already have, user-based algorithms across TikTok, Twitter and Instagram can now introduce the band to new audiences who might be interested in them based on who they already follow and interact with.
With over 406,000 followers across their social accounts and over 1.3 million monthly streamers on Spotify, the band is a shoo-in for success and growth. While some may argue that this is because Hewson is a nepo baby, he has joked that “people our age don’t know who U2 are,” which could very well be true for the younger generation of fans. In the same NME article, he also added that “if I was another dude, and I heard that Bono’s son was in a band, I would just want them to be crap.” However, this is more reason to prove themselves and perform better to change the perception of those audiences’ views.
While their image has been predetermined by some outlets solely because of their U2 association, Concetta Ciarlo at Vogue argued that “Inhaler has what it takes to be the next big band out of Ireland.” She added that they have revived the genre of mid-2010s, “Tumblr-era alt rock” (similar to the likes of The Killers and Catfish and the Bottlemen) for a new generation.
Inhaler is still in their early stages and may not have a dedicated SiriusXM channel to their band or be involved in philanthropic efforts (yet) like Bono, but they are on the way to the top. The band is set to open for Arctic Monkeys across Europe starting at the end of April until mid-May 2023, as well as Harry Styles in June.
David Smyth of “The Evening Standard” described their debut album as having songs with such “scale and ambition” that “suggest [Hewson’s] band already has arenas in mind.” There’s no doubt that with their resources, including a famous dad and great marketing efforts, Inhaler will get to play those venues in the near future.