What Happened to Coldplay?
    • THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 2017

    • Posted by: Jake Holzman

    Remember 2002? Okay, I don't either -- I was seven. But work with me here. In 2002, Coldplay released their sophomore album, A Rush Of Blood to the Head, to respectable praise. And, honestly, they deserved all the praise they got. I remember listening to that record all the way through for the first time, and being totally surprised. All I heard about the group in school was that they wrote sappy, overly-emotional pap. But, when I finally listened to it, I found A Rush of Blood to the Head to be really moving. As overplayed as it is, "The Scientist" is a great ballad about regrets and missed opportunities. "A Rush of Blood to the Head," "A Whisper," and "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" are unexpectedly dark and brooding, and they all have memorable guitar parts. In fact, most of the songs on that record stand out on their own while still coming together to make a cohesive, well-constructed album.


    On top of this, their debut, Parachutes, was just as impressive. It's probably my favorite of their albums. It's a wonderful collection of acoustic rock songs, and all of the illustrious instrumentation from their later albums has yet to take shape. In other words, it's proof that the band has a nice foundation of talent and musical capabilities. From track-to-track, there's some pretty great songwriting behind it all. Some of my favorite Coldplay songs are on this record, namely "Sparks" and "Don't Panic." The latter song kicks off the album in style, with lyrics like "Bones, sinking like stones/ all that we fought for/ Homes, places we've grown/ all of us are done for." It's enough to prove that Chris Martin wasn't just Thom Yorke 3.0 (with Thom Yorke 2.0 being Matt Bellamy, I guess), but rather a talented, considerate songwriter in his own right. So it's hard not to see why fans were losing their freaking minds over Coldplay's potential. After all, because of the progression the band made from Parachutes to A Rush Of Blood to the Head, they seemed to be flourishing into a full-fledged, likable rock group.



    The Coldplay backlash we're seeing now (and that I find myself taking part in now) is nothing new. Since the band's inception, they've gotten a lot of criticism. But their music was still, at the very least, defensible. You could always make a solid argument as to why the hate was undeserved, and that everyone was merely jumping on a Coldplay-bashing bandwagon. Or at least, that's what I did for years. I'd point to their first four albums as proof of their talent, especially melodically-brilliant songs like "42" and "Strawberry Swing" off of Viva La Vida. I actually think that those albums are very well-written and Chris Martin often tackled grandiose themes with finesse (again, I really can't recommend "42" enough -- it's an imaginative song about reconciling with losses of loved ones, seemingly en masse). And, having seen them live, I can say that they put on a wild show. It's energetic and beaming with enthusiasm.


    Flash forward to now, when every new Coldplay release sees me crossing my fingers and clinging to whatever scraps of hope I can find (it could be fine! Remember when they wrote "Amsterdam?" And "God Put a Smile on Your Face?" And "Don't Panic"? They could still go back to that! It could be fine!) before I press the play button.

    And each and every time, I am beyond disappointed. I've pretty much flipped the table at this point and said "screw it, I'm done."

    Seriously, what the hell is this?


    "Alright guys, so here's my plan for this new Coldplay music video. It's really gonna wow you, so brace yourselves. The video opens in this jungle, and there are all of these poorly-done CGI monkeys -- wait, don't leave! -- So yeah, poorly-done CGI monkeys. And then, out of nowhere, one of them picks up a Beats Pill -- wait come on guys, this is the best part! -- jesus, so where was I… oh yeah, the CGI monkeys and the Beats Pill. Anyway, so the Beats Pill turns out to be playing the new Coldplay single, and the monkeys just can't resist the song's lazy dance beats and repetitive guitar progressions. Before you know it, all the poorly-done CGI monkeys are dancing like crazy until (hold onto your seats, gents) it's revealed… that the monkeys… ARE. THE BAND."

    I envy anyone who can watch that video without cringing. Seriously, somebody wrote that.

    It doesn't help that the video is so celebratory, when there doesn't seem to be anything worth celebrating about the song itself. In fact, I think "Adventure of a Lifetime" can be allegorical for nearly every Coldplay song that's come out since 2011: Chris Martin's lyrics are cliche, the instrumentation is boring, it's overproduced to the point of sounding completely inhuman, and the song itself gives off the impression the band just wants to churn it out as quickly as possible so that they can go to bed. And yet, all of these dumb monkeys are dancing around like it's the greatest thing ever. It's absolutely infuriating.

    But you know what? That was over a year ago and I want to be fair. Maybe the band's come around since then. So what have they been up to lately?


    Oh god I wish I didn't ask. Again, I want to be fair, so I should say that I know people who like this song, and I respect their opinions. I, however, can't stand it. Since 2011's Mylo Xyloto, Chris Martin has been coming up with vocal melodies that sound as if he were humming them while he did the dishes one afternoon, and thought, "oh god that's good, I should use that!" On top of that, I am convinced that he now writes his lyrics in the car on the way to the studio. Exhibit A:

    "I've been reading books of old
    The legends and the myths
    Achilles and his gold
    Hercules and his gifts
    Spiderman's control
    And Batman with his fists
    And clearly I don't see myself upon that list."


    Huh?? Hey, remember when Chris Martin wrote a chilling anti-war song with lyrics like, "when the future's architectured/ by a carnival of idiots on show/ you better lie low"?


    With their new Chainsmokers collab, I really think that Coldplay have become a parody of themselves. Everything they used to get hate for is now inarguably true. Overly-sentimental, commercialized, lazy, uninspired… it's all there. Actually, that's kind of true for nearly everything off of their last three albums. Mylo Xyloto? Yup, the Rihanna collab "Princess of China" is on there, which is a song that's supposed to be about a breakup, but one of the two narrators refers to himself as a "king," and the girl narrator as his "princess" (why they didn't pick up on that mistake in the lyrics, I don't know). Ghost Stories? Don't even get me started on "Another's Arms," a song that's almost annoying, instrumentally speaking, and has lyrics that sound like they were definitely not meant for Chris Martin to sing ("used to be your arms around me/ your body on my body"). A Head Full Of Dreams? ... um, how about a head full of NO.

    There was a moment back in 2014, after the band released the first single from their then-upcoming album Ghost Stories, when I felt a small glimmer of hope. That single was "Midnight," and it was enough to convince me that Mylo Xyloto would be a lone misstep in their discography. It was inventive, epic, and as musically ambitious as you'd want a song produced by Brian Eno to be. I felt so relieved, and even excited for a Coldplay album again.


    But, unfortunately, the album turned out to be much more like their later single "A Sky Full Of Stars." In other words, the aforementioned lazy lyrics and overly-produced instrumentation took center stage (this time with an Avicii progression!).


    It just feels like the band isn't even trying anymore. I've seen people refer to Coldplay, since 2011, as "sell-outs." I don't like to throw that term around too often because, after all is said and done, who knows what's going in an artist's creative process? It's entirely possible that so-called "sell-out" artists are actually excited by the music they're putting out. But the problem with Coldplay is that their music has just felt so dishonest to me for the past six years that I see no point in paying them any attention anymore. Again, this wouldn't be an issue for me if I hadn't been a fan for years.

    You know that stupid saying, "Shoot for the moon: even if you miss, you'll land among the stars"? That's Coldplay now. Cliche, naive, overly-sentimental, and I just end up feeling cynical because of it ("well, yes… but then I'd suffocate in space.")

    But who knows… maybe there's hope that everything's not lost.


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