Last year, Coldplay released their seventh studio record, A Head Full of Dreams, and it generated some...thoughts. Although I loved "Adventure of a Lifetime" (cause it found Coldplay exploring a funkier, dancier sound than we'd ever heard from them), there were some folks -- both Coldplay fans and haters -- who thought it was a contender for the worst track of 2015, and the reception for the record itself was lukewarm at best. Coldplaly has been releasing music videos for the record since then (the awful, glorified Beats commercial for "Adventure of a Lifetime" and the avian-themed "Birds"), and now we've got "Hymn For the Weekend," the much hyped track featuring Beyonce. And, folks, it's a whole thing.
The music video is set in India, and it continues the trend of Coldplay awkwardly using other cultures as background scenery in their music videos. Although not as actively offensive as the video for "Princess of China" which featured Chris Martin as a sword-fighting ninja (yeah...) and Rihanna as a multi-armed Hindu goddess (once again, yeah...they managed to f*** up the religious imagery they appropriated for their music video; shocking, we know), the video for "Hymn For The Weekend" is a textbook example of cultural tone-deafness both from the Coldplay team and (disappointingly) the Beyonce crew.
Conceptually, the music video is more or less harmless. Chris Martin travels to India and his journey is intercut with footage of day-to-day life for Indian people. Eventually, Chris Martin and Coldplay give powdered paint to youths who run amok in a multi-color celebration of youthful joy. And while it would have been cool if Chris Martin had centered this India-focused video on Indian performers and not himself, but that's how music videos work sometimes, I guess. The really problematic element of this video is -- and it's painful to admit this -- Beyonce.
For what it's worth, I'm sure this wasn't Beyonce's idea. This mostly rests on the shoulders of whoever was doing the creative work for the video and picking out the costumes for everyone involved. But she went through with it so she bears part of the blame. Beyonce is dressed in traditional Indian garb, and if she were just wearing a sari, that would be one thing. That's being respectful of the culture where you're shooting your video. It goes further than that with Beyonce decked out in full regalia including the jewelry and the piercings (which we're sure aren't actually pierced in). That's when it went from respectful to uncomfortable appropriation in a heartbeat. It's particularly egregious because later on, the video features an Indian woman in the same outfit as Beyonce and it's unclear why you couldn't just have her in the elusive, ephemeral role Beyonce played in the video and have Beyonce wear something that isn't so clearly taking from Indian culture.
The issue of appropriation is always thin line, and appropriation isn't always a bad thing. Like I mentioned earlier, it can be done in ways that are respectful and honest. The video for "Hymn For The Weekend" isn't that, and we hope that eventually Coldplay will eventually learn their lesson about why this s*** isn't cool. But they've screwed up so many times at this point, that we doubt it.