iTunes Festival At SXSW - Night 1

We need to have a conversation about Coldplay.

Chris Martin’s band has been a punchline since that first fresh-faced beach walk, and there are some good reasons for that. When your debut album sounds less like a spongy facsimile of Bends-era Radiohead than a facsimile of Travis, themselves a spongy facsimile of Bends-era Radiohead, you invite ridicule. When you and your movie-star wife name your child Apple, you invite ridicule. When your band dresses up like French revolutionaries and/or the Beatles, not just for promo photos but interviews too, you invite ridicule. And when you release a concept album about “the story of a war against sound and color by a supremacist government” and call it Mylo Xyloto, you have come to embody the very essence of ridiculousness. Such awkwardly polite young Englishmen playing such wholesomely saccharine music with such shamelessly grandiose ambitions were always destined to be written off as lames.

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Martin knows this. As he told The Telegraph in 2008, “We aren’t cool and never will be.” But as Chuck Klosterman explained in his 2002 essay collection Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs, it’s one thing to be cool and another thing entirely to be great. Klosterman presented Billy Joel as the evidence for his theory: Joel “has no intrinsic coolness, and he has no extrinsic coolness,” but as a songwriter he’s responsible for a baffling number of modern classics. Thus, Klosterman concluded, “there is absolutely no relationship between Joel’s greatness and Joel’s coolness (or lack thereof), just as there’s no relationship between the ’greatness’ of serving in World War II and the ’coolness’ of serving in World War II.” Ironically, in the first chapter of the same book, Klosterman goes on a rant about how much Coldplay sucks, a position he recanted in 2013′s I Wear The Black Hat. This wasn’t his rationale, but logically, he had every reason to revise his anti-Coldplay stance because Coldplay is exactly the same as Billy Joel. The fact that they are perilously uncool has no bearing on their greatness. And it’s time we all agreed that Coldplay is great.

The two low-key tracks they’ve released so far from their forthcoming Ghost Stories — the spectral “Midnight” and the groovy “Magic” — are among the best songs any musician has released this year. They are marvels of construction and execution, first-class singles that trigger the pop pleasure centers while incorporating sounds foreign to the Top 40. Do “Midnight” and “Magic” borrow heavily from Bon Iver and the xx, respectively, just as Coldplay has previously borrowed from indie-rock causes célèbre Arcade Fire, My Bloody Valentine, LCD Soundsystem, and Animal Collective? (It can’t be just me who heard some Merriweather Post Pavilion in Mylo Xyloto.) Sure, but it’s just a higher-pay-grade version of what Radiohead does. Thom Yorke and the boys have spent their whole career gleaning inspiration from lesser-known talents (DJ Shadow, Liars, Flying Lotus) and repurposing them in a more accessible context, and they’re still widely recognized as one of the greatest bands of their generation. Why not cede the same honor to Coldplay? Is it because their irrepressible earnestness isn’t balanced out by cynicism? You might say it’s because Coldplay still throws themselves into goofy shit like the dancing in the “Midnight” video, but have you seen Yorke’s dancing lately? Or, like, ever?

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The pair of moody numbers Coldplay debuted at SXSW, “Always In My Head” and “Another’s Arms,” are similarly triumphant, but excellence isn’t a new trend for this band. Every album in the group’s discography is loaded with classic songs, from the sleepy folk-pop of “Don’t Panic” to the gleaming neon theatrics of “Every Teardrop A Waterfall.” Speaking of that span: The band has traversed an incredible stylistic gulf over these past 14 years. Their songwriting has maintained its essential core of vague arena-rock sentimentality, but the aesthetic trappings have evolved daringly from Coldplay’s humble beginnings. Their one major misstep was 2005′s X&Y, on which they pushed the pap to the forefront and betrayed their more adventurous instincts, but even the relentlessly cloying “Fix You” is a jam. (Just ask Chance The Rapper, one of the many MCs who’ve pledged allegiance to Coldplay over the years.) Besides, after veering too far into mush they hooked up with Brian Eno and made 2008′s Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends, as fine an art-rock achievement as we’ve seen this century and “exactly the record this band needed to make.” Go listen to the title track or “Lost!” or “Strawberry Swing” — they’re all fantastic. Shit, follow the thread further back and bask in the softhearted glow of “The Scientist” and “Yellow.” Power ballads don’t come any better.

It takes a special understanding of what moves the human spirit to accumulate two hour’s worth of songs that can bring an arena to its feet. Coldplay boasts that kind of catalog, and from the sounds of the early Ghost Stories material, it’s about to get even stronger. Some of that strength is due to sheer longevity — stick around long enough and eventually you rack up enough highlights that the lowlights start to fade out of memory — but that trick only works when you continue to release tremendous music, which is exactly what Martin and his anonymous bandmates have pulled off. Time has been good to those blokes behind “Clocks,” but they’ve been good to us, too.

CHART WATCH

The critical consensus on Mastermind is that it finds Rick Ross in coast mode; per our own Tom Breihan’s review, “It’s that old Ross persona with none of the energy of his best music.” But Rozay affirmed his bawse status last week by beating Pharrell to land his fifth #1 album. Mastermind moved 179,000 copies — fewer than God Forgives, I Don’t’s first-week sales of 218,000 in 2012, but enough to far outpace Pharrell’s G I R L, which logged 112,000 in sales for a #2 debut. Billboard notes that Mastermind’s top-spot debut puts Ross in the company of DMX and 2Pac as rappers with five #1 albums, bested only by Nas and Kanye west (six each), Eminem (seven), and Jay Z (13!).

Other top 10 debuts include Glee star Lea Michele’s Louder at #4 with 60,000 sold, country group Eli Young Band’s 10,000 Towns at #5 with 36,000 sold, and Ashanti’s R&B comeback Braveheart at #10 with 28,000 sold. The Frozen soundtrack stays strong at #3; it has sold 1.3 million copies to date and 994,000 in 2013 and is expected to become the first album to sell a million copies in 2014 this week. The rest of the top 10 is a quite tasteful Beck (#6), Lorde (#7), Schoolboy Q (#8, down from a #1 debut last week), and Eric Church (#9).

Over on the Hot 100 singles chart, Pharrell’s “Happy” remains at #1 for a third straight week, likely thanks in part to his appearance on the Oscars. Another Oscar beneficiary is Broadway actress and singer Idina Menzel (Rent/Wicked), whose “Let It Go” from Frozen won for Best Original Song and promptly leapt from #17 to #9. (The hubbub over John Travolta mangling Menzel’s name, viewable below, probably didn’t hurt either.) It’s a good thing Menzel’s there, too, because the rest of the top 10 is unconscionably static.

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TRACK CITY

Foster The People – “Best Friend”
It’s no “Pumped Up Kicks,” but Foster The People has finally kicked out another song that grabs your attention rather than simply exists. The influence of 2013′s disco-funk revival is palpable, and even though Mark Foster is arguably the least funky man in music, he pulls this song off.

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Iggy Azalea – “Impossible Is Nothing”
Does it seem possible that the best Eminem song in years is actually by a 23-year-old Australian woman? Impossible is nothing.

Sevyn Streeter – “Next (Remix)” (Feat. Kid Ink)
Besides penning tunes for the likes of Alicia Keys, Kelly Rowland, and Trey Songz, Sevyn Streeter is the songwriter behind a bunch of Chris Brown hits as well as her own smash Brown duet “It Won’t Stop.” Hold that association against her if you like, but the woman knows how to construct an R&B hit. That’s evidenced on “Next (Remix),” in which she wonders, with convincing bewilderment, “How can my ex-boyfriend be my next boyfriend?” Talentless breakout rap star Kid Ink, another rising urban radio star orbiting Brown’s dark star, is there to play the boyfriend she can’t shake.

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Ronika – “Shell Shocked”
Q: Is this song more heavily influenced by Gloria Estefan’s “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” or Madonna’s “Holiday”? A: Shut up and dance!

Elliphant – “Revolusion”
Elliphant is affiliated with Diplo’s Mad Decent label and Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records, but “Revolusion” leans more towards Wes Pentz’s edgy, globetrotting tendencies than Lukasz Gottwald’s state-of-the-art radio bait.

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • Taylor Swift tops Billboard’s list of the 40 highest paid musicians with $39,699,575.60 in 2013 earnings. (Surprisingly, Bon Jovi is all the way up at #4; notably, Beyoncé far out-earned Jay Z.) [Billboard]
  • Diddy has allegedly bid $200 million to buy Fuse TV and merge it with Revolt TV, which he launched last year. [Bloomberg]
  • Alicia Keys, Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell, and Hans Zimmer collaborated on a song called “It’s On Again” for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. [Idolator]
  • Lily Allen agreed with a critic on Twitter that her new singles are “rubbish.” [The Independent]
  • Bill O’Reilly thinks Beyoncé’s “Partition” video harms children. [Spin]
  • will.i.am and Pharrell have settled their trademark dispute over the phrase “I am.” [The Hollywood Reporter]
  • Lorde is releasing her own makeup line. [Sugarscape]
  • Kylie Minogue’s new album Kiss Me Once is streaming in full. [The Guardian]

HOLD ON WE’RE GOING HOME

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[Coldplay photo by Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images]

Comments (184)
  1. you can agree that coldplay is great, i ain’t agreeing with shit.

    • because coldplay is NOT exactly like billy joel. billy joel beats the living shit out of coldplay and i don’t even like billy joel.

    • Fuck Coldplay.

      • Why? Why fuck coldplay?
        I had no idea this coldplay backlash existed, and I like to consider myself a father to many of you, father-figure to all others. Time for daddy to take you to church:

        I remember back as a youngling, and really having an emotional connection with Yellow. It was pre-Strokes and allllll that shit, so let’s not forget the time. That’s a fucking killer song – I DON’T GIVE A FUCK what you think. Objectively, it’s beautiful. Like fall landscapes and shit. Whole album is solid. You don’t like it? Fuck outta here. And the Travis comparisons – who the fuck? Have you heard Travis? Pffffftttttt you’re kidding.

        Then we get into some Rush of Blood. Solid step forward, and don’t get it twisted, it was a major step forward into some more interesting territory. Things got a bit harder ;) and rougher (i.e., politik). They didn’t need to do that shit. They could have made the same album. But no, they tried to progress, and who are you to say that’s no good? Robert Christgau is a weiner btw. Another solid album. My boy Christ Deville is starting to look like a goddamn prophet at this point in the discography.

        Then X&Y. You know why people take a dump on X&Y? Because the rest of the discography is SOLID as an impacted colon. And you can deposit that shit in the turd bank WITHOUT A HOLD because you can bet your balls it’s not going to bounce. The guitar on Square One is all I need to support my point that this is not a shite alBUM. It’s a fine album, but I’m not about to listen to it on the daily. Maybe the bi-centurally. And that’s good enough for all of us.

        Viva la vida. If you don’t like this album you dislike progress, achievement, satisfaction, and Brian Eno. Get your life together. Violet Hill is a better song that the majority of bands have in their entire discography. Violet Hill is the best coldplay song – a goddamn anthem that’s propulsive as a toilet pump trying to wedge the X&Y ROCK HARD DUMP down the drain – and it does, like a goddamn gopher. If this album doesn’t speak to you, I would reevaluate my perspective on the game, and I would get real.

        Mylo Xyloto. I didn’t really listen to this album, other than the rihanna track (OHHHH NA NA). Paradise makes me want to be in the hunger games PITTTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

        I rest my case. It’s a solid run, which is more than can be said for many a band. Not a ton of embarrassing tracks (i.e., bloc) and they’re managed to maintain a level of quality even into their later years, rather than fall into a deteriorating diarrhea free fall (i.e., weezer http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/8614-make-believe/). What more do you people want? This isn’t mumford and sons hahahahahahahaha I HOPE SOMEONE READ THAT AND GOT MAD BECAUSE IT SHOWS I HAVE NO INSIGHT (or do I *winkies!*)

        John Stossel city, baby. Please.

        • donnytilla,

        • I won’t argue point for point here because nobody has time for that. And I don’t have a great meme to put at the end. Coldplay has never been about premise. I’m not going to disagree with the power of Brian Eno. Like David Byrne, if you work with him your music only gets better. That said I’m still not a fan of american cheese. It’s not actually cheese and its production process is pretty gross, and I don’t like the way it tastes. It also plugs up my colon. No thanks mustache man.

          • Mr. Robertson,

          • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

          • Thank you for following my posts.

          • Hi Sean. I apologize about the troll remarks. It seems you’re outspoken which i respect. I have to be frank in saying that anybody that devalues The Beatles provokes sincere confusion and head scratching on this end, but we’re all entitled to our opinions. How did George Martin carry the weight of the Beatles? (no pun intended) And if you’re using him as their sole artistic crutch, why not through George Emerick in there? Honestly, a music fan who discredits the Beatles is picking his own fight. There are bands I loathe but still respect their artistry and can’t deny it in any way shape or form.

          • For me when I think of what really stands out in a Beatles song, it’s the way it’s presented. With the exception of Yesterday, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and a handful of other songs, I find myself coming back to how the melodies and rhythms are used. And again for me this comes from the arrangements. Daytripper could have easily been a straight ahead rock song but instead you have all these channel sweeps (for lack of a better way to describe it). Or the piano in Hard Day’s Night, those ideas came from George Martin. I’ve always been a little confused with the judas like stance people take against any form of criticism of the Beatles. So when I bring it up I guess what I’m looking for is a discussion. You bring up a valid point. I’m not sure what to do with Geoff Emerick but I’m sure his work as their audio engineer was equal if not more influential on their music.

          • Well Sean, I can appreciate your sincerity. I, for example, fail to see the genius in Pavement and Kanye West. However, I stand by my convictions but have softened my own dogmatic disgust on aforementioned bands/artists. I can appreciate your conviction on what you like or don’t like and I apologize for thinking you were trolling. Geoff Emerick was a big part of The Beatles. Keep in mind too however that the white album was essentially produced by The Beatles themselves. That was when they were arguably at the peak of their powers.

          • Huh. I didn’t know that about the White Album. Discovery, Discovery…I can definitely see good arguments against Pavement and Kanye West, and for them as well. Yeah the White Album has traces of a whole slew of genres that became more prominent later, however my argument against the claim that Paul McCartney created the punk riff with Helter Skelter with The Doors Break on through (to the other side), which came out a few years earlier. But this thread is pretty closed I’m sure.

            If you see this, thanks dude.

            Oftentimes these things end kind of messy, which I claim responsibility for with the way I phrase my ideas about The Beatles, and generally coming off a bit too aggressive.

        • Based on your allusions to age, we’re probably ballpark (teenagers in the 90s). And, with the exception of the first two albums (I agree wholeheartedly that Yellow is a captivating song), the remainder of their output is vanilla. Here’s how I tell – by who likes it. The majority of their songs now have boring constructions, bland production, and will be this generation’s MOR/Hall & Oates (yawn).

          The only stuff worse than contemporary Coldplay is all the shit bands riding Coldplay’s coat tails (Fray, Killers, Imagine Dragons; I’m looking at all of you, you boring bastards).

          This shouldn’t even be a discussion. Coldplay peaked early, but are still successful because all the young Xers and old Yers need something safe to reattach to that summer of not-so-reckless abandon when they saw Collective Soul, and hit the H.O.R.D.E. festival.

          So unless you’re sitting on the couch, Stereogum on your laptop, the alma mater (had you graduated before getting married) losing on the background browser, waiting for your wife to get back from Old Navy with your spring cargo shorts, you don’t have to look far to find something more exciting than Coldplay.

  2. Oh, *this* will be a fun comment board to monitor.

  3. ooh ooh do Maroon 5 next!

  4. Oh great! now I can’t have my snobbish satisfaction of going against the snobs who snobbishly hate on coldplay.

  5. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • depends on how you define “arena-rock”. I saw NIN in an arena a few months ago…I know KOL still play arenas (last few records notwithstanding), Queens of the Stone Age, others I can’t of.

    • While I was hashing out my argument for this, Michael Nelson actually made the argument that Coldplay has benefitted from Mumford being around because “in a world of Mumford and whatever, Coldplay seem like high art.”

      Also, good catch on $200 vs. $200 million.

      • i see what he’s saying but to me Mumford and Coldplay get tossed in the same heap anyway, so one doesn’t make the other look any better/worse in my opinion. i wonder how others would view this

      • Haha, nothing like Mumford & Sons to bring us all together. And I agree my use of “arena-rock” can be problematic, as it could mean totally different things to everyone; case in point, I wasn’t thinking of NIN or QOTSA when I said that, but those bands could totally fit in with that term.

        And I hope my pointing out the $200 didn’t come across as dickish. I just got a laugh from imagining Diddy offering that amount to buy a tv network.

        Really enjoying your work on these weekly articles, Chris. They open up some great, interesting discussions.

      • I never understand what mumford and sons are talking about. and all their songs sound like movements in one large unintelligible song about weeds and hearts and stars and stuff. though I don’t hate them per se…

        saw coldplay at the hollywood bowl cause roommate had an extra ticket and they really did blow me away. its not easy to write catchy tunes, I give them credit and dig their music. though once again I never know what Chris Martin is talking about. at all.

  6. cale  |   Posted on Mar 13th -41

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  7. marko  |   Posted on Mar 13th +18

    What’s next? An article about how good Mumford and Sons are?

    Oh wait…
    http://www.stereogum.com/1255281/in-defense-of-mumford-sons/top-stories/lead-story/

  8. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  9. The best thing about the conventional Coldplay narratives is that it made Coldplay really appreciate their fans and reward them for sticking around. Which, in turned, helped their longevity. Pop bands survive when the fans feel like a priority. They give out songs and whole albums for free. They have concerts for free. They create additional ways for the band to engage in their music even when they aren’t touring or recording, whether through creating silly comic books or playing festivals. They handed out souvenirs to their concertgoers. They don’t sell the first rows of their concerts to have attendants find crazeball fans in the rafters and give them a great seat. They’ve always wanted to be the biggest band in the world but weren’t afraid to collaborate and have others join the process, like a Hopkins or Eno. They’ve written great songs for 15 years but they’re getting better at fulfilling their mission: bringing passionate music to the mainstream. There’s just a lot to like about Coldplay and dozens of reasons it’s great being a fan.

  10. I totally agree with your thoughts on Coldplay…they’ve written some fantastic songs, they’re great live, and I’m not going to say I don’t like them to agree with the cool kids and then listen to their songs in private.

  11. You guys know that there was a time that Coldplay was in fact very cool. It was the weeks just before Yellow hit it big. Only the cool kids knew that they were awesome. I saw them Play at HMV just when their album dropped. Sadly, they became too big, they out u2ed u2, Chris married the paltrow and the Brits just started their Tall Poppy Syndrome cutdowns. Nobody writes arena rock ballads like Chris Martin except for the Master Thom Yorke. Listen to “shiver” and it still reminds me of broken days.

  12. It’s time we agreed Coldplay is great? From my cold dead fucking hands, Stereogum. Coldplay is about as “great” as Drake, Mumford and Sons, Lana Del Re-OH. OH WAIT. WHERE THE FUCK AM I? How awkward. How did we get here? You are trying so hard to get me to break up with you, stereogum.

  13. Coldplay are a very talented band and Chris Martin has written some great melodies. Their first two records border on minor classics. But, my sincere and nonjudgmental complaint is their artistic refusal to be edgy or to take artistic risks. Their latest record seems to hint at breaking out of safe zone/formula, which is nice and a welcome change of pace. It is easy to hate on many bands (Maroon 5, who yes, suck) but despite our taste preferences, their is no denying that bands I might not like (Mumford and Sons, ect.) still are inherently talented, if unquestionably bland, corporate and safe. I would love to see Coldplay recapture the darkness that made their first 2 albums special. I haven’t bothered with them since :Rhianna cameos on a Coldplay album will do that. But, I agree with Chris and Chuck. Confusing cool with great is a blurred line. Taylor Swift is not cool in my eyes, but to some, she writes great melodies. I’m not highbrow enough to negate that fact, even if taste wise I’m not digging her tunes. So, for a recovering music snob (perhaps there are more brooding in the shadows here on stereogum), I’ve learned that no matter how much a band or song invites a cringe worthy response based on taste, sometimes the talent needs to be recognized, regardless.

    • I agree, but would also like to point out that maybe being edgy for edgy’s sake is not necessarily a good thing. especially if writing catchy pop rock is being true to yourself, then keep doing it.

      • I agree with your comment. Consider The Beatles. They retained the magic and wonder of melody and pop smart sensibilities, but were able to expand their sonic palette a bit. I really enjoyed Coldplay’s 2 records after ”A Rush of Blood to the Head”. I can’t fault them for being true to themselves. But the first 2 albums reflected, at least lyrically and in some of the more searingly beautiful and somber bits, artistry of a high order that was compelling in its sweep. I think for that reason I enjoy their first 2 albums the best. It seemed very honest and tinged with sadness. I’m with you though that they should never compromise who they are. they write great rock/pop songs. I guess I just miss the darkness of ”Trouble” or ”Politik”.

        • Yes, I wouldn’t mind seeing them incorporating a little more ‘darkness’ as well.

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          • Sean, you trolling? I can’t think of a more uninformed opinion so stubbornly ignorant of the highest order then yours. This picture seems to sum up my thoughts in a playful way=

          • MERRY CHRISTMAS! SHITTER WAS FULL.

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          • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

          • Hi Sean. No. I’ve read your back posts. Trooooooooool :) Michael_ kicks ass btw.

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        • I haven’t got anything against the Byrds. Consider the Lilies.

    • Very well put.

    • best comment on the thread.

  14. All artists borrow from other artists, but when you do it in a way that doesn’t add much originality or seems lazy, it’s derided as derivative. I think that’s the biggest reason they don’t get much respect (it doesn’t help that they used to be called “Pectoralz”, but then Billy Joel was in a metal band called “Attila” who make Spinal Tap look like a documentary).

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    • see, this here is snob bullshit.

    • Agreed, except for the metal coverage.

    • also, pander themselves in the back?

    • Does Coldplay even aspire to greatness? Even when they are good, they are such a generic-sounding cliff-notes version of something U2 and/or Radiohead did years earlier with greater attention to detail (and much, much, much better singing). Can anyone even name the rest of the guys in the band or identify anything they specifically bring to the table? By way of comparison, hate Muse all you want, but at least they stake out a position musically. Coldplay is the musical equivalent of the Democratic National Committee. If you think they are great, then you must think a Big Bacon Classic at Wendy’s is gastronomic perfection.

    • Triangle, what a stupid comment. Stereogum highlights the best undiscovered bands in indie culture as well as giving faithful exposure to indie stalwarts, along with great think pieces, essays, ect. Don’t take on the ‘gum, ya shlemiel .

  16. I like how Chris writes a well argued and thought out piece laying down his opinion and most of the objections are “your thoughts are shite”.

    This is a really fantastic bit of writing. Coldplay (and Chris Martin in particular) are not masters of sound invention or discovery. They’ll never push the boundaries of music, instead they prefer to survey and repurpose what’s new into something that can incorporate Chris Martin’s unique sense of melody and structure.

    • I’d argue that you’re describing a fundamental problem with writing about music. You could write a tome that uses flawless logic to prove that Katy Perry is the greatest pop star of all time, and I’ll still hate her music with every cell in my body. That’s just how it works.

      • Yeah, which is cool. I don’t care if people like Coldplay or not. I like the band and I have my reasons and I enjoy reading a piece that does a better job of explaining my reasons than I do.

        I see a lot of the dislike and vitriol for Coldplay stemming from their popularity and general uniqueness, not the quality of their music (which isn’t to say that folks are justified in disliking them…people are justified in disliking any band or song). Most of the reasoning & criticism I see displayed for why Coldplay is a miserable stupid band rarely rises above my own personal threshold for valid music criticism (not opinion. There is no such thing as a “valid opinion).

        I read music criticism because I enjoy reading well thought out explanations on why someone likes or dislikes something as esoteric, intangible, and emotional as music. I think it is really hard to write cognizently about. The value lies in the discussion, not necessarily the conclusion.

        • Should have said uncooolness, not uniqueness…

        • I’ll take a stab at it.

          Of all the post-Bends bands out there ca. 2000, Coldplay were easily the dullest one. Chris Martin’s voice sounds like a less idiosyncratic Dave Matthews. The musicianship is utterly nondescript, like an immaculately-recorded, competent bar band covering Achtung-era U2 or Bends-era Radiohead who learned the block chords off of the internet and get the tempos right but don’t or can’t grasp the particulars of the arrangements. They ARE usually good for one or two good songs every three years or so and there is far worse out there (like everything else mentioned in this column) but that hardly makes them great.

          • I couldn’t disagree with this assessment more. For one, I see no commonalities whatsoever between Martin and Matthews’ voices. Matthews tends to break into spells of sing-talking, he’s got all of his weird tics, his voice is a bit rough around the edges, he goes for big dramatic wailing at certain points in his songs. Martin doesn’t really do any of that; it’s just smooth croon all the way. I can’t help but feel like you’re comparing the two only because you think they’re both lame. It’d be like if I compared Rick Ross to will.i.am – yeah, I think they’re both no talent ass-clowns, but that doesn’t make their styles of rapping similar.

            Secondly, you ever heard Travis’ “The Man Who?” Ours’ “Distorted Lullabies?” Turin Brakes “Ether Song?” And to a lesser extent, Doves’ “Lost Souls?” To me, all of those Bends-era Radiohead-inspired albums are far, far duller than Coldplay’s first two (apologies to Doves, because I do like that one). And of course, Coldplay has that immaculate, polished sound – I like to think of them as the quiet part of “Fake Plastic Trees,” but not the loud part – but I simply can’t accept the argument that a clean sound means there’s nothing going on there in terms of dynamics or inspired arrangements. And more often than not, that’s the (often veiled) argument that people bring to the table. Not “indie-sounding” enough, no distorted guitars, no weirdness, no crazy time signatures, no unexpected moments in the songs. Well, no shit, they’re not Pavement.

            I dunno, this criticism kind of reminds me of a spat I got into on this site a while back about Alt-J. A poster was making a very similar argument against “An Awesome Wave,” basically saying it’s nothing more than some uninspired, dentist’s office type of easy listening crap. And I can’t even fathom how someone would listen to that album and say that. I think a lot of people equate “pleasant” with “bad,” and I guess what I’m saying is that I’m just not on board with that point of view.

            Side note – I’m really only talking about the first two Coldplay albums here; I haven’t listened to much of the later three and I will agree that I found the Mylo Xyloto singles to be pretty bad.

          • @ Ben Cornell

            1) Martin has a hoarse croon that sounds like Matthews’ WITHOUT the idiosyncracies.

            2) “The Man Who” blows the doors off of anything Coldplay has ever done. Fran Healy is lightyears beyond Chris Martin as a singer and melodicist. I’d take the first couple of Keane albums over Coldplay as well. Or anything by Muse (except for most of their last one). The Doves, well, maybe you got me there.

            3) There is no veiled argument. I listen to Coldplay songs and, by and large, there is nothing interesting going on beneath the surface. Pavement is a straw man. You can be interesting without being weird or dissonant (and Pavement, for that matter, isn’t all that interesting, either).

          • Welp, agree to disagree I suppose. “The Man Who” is quite the snoozer for me – your criticism of Coldplay is basically how I feel about Travis. Keane, same deal. And I gotta figure there’s a reason why we still talk about Coldplay and not about those bands.

            I am with you on Muse, however. I like them, as ridiculous as they can be. So I guess we’ve got a little common ground there.

          • Or in other words Ben Cornell read that P4K piece by Ian Cohen.

          • Ha, yeah I did read it, but I also owned and listened to all of the albums I’ve referenced here back when they came out. But indeed, those titles were fresh in my memory from having read the Pitchfork thing a week or so ago.

        • To be honest, I don’t think this was a very well-argued and thought out piece. I don’t think all music fans all need to agree about anything, so I was already a little put off by the time I started reading. Chris’s points basically come down to how it’s ok for Coldplay to be uncool because Billy Joel was too, it’s ok for Coldplay to be unoriginal because Radiohead are too, their records sound different from each other, Chance and some other rappers like them, and lots of other people who go to arena shows do too. He also describes the songs as “fantastic,” “excellent,” and “tremendous.”

          I actually like Coldplay, but the article comes off sort of shallow and impersonal. Chris doesn’t get into why HE likes Coldplay, or what makes specific songs good, or acknowledge any of the good reasons people have for not liking Coldplay (personally, I know they’ll never be one of my favorite bands because I can’t connect to the poorly-written lyrics that pop up all over).

          Chris is a good writer, and I hope we get to read his thoughts about Ghost Stories when it comes out. But for people who don’t like Coldplay and are sick of hearing about them, this piece wouldn’t feel all that different from a friend who doesn’t know much about music insisting that you should like Coldplay because I love Coldplay, Coldplay is great, how can you not like Coldplay. It’s understandable that we’re seeing some backlash.

          Hopefully this post feels like constructive criticism. And one more time: Coldplay

          • I think this is the most thoughtful and constructive criticism to appear in this post! And I do intend to write about Ghost Stories with some more depth about WHY it’s good (assuming the other five tracks don’t turn out to be stinkers).

      • yes, but can you articulate WHY you hater her music with every cell in your body?

      • Mmmm…. Katy Perry…

  17. Coldplay is great. #IAMSORRY

  18. ga  |   Posted on Mar 13th +10

    I don’t have much of an opinion of Coldplay. I think they’re ……. alright, I guess. But, I am interested in the whole concept of why “over-earnest” is such a bad trait for a musician to have, as well as traits like “self-righteous”, and “over-serious”, while it’s okay for others to blather on for the 1 billionth time about sex and misogyny and be treated like high art (I’m looking your way R Kelly). It’s a cardinal sin to strum a guitar and “emote” and ‘mean it, man’ but it’s okay to sing about shitting in someone’s mouth or something. I don’t get you hipsters sometimes haha …….

    • Seriously, I find it dumbfounding why Bono’s brand of egotism is far more loathed than Kanye’s.

      • I think probably because Bono / Chris Martin, in their open-armed, crowd-pleasing evangelical rock messiah preacher music, are claiming to speak for everyone’s emotions in abstract terms. Whereas Kanye only ever really claims to speak for Kanye. He’s not claiming to understand what you feel and be able to express it, whereas to some extend Coldplay have made their millions off of that idea.

        • I can’t say I agree, but that doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

        • ga  |   Posted on Mar 14th +3

          Yeah cause Kanye never referred to himself as the “nucleus of the culture” or anything…..

        • That’s right, I take it back. You are wrong.
          “I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade, I will be the loudest voice,” -Kanye West

          • Kanye is only still claiming to be himself there — “I will be the loudest voice”. He’s not saying that he’s speaking for this generation or for anyone else. What he means by “I will be the voice of this generation” is, “my voice will be the voice of this generation”. As in, he won’t express what everyone’s thinking — rather, everyone will think what he expresses. That’s the same thing he means as “nucleus of the culture”. He means that he will create and dictate culture. He doesn’t claim to reflect it.

            I guess, though, at least he vocalises the fact that he’s trying to do it, and that that is his plan, whereas with Coldplay it seems that they just have an assumption / entitlement that they are somehow accessing some “real emotion”, and cynically pulling on the old heartstrings.

          • ga  |   Posted on Mar 14th +1

            I see what you’re saying, but I think that’s splitting hairs, don’t you think? So, Kanye admits it, so he’s not as much of a dick and it’s okay? I call a spade a space, it’s flat out hypocrisy happening here. I’m pretty sure I see a “think piece” 20 years from now admitting and re-contextualizing all of this. I say we just get it over with and admit it’s hypocritical BS.

          • ga  |   Posted on Mar 14th +1

            When you say you are the “voice of this generation”, that is a claim that he is speaking for this generation. 1 + 1 = 2. Dictating the culture vs. vocalizing culture? Claiming to “dictate culture ” is even more egotistical than just vocalizing it? You actually believe all of his BS?

          • frankly I just don’t see this claim that “they have an assumption/entitlement that they are somehow accessing some “real emotion”.’
            I mean, what does that even mean? you may find their lyrics shallow, and songwriting techniques as safe. but I don’t see what this has to do with some kind of ‘speaking for everyone’s emotions in abstract terms’
            They may not be avant garde, but I don’t question their sincerity.

          • I think you have to keep it in context. He concludes the sentence in which he says “I will go down as the voice of this generation” with “I will be the loudest voice.” So obviously what he means by “I will go down as the voice of this generation” is “my voice and the things I say will be the voice of this generation,” not “the things this generation says will be my voice.” That’s not splitting hairs, it’s two completely different things. And it is also calling a spade a spade and not a spatular implement for the abrasion of soil.

            If Kanye claims to dictate culture, he is a knowable force. E.g., if Kanye says “culture is X”, but I know that my experience / preference of culture is Y, then I know Kanye is wrong, and he can be easily dismissed. I think, to get back to the original point, the reason why Kanye’s egotism is tolerated is because it is easily dismissed as the hyperbole of one man.

            On the other hand, Coldplay’s “sincerity” gets a bashing, because their universal aim means that the way they describe the world is in the broadest possible terms, and their earnestness makes them look naive, since it is impossible to describe the world in the broadest possible terms whilst still being able to believe what you are saying.

            When Coldplay say “this emotion is X”, but my experience is Y, it is harder to dismiss because Coldplay are the kind of band people play at funerals, on the radio, and on TV trailers as indicative as some kind of universal feeling we can all tap into. So when I know Coldplay’s description of emotion X is wrong due to my experience of Y, their “sincerity” and its ubiquity becomes very hard to stomach; it paints a picture of a world where everybody feels as they do, allowing no question or doubt, which is at best naive and at worst completely artistically bankrupt.

            tl;dr: “Sincerity” does not equal “truth”.

            (X & Y puns intended)

          • ga  |   Posted on Mar 14th +3

            I fully see your point, but I still think this is a bunch of Kanye BS your spouting. Kanye IS claiming to speak for a generation (or more). He is not simply trying to relate to people and express their feelings like U2/Coldplay, he thinks he is CREATING their feelings and CREATING what they are going to relate to (the nucleus). It’s an even bigger pile of BS than what you’re saying U2/Coldplay do. Kanye is masking himself as a curator and creator for the thoughts and feelings of an entire generation, hence the Michelangelo, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein stuff. He thinks he’s Thomas Edison and he’s creating light or splitting the atom and spawning another planet Earth. You’re eating it up hook, line, and sinker. He’s not – he’s just a very good and sometimes great artist with a loyal fanbase of around 1 million people out of the 3 billion in the world.

          • I don’t think you’re reading properly:

            “Kanye’s egotism is tolerated is because it is easily dismissed as the hyperbole of one man.”

            Kanye is tolerated because his claims are so ridiculous they can’t possibly be true. That’s what I’m saying. I don’t subscribe to the gospel according to Kanye. I actually think we’re saying the same things here. Maybe I made it unclear.

  19. I loved the first two Coldplay albums, I still listen to them from time to time. Then they decided to be U2 and Chris Martin decided to write garbage lyrics. Honestly, maybe he always wrote garbage lyrics and I didn’t notice because they fit the melodies on the early stuff. I just can’t like their new stuff, it makes me cringe. It’s trying to be far more grandiose than it actually is. I can see why people like it, but it’s just not my cup of tea. Most of their stuff is just phoned-in at this point.

    They are still far more tolerable than Muse, but just barely.

    • Auto  |   Posted on Mar 14th -3

      Muse are indeed far worse than Coldplay in my eyes, although it might have something to do with all their fans who claim them to be the most experimental band yet have never listened to OK Computer.

      • pretty huge muse fan. bigger radiohead fan. most people i know (like me) listen to and enjoy the two bands for very different reasons. i wont go into the details but i don’t know anyone who would argue muse has better composers than radiohead. Bellamy is probably a better guitarist than greenwood (in the guitar battle sense). The only legitimate comparison between the two bands is their vocalist’s singing range. also, the first 3 muse albums are so much better than the 1st coldplay one (which is their only good one, by far) \\endrant

  20. Is it just me or does anyone else think the first 3 minutes of “Midnight” sounds incredibly similar to Imogen Heap circa 2005?

  21. Much agreed with your take on Coldplay, Chris. I only have one (nitpicky) question: how/where does Coldplay sound like My Bloody Valentine? Actually as I’m typing this, I’m thinking maybe “Chinese Sleep Chant” comes close… that song was actually pretty killer.

  22. I would love to read a whole 10 page essay on this.

  23. Come on, Coldplay are not “great”. You can admire their craft, but let’s be honest, they’re not going in the canon. Maybe they will find something to really say / express about life in the future, but they haven’t found it yet.

  24. well, they make some music that sounds pleasant, but I can’t get past how vapid and just plain bad many of Coldplay’s lyrics are. I mean, come on. such horrible lyrics. slightly worse than, say, foo fighters. people may think ariel pink is an asshole for whatever reasons (as per the comments above, and apparently slagging him gets you lots of love but slagging other people is bad, or something?), but as a lyricist, compared to chris martin, he’s a master. again, they do make some decent melodies that can stick in your head, but for me, I have to actively work to keep the terrible lyrics at bay because as soon as they start to accompany the music, the rest of my brain kicks in and replaces it with another cacthy song that isn’t written from the POV of someone with a 74 IQ.

    • I believe the above comment was being “slagged” due to the fact that the comment took aim at the author of the article (and apparently incorrectly so) rather than supply constructive criticism to the discussion.

  25. Coldplay defines mediocrity.

  26. Coldplay is like american cheese.

  27. I’ll agree Coldplay is okay (I won’t go as far as great), if we can all agree Chuck Klosterman is an insufferable douche.

  28. It’s obvious that this album is going to reflect the “married bliss” narrative. The inevitable Album of the Week writeup / self-promotion-fest will doubtlessly be infuriating to an unmarried dude such as myself.

  29. So how many years before Stereogum starts walking back all the shade that’s been thrown at Imagine Dragons over the last year or so? I don’t know why it’s so hard for indie rock nerds to just admit that some radio rock is “OK” and nothing more or less without all this handwringing about legacy and influences and artistry and poptimism or whatever-the-fuck-else… like seriously why did it take 10 years and a thousand “thinkpieces” for you fools to admit there are a handful of really great Coldplay songs? And yet most of you still act like Fun. or Imagine Dragons are beyond the pale of acceptable taste, when they will probably occupy a similar spot in the pop-rock cosmos a few years from now.

    • But it’s not like Coldplay was first accepted as shitty radio rock back in the early 00′s and now everyone’s like, “hey they’re actually kinda good.” Many of us really liked (and still do like) Coldplay then, and have a troubled and spotty relationship with the music post-Rush of Blood.

      • Depends on who you ask. And for the record I don’t think Fun. or Imagine Dragons are “shitty radio rock,” I think they are fairly competent radio rock bands, who each had a couple of really solid songs on their debut, which is also how I personally feel about Coldplay. I can totally see how someone who has spent more time with Coldplay’s work would perceive a difference of quality in their work, but as a casual fan I can say Coldplay has always had a single or two on each of their albums that I have genuinely liked, though I’ve never had enough interest to listen to one of their albums all the way through. I guess what I’m saying is I like them as singles artists, and I think they are really good at that. Obviously real Coldplay fans will consider them as album artists as well.

        But my main point is that indie music types seem to be really dismissive of the idea that “singles artist” is even a legitimate aspiration for a rock band. But I have always had a soft spot for bands like No Doubt, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, Fall Out Boy etc.. Sure they don’t make the best albums ever, but they are reliable sources of good rock songs that you can actually enjoy in the company of normal people who don’t care about indie music. Obviously we need more time to see if Fun. or Imagine Dragons have the longevity of those other acts, but I already think they are more on that end of the spectrum, at least at their best, than they are to the *truly* shity radio rock that’s still like post-grunge/nu-metal crap.

        • Fun. have Janelle Monáe on their side at least, I’m happy to hear that song simply because my darling ArchAndroid makes an appearance.

    • ga  |   Posted on Mar 14th 0

      Awesome post!

  30. Stereogum staff, pls stop trolling

  31. Billy Joel is an icon. Is Coldplay an icon?

    • that’s really beside the point isn’t it? Billy Joel can still serve as an analogy for Coldplay’s greatness but uncoolness.

  32. Here’s why people dump on Coldplay. Coldplay is not cool. They don’t attempt to be cool and for many fans of rock music, it’s all about looking cool through osmosis. Most people who piss on the band have not heard most of their music and if, they have, it wouldn’t matter. Coldplay just don’t lend the coolness to people who desperately need that. Why else the fury? As Chris Martin has said: If you don’t like this asshole’s music, listen to some other asshole?

    Because those who don’t just dislike or hate their music aren’t satisfied until everyone knows they are too cool to like this band.

    OK. Not to worry. We’ll all concede that you are the coolest. Meanwhile, we who recognize Coldplay’s greatness, can just go on without needing the pacifier of cool to live with ourselves.

    Thanks to the author of this piece. Bless you. It was well written. You’re the man, no matter which band you like.

    • Coldplay’s lyrics are so lame. Also, Martin always uses his falsetto, always. That’s why I hate them. But they also write great catchy songs that have that emtional thing going for them despite the annoying parts. I enjoy listening to them, but I most of the time I am hate-listening.

      Still, I think this album is going to be very good. That song magic seems pretty terrific.

  33. Christgau’s review summarizes my view on Coldplay exactly:

    X&Y [Capitol, 2005]
    Tunewise, this is the craftiest of their well-crafted albums. Conceived as a boy group, showing girls who long to believe it that not every guy is a jock, a thug, a lothario, or a male-bonded mook, they might even have their uses. Conceived as a pop alternative to U2 and Radiohead, however, they’re an argument for death metal. Precise, bland, and banal, their sensitivity emotionless and their musicality never surprising, they’re the definition of a pleasant bore–easy to tune out, impossible to care for. B

    • No-one becomes one of the world’s most successful bands by being ‘impossible to care for’

      • Don’t see why not. Look at the Eagles.

        • I’ve had a rough night, and I hate the fucking Eagles, man

        • Do you not know anyone over the age of 30? Lots of people love the Eagles. You’d be surprised.

          • My friends are all over 40 at this point, and none of them likes the Eagles. I don’t think that makes us music snobs, we just think they’re lame. Same with Coldplay. To each his/her own.

        • (I realize everyone has left this conversation long ago, by here I go anyway)
          just because the young ‘taste-makers’ don’t care for the eagles, doesn’t mean nobody does. Even if the millions of fans care because of mass marketing, what’s the difference? if they care, they care! I’m consistently amazed by everyones inability to look beyond themselves. Just because YOU don’t care, doesn’t mean everyone else doesn’t. And a band doesn’t sell out stadiums if no one cares enough to buy the tickets.

      • It’s like you’ve never head of marketing in popular music.

  34. Anyone who has the fortune of catching them live would probably agree with that statement

  35. We all know the true test of whether Stereogum has achieved greatness is whether Pitchfork has gone back and deleted/rewritten completely their middling reviews for all their albums.

  36. …I’m actually starting to quite like ‘Midnight’.

  37. “Magic” is my jam though. “Magic” is my jam.

  38. Not that anyone’s paying attention this late in the comments, but what the fuck is with all the Travis-bashing? Anyone who wants to pull that shit needs to go pirate a copy of THE MAN WHO and put on the headphones. If it were released today it’d be a 9.5 masterpiece – as it is, it was released in a weird millennial moment where people were done with one thing and still waiting for another, so the band doesn’t have the following of similar groups that came out just before or just after.

    Seriously. Do this now.

  39. I’d say it’s time to check your watch.

  40. Hey guys.

  41. Didn’t read the article. Just here for the snark.

  42. coldplay is just a mishmash of other bands. every time people get psyched about them sounding “new” or “different” it’s just because they’re ripping off different bands then on their last album.

  43. When I take a shit I listen to Coldplay. They are good shitting music.

  44. 5 reasons I love Coldplay as much as any other artist that deserves recognition but is still under the radar:

    1. Square One: “You just want somebody listening to what you say. It doesn’t matter who you are.” Pretty much describes the comments section of every article on the internet, and still relevant. It also rocks.
    2. Hurts Like Heaven: The chiming guitar line outro playing a simple 2 whole notes apart after the last lyrics… pure pop ecstasy.
    3. Clocks: “Closing walls and ticking clocks… Curse missed opportunities…,” summons a melancholy spirit that only the absolute dumbest of asses can’t feel because they’re too busy pretending to be above it.
    4. Coldplay Live 2012, Stade de France
    5. Speed of Sound, Low, Lovers In Japan, Strawberry Swing, Life In Technicolor II

    No one is reading anymore, but had to put in my .02.

  45. I guess I’ll give you Magic and Midnight, although I don’t think either song really pushes the band any further than what they’ve already done. The other two songs debuted at SXSW, though, are about as triumphant as the house band’s revved up version of “Open the Arms of My Heart” at my cousin’s calculatedly hip Baptist church service.

  46. The people saying Coldplay is shit are absolute idiots. It’s Coldplay ‘are’ shit.

  47. I’ve always found Coldplay hate to be childish and irrational. It’s a shame people can’t think for themselves and enjoy simple things without letting backlash trends influence their opinions.

    • Jeez. So many things wrong with this statement. You find people who hate Coldplay to be ‘childish and irrational’, and then go on to imply that anyone who hates Coldplay ‘can’t think for themselves’ and are simply letting ‘backlash trends’ influence their opinions. Maybe I, and many others have genuinely thought they were, if not shit, then at least massively overrated right from the start? Saying that we Coldplay haters can’t think for ourselves seems a little, well, childish and irrational.

      • Please, once Seth Rogen made that homophobic, anti-Coldplay joke in The 40-Year Virgin it opened up a flood gate of memes and lame running jokes from every opinionated slacker who didn’t want to be the outcast at the group-think hate party. I have even witnessed it firsthand myself, watching peers of mine suddenly change their minds almost overnight. Gone were the Parachutes and Rush of Blood CDs from the basement CD player that we used to smoke to, banished forever to the box of “Mom’s CDs” in the garage.

  48. Some people are dumb enough to spend time justifying their hatred/dislike/dissatisfation with Coldplay; and some people are dumb enough to spend time countering this justification with their own equally flawed theories.

    We are all one of those people.

  49. Uh…No..that new Coldplay CD SUCKS!!!

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