This week’s release of Coldplay’s fifth studio album is sure to renew the debate surrounding this polarizing band. If you’re a die–hard fan or a die–hard hater, look here for some ammunition for your future Coldplay arguments. If you’re undecided, read on as our two dueling debaters attempt to convince you.
The Pros – By Gwendolyn Lewis
Coldplay is made up of four musicians who excel at their unique roles in the band and combine to form a warm blend of music. Guy Berryman is on bass. Will Champion commandeers the drums. Jonny Buckland strums the guitar. And Chris Martin, with a voice that soars into high notes and kneels back down to soothing and gritty, all in the same song, is the vocalist.
In 2000, Coldplay “came along and wrote a song for you… and it was called Yellow.” With “Yellow,” they began appealing to listeners worldwide and have been for over 10 successful years.
With 20 Grammy Award nominations and seven wins, Coldplay obviously has qualities that attract a large and powerful audience. Could it be the lyrics that are relatable to both men and women? Could it be the seamless melodies that accompany those lyrics? Or, maybe, the undertone of their British sound bursting through otherwise universal music? Even better, it is a combination of the three.
Chris Martin gives a voice to lyrics that are honest, reflective and filled with emotion. Their songs can tell the story of the guy who “used to rule the world” in “Viva La Vida” or capture the heart and soul in a ballad about love. Coldplay has the lyrical talent to articulate artful and personal narratives.
Behind the words is a sound. This sound involves everything from Martin’s accent emerging through the pronunciation of certain words to the assembly of instruments that complement the lyrics. They incorporate a little pop and draw from musical influences which, according to Martin, include Jeff Buckley and The Beatles. Although they originated in London, Coldplay does not limit its musical repertoire to songs that are for a British audience.
It is the ability to vibe to a popular Coldplay song no matter who you are and no matter where you live that sets Coldplay apart from their competition.
The Cons – By Emily Orrson
Six years ago, a team of Australian basketball players came to Baltimore to play a string of high school tournaments. They had the accents. They had sideswept blond hair. I was a sophomore, and my family hosted two of them.
I’ll admit shamelessly — I was smitten. One of them was a musician; I was entranced. His name was Lachlan; I was enamored. He was going to teach me a song, and I swooned.
Lachlan sat down and taught me the chords to Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” And there, the magic ends.
Coldplay has been unleashing a barrage of watered down rock since 1996. Characterized by a mundane midtempo and repetitive riffing, Coldplay songs swell and swell, but never develop. Instead, listeners are flooded with a sound oscillating slowly between dripping guitars and spacey vocals. Coldplay’s music has no current. If you were to pour it into box, it would brim placidly, and remain contentedly stagnant.
Most crippling, I think, is Coldplay’s lyrical indulgence of emotion: “Are you lost or incomplete… can’t find your missing piece?” Take the song titles: “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” or “Hurts like Heartbreak.” Repetition, too, is drowning Coldplay: when the lead guitar unabashedly repeats the vocal line in “Talk.” When sixteenth note strikings of each chord fill two minutes of “Fix You.”
Coldplay is hard to hate. They support Amnesty International. They turned down multi–million dollar contracts from Gatorade, Diet Coke and Gap, refusing to link their songs with products. Chris Martin is known for wearing a ‘make trade fair’ bracelet. And if that isn’t enough, 10% of the band’s profits go to charity.
True — Coldplay’s politics are decidedly appealing. So was the 16–year–old Australian who introduced me to them. But these things cannot compensate for their hollow predictability, lyrical simpering and dampened musicality.
Coldplay, if ever a pleasure, will always be a guilty one.