Fading All Your Colours Into One: A Defence Of Coldplay

Dylan Freestone - Writer

In an episode of QI I watched recently, Sandi Toksvig asked the panellists ‘What’s the worst noise in the world?’ and comedian Phil Jupitus responded with ‘Coldplay B-Sides.’ This was met by thunderous applause from the audience. Family Guy dismissed their music as ‘whiny bullcrap’ and even in their heyday, Coldplay were destroyed and dismissed by panellists on Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

Write a list of things that are widely considered uncool in terms of music and it would not take long for Coldplay’s name to come up, and as a die-hard Coldplay fan, I have often wondered why this is. I often feel that as a guy, I actually have to admit that it is a guilty pleasure or feel a sense of shame in admitting that I enjoy that music (and I am mainly referring to their earlier work). It isn’t just that there is a general indifference or dislike towards them but in many cases a degree of hatred that is relatively unparalleled amongst bands of similar levels of fame and of similar genres. In short, it’s respected to dislike them.

I’m sure there may be many reading this who believe at this uncertain time in history, there are greater issues at stake, which is true. There will be also others who are indeed fans or simply feel indifferent towards the band but I wanted to explore the reasons behind this general feeling of dislike, justify my position as a fan and point readers in the direction of a few of their more obscure songs that I believe may help provide some inspiration and maybe even a change of heart during this lockdown. The hatred towards the band is disproportionate and unjustified and rather than producing simply sad or happy songs, Coldplay’s music epitomises complex emotions that I believe soundtrack the lockdown fittingly.

My research for this started in that most fruitful of internet sources: Reddit. I asked the Coldplay subreddit page why the band is so hated amongst even indie music fans. Some answers ranged from simply saying that people had no taste, to some male fans going so far as to argue that they had experienced feeling emasculated in admitting their liking of the band. This raises deeper questions about masculinity and perhaps what it means for men to wear their hearts on their sleeves. If Coldplay are seen as representing darker emotions and introspection, why is that seemingly incompatible with cool society? Perhaps that is for another article. Judd Apatow’s popular comedy film The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) includes the line ‘Do you know how I knew you were gay? You like Coldplay’. Perhaps this is the closest to understanding their position in terms of popularity particularly amongst men. Lead singer Chris Martin’s composition of songs often involving pianos and the minor key certainly is not in cahoots with traditional rock’s power chords so can be interpreted as being weak. But should it still be a guilty pleasure for a modern man?

The main theme amongst the 50 answers I received tended to be that for those who only know their main songs, Coldplay appear at first sight to be either too depressing and or producers of shallow cheap pop music. We’re all familiar with songs like Yellow, Viva La Vida, Fix You and Adventure Of A Lifetime to name a few. These are overplayed and compared to a lot of their other songs, are relatively basic. But the songs are far less basic than most of Ed “four chords” Sheeran’s songs, far less whiny and sentimental than Mumford and Sons regurgitated folk music and they’re not novelty records like a lot of Queen’s most prominent back catalogue are. But these artists don’t get jokes made about them in TV, films and opinion pieces. The hate stems from being written off by so-called serious music fans after only hearing their hits. The real depth and musical genius lies in the album tracks, namely from their first four albums which many have not discovered after dismissing them as whiny or overly emotional.

I admit I am not the first to explore this issue; an article in Vice from 2016 argued “There’s always been a broad corridor of stomach-wrenching hate reserved for Coldplay among British music fans” and indeed from critics. The article concluded that it was Chris Martin’s energy on stage and perceived superficial charisma that didn’t ‘sit well’ with the British public and contributed to the band’s denigration in ‘cool society’. I would argue that while the media tends not to see it, Coldplay is more than just Chris Martin’s public persona. Guitarist Johnny Buckland, Bass player Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion are individually exceptionally talented. The chemistry of the band is equally inspiring as the musical output as all four members contribute to every song, they have adapted and evolved their style throughout the band’s discography from acoustic-based numbers in their debut album Parachutes (2001), a notably more electronic sound in X&Y (2005), a touch of an ambient weighty sound due to producer Brian Eno’s involvement in Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends (2009), and more recently a turn to more upbeat hopeful songs. Any musician can surely feel inspired by their ability to evolve stylistically, stay as a unit together for over 20 years and still remain disarmingly humble in interviews. Furthermore, for a band that has adapted and changed, it is too simplistic to characterise all their songs as one type of music. To actively hate Coldplay is to hate a wide variety of musical creativity.

I would urge anyone who wanted a soundtrack for their life at strange, complicated times to listen to the album X&Y (2005), and while it will not be to everyone’s taste, I am confident that the lyrics and composition from the four exceptionally talented musicians will satisfy many. For the lockdown and beyond, my recommendations of specific songs would be: Square One, White Shadows, Twisted Logic, I Ran Away, Murder, Lost and Violet Hill. These are underrated songs that are never played on the radio or indeed played live but for me, epitomise their greatest work. Music that can soundtrack your life at a particular point and reflect a wide range of complex emotions is important, and I am yet to discover a band that is better suited to this.

Photo credit - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coldplay_-_Global-Citizen-Festival_Hamburg_14.jpg


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