Music Mondays: Coldplay deepens the divide


In 2002, Chris Martin said he wanted Coldplay to be the biggest band in the world.  Now that he’s mingling with Jay-Z and appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, fans and critics wonder if this road to fame cost Coldplay their credibility in the process.

Coldplay’s fifth album, “Mylo Xyloto,” was released last Monday, and with it came a hearty mix of praise and criticism. “Mylo Xyloto” is a substantial departure from the band’s original sound, an evolution some fans defend as progressive. Love them or hate them,  the album’s pop and dance elements — one track even features Rihanna — have been a long time coming.

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Coldplay's lead singer Chris Martin performs during the first concert of their European tour, at the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011.

While Coldplay has been mainstream since the beginning with their first massive hit, “Yellow,” their increasingly electronic sound registers as a betrayal for some fans.  However, Scott Church, a professor of popular culture, argues that with the band’s original intent in mind, this change is all but expected.

“Chris Martin has been saying that Coldplay has wanted to be the next U2 since, really, Coldplay’s inception,” Church said. “So, it’s just a natural progression for them. They can’t really ‘sell-out’ when they’re being so upfront about their intentions.”

Despite rampant success, Coldplay has become a band that’s cool to hate in some circles.  Church attributes this to the band’s massive popularity, an aspiration out of place in today’s largely indie-centric market.

“We tend to feel validated, more important, when we think we’re in the minority of people who like a certain type of entertainment,” Church said. “Coldplay has definitely passed its previous thresholds of popularity with each album and now that it’s this global phenomenon, we feel like we’re no longer unique for liking them.”

Some critics look beyond the cultural significance and show Coldplay no mercy, truly considering the band’s new electronic sound to be a “sell-out” — an abandonment of their original musical values for fame.  

Colin Hatch, a media music major and owner of Muse Music Cafe, credits Coldplay for strong music earlier in their career, but considers their newer sounds and lyrics to be purely engineered for massive appeal, with little regard to their actual talent or musical identity.

“They used to have this amazing sound and some great songs,” Hatch said. “It takes talent to write a song like ‘Yes’ from the ‘Viva La Vida’ album, but when I heard their new single and lyrics like ‘I’ve got my records on, I turn my headphones up,’ I mean, that was something he should have wrote when he was 12.”

Thousands of fans are drawn to Coldplay’s music with no reservations, even claiming their ability to appeal to an audience as one of their strengths.  Jill Urban, a junior from Beaverton, Ore., studying public health, saw the band play in 2009 and has been a fan since, appreciating their constantly changing sound.

“Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s bad,” Urban said.  “Their new album is picking up a lot of mainstream concepts, but that’s what happens when a band progresses.  If they did the same thing they’d always done, it wouldn’t be interesting.”

Ultimately, some fans will be fans no matter what direction the music takes.  Michael Stewart, a freshman from Burke, Va., has been a fan since the beginning and appreciates the elements of their music that stay consistent.

“I’m a sucker for real instrumentation in band music and Coldplay does a lot with the piano and violin,” Stewart said. “The only downside is that their music keeps me from doing my homework.”

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