Since achieving global fame in 2000, Coldplay have elicited devotion and derision in equal measure. The question, then, is whether the British four-piece are one of the best bands of their generation – or the most overrated? Rob Garratt and Saeed Saeed state their cases.
They are overrated
Coldplay produce quintessentially mundane muzak for the masses. They are utterly innocuous, bitterly anodyne and completely forgettable audio dishwater, swilling round the empty ears of listeners too lazy or ignorant to seek out anything less agreeable.
Put simply, Coldplay make music for people who don’t like music.
The Coldplay formula: cycle a dull, harmonically satisfying piano ostinato, insert a whiny, falsetto Chris Martin vocal, and repeat ad nauseam.
Just listen to the endless ennui of Clocks or – actually, don't. It must be the most undiverting piece of music ever composed.
Coldplay are so dull, I can’t even muster the energy to hate them. I just protest the totally disproportionate level of success they have achieved, fuelled by the fawning excitement of fans who get their hot music picks from YouTube’s advert-driven algorithms.
It is hard to believe now, but in their early days, Coldplay were almost cool, loftily tipped by the UK music press to be the next Radiohead. In early 2000, as a teenage indie kid, I handed over cash to help second single Shiver reach the lofty heights of No35 in the UK chart, and queued to buy debut album Parachutes on day of release.
Call me misty eyed, but while never quite the revelation we were promised, this early work was much more diverting than what was to come.
By 2002's prosaic follow-up, A Rush of Blood to the Head, my uncool big brother was in on the act. And when my mother bought 2005's collective yawn X& Y, it became clear any spark had long ago fizzled out.
It got worse. The band’s more recent flirtations with dance and urban elements are beyond embarrassing. The bitter reports I’ve heard from fans who were at their last Abu Dhabi appearance – a lacklustre NYE countdown in 2011, when they were on stage for only about an hour – do little to endear them to me. If you’re going to be boring, at least be nice.
“They’re a Marmite band,” someone told me. No, they are not. Marmite divides people because its taste is bold and distinctive – the antithesis of Coldplay’s flavourless audio broth.
* Rob Garratt
They are one of the best
It is easy to see why Coldplay became so successful. When they emerged, we were reaching the peak of the Nu-Metal period – a genre that was so stodgy and full of narcissistic naval gazing – and the public were looking for music that was more hopeful and organic.
Enter Coldplay, with their simple lyricism and a standard, yet evocative, rock arrangement.
The band broke into the charts in 2000 and with their seven albums have been a mainstay ever since.
The backlash began as early as the second album, 2002's A Rush of Blood to the Head, and their fate was sealed with the release of 2005's X&Y, the album that propelled them to into the realms of the arena and, eventually, stadium act.
The band no longer “belonged” to that select group of self-appointed tastemakers, but to “the people” and boy, did the snobs hate that.
Let’s look at some of the charges levelled at the band:
The lyrics are lame.
Perhaps, but then, so are most pop lyrics, let's be honest. And it has also been a feature of the band's music from the start. Their first single, 2000's Shiver has lines such as: "From the moment I wake/ To the moment I sleep/ I'll be there by your side." Not exactly Shakespeare but, funny enough, there were few complaints from the tastemakers raving about the band back then.
The music is all the same.
Only if you are not paying attention. From the low-fi indie aesthetics of A Rush of Blood to the Head to the art-rock leanings of Viva La Vida, or Death to all his Friends each Coldplay album – for better or worse – had a clearly defined musical concept.
To lump it all together is the same as stating that U2 and Bruce Springsteen have sounded the same for the past 30 years.
They are too nice.
No, it is simple self awareness. That’s perhaps the key to the group’s success and solidarity. They keep their heads down and get on with it.
Derision is often responded to with self deprecation and praise. In a way, it is a brilliant Akido-type move that leaves the accuser resembling a musical grinch.
In any case, I suspect the group struggle to hear the hate among the roar of the huge crowds they play to every night.
* Saeed Saeed