I didn’t always hate Coldplay.
I fell in love for the first time at a Coldplay show. The band’s second record, A Rush of Blood to the Head, was the soundtrack to my life as a confused college student with big dreams and no idea how to attain them. Hell, “Fix You” is still a song I cue up while sipping whiskey and smoking cigarettes in times of relationship trial.
Point being, the majority of my Coldplay memories are fond. The band is ridiculously talented, puts on one hell of a live show and has enough hits to stock up a double album (you know, back when greatest hits albums were a thing). Frontman Chris Martin seems like a swell guy with a self-deprecating sense of humor. If anything, Coldplay — who play NRG Stadium on Friday night, weather permitting — is the modern-day U2, a band with an approval rating of the highest order.
And maybe that’s the problem.
There’s nothing worse than unrealized expectations and unfulfilled potential. It’s the reason James Harden catches a ton of flack after a string of playoff letdowns; Harden easily ranks among the most gifted players in the NBA, but his perpetual ability to melt down at the most inopportune times – particularly against rivals like San Antonio and Golden State – sours the Rockets’ fanbase. It’s the reason a number of people have turned on Kanye West, who has seemed more focused on fashion and headline-catching behavior of late than producing top-tier hip-hop.
It’s also the reason I despise what Coldplay has become.
Chris Martin and crew were a breath of fresh air upon bursting onto the pop scene in the summer of 2000. At the time, rap-rock like Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock dominated the airwaves, much to the chagrin of many who preferred their music a little less misogynistic. Coldplay, with their subtle, introspective lyrics and laid-back disposition, certainly fit that bill.
The band stormed the charts that summer with “Yellow.” At the time, it was viewed as little more than a catchy little tune that had the video with the pale, skinny dude walking along the beach and singing along. Instead, it ended up setting the table for one of the best three-album runs in the history of pop music.
The album from which “Yellow” was born was Parachutes, and this was not an album designed to place fluff around one catchy lead single. Rather, Parachutes – with tracks like “Sparks” and “Everything’s Not Lost” – was a critical and commercial darling. At the time, some wondered if Parachutes was a little too good. Simply put, would Coldplay become a victim of its own success, succumbing to the dreaded sophomore slump?
A Rush of Blood to the Head, released in August 2002, quickly put those notions to rest. The album remains Coldplay’s best to this day, and features smash singles like “Clocks,” “The Scientist,” and “In My Place.” It eventually moved more than 16 million copies worldwide and established Coldplay as arguably the biggest band on the planet. X&Y, released three years later, was more of the same from the band; this is a compliment. While not quite reaching the heights of its predecessor, it was nonetheless another No. 1 album for a band that by now had come to expect them.
Coldplay could seemingly do no wrong. And then it did.
Some lauded Coldplay for taking their sound and overall style in a somewhat different direction with the release of Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends in 2008. Everything about the album – from its weird title to its artwork, and most importantly its sound – barely resembled the formula that established Coldplay as one of the world’s premier bands. Not that one could argue with the results; Viva la Vida debuted at No. 1, produced a couple of hit singles and won Best Rock Album at the 2009 Grammy Awards.
That said, their change in sound frustrated some fans who had come to expect something a little bit different from Coldplay. Now, no band should be chided for evolving its sound; in fact, a band on their level should be applauded for risking commercial success by altering a formula that had long ago proven successful.
But, man, Viva la Vida just isn’t a very good album, but rather, one that sounds of a band that wanted to change its sound but wasn’t quite sure what that sound was supposed to be. Coldplay kinda lost me from there. Mylo Xyloto – another oddly titled album; you’re seeing a trend – was kind of a dud as concept albums went, and the band’s last two records, Ghost Stories and A Head Full of Dreams, are just kinda dull.
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And this is where the U2 comparisons come in. Once a band that did pop-rock just about as well as anyone, Bono and crew settled in to a nice, inoffensive place around the time of their turn-of-the-century comeback. Like U2, Coldplay has certainly earned the right to do the same. Each has headlined a Super Bowl halftime show, won awards aplenty, sold millions of records and become wealthy in the process.
So, yeah, Coldplay can’t be blamed for the band they've become, particularly not with the current state of the music industry. The band’s NRG gig will no doubt pack the house. Hell, the show will likely be quite good! It’s just too bad the catalog from which it’s drawn ceased being interesting more than a decade ago.
Coldplay and special guests AlunaGeorge and Izzy BIzu perform Friday, August 25 at NRG Stadium, 1 NRG Park. Gates open at 6 p.m.; parking lot opens at 3 p.m. Tickets are $67 to $448.