Monday, June 06, 2005

The Case Against the Case Against Coldplay

There is a very annoying article in the New York Times about Coldplay. Here's a sample:

THERE'S nothing wrong with self-pity. As a spur to songwriting, it's right up there with lust, anger and greed, and probably better than the remaining deadly sins. There's nothing wrong, either, with striving for musical grandeur, using every bit of skill and studio illusion to create a sound large enough to get lost in. Male sensitivity, a quality that's under siege in a pop culture full of unrepentant bullying and machismo, shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, no matter how risible it can be in practice. And building a sound on the lessons of past bands is virtually unavoidable. But put them all together and they add up to Coldplay, the most insufferable band of the decade.

...Clearly, Coldplay is beloved: by moony high school girls and their solace-seeking parents, by hip-hop producers who sample its rich instrumental sounds and by emo rockers who admire Chris Martin's heart-on-sleeve lyrics. The band emanates good intentions, from Mr. Martin's political statements to lyrics insisting on its own benevolence. Coldplay is admired by everyone - everyone except me.

...As Coldplay's music has grown more colossal, its lyrics have quietly made a shift on "X&Y." On previous albums, Mr. Martin sang mostly in the first person, confessing to private vulnerabilities. This time, he sings a lot about "you": a lover, a brother, a random acquaintance. He has a lot of pronouncements and advice for all of them: "You just want somebody listening to what you say," and "Every step that you take could be your biggest mistake," and "Maybe you'll get what you wanted, maybe you'll stumble upon it" and "You don't have to be alone." It's supposed to be compassionate, empathetic, magnanimous, inspirational. But when the music swells up once more with tremolo guitars and chiming keyboards, and Mr. Martin's voice breaks for the umpteenth time, it sounds like hokum to me.
"Coldplay is admired by everyone - everyone except me"? Talk about self-pity, not to mention arrogance. He's saying that he is smarter than everyone else because he alone thinks Coldplay is hokum. I'm all for taking contrary positions, but this is just silly. Not everyone loves the band, and some people think that when Mr. Martin's voice breaks for the umpeenth time, it sounds like hokum, but they love it anyway. And how brave is it to take on Coldplay? Who will the writer take on next? Olivia Newton-John?

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