Coldplay has released two new songs over the past couple of weeks. I finally mustered up the courage to listen to them today. They are terrible.
Let me just say that I have been a Coldplay fan for at least a decade. I own physical copies of all of the band’s albums. I can happily listen to “Viva la Vida and Death and All His Friends” from start to finish. I’ve been to one of their concerts (after which I became violently ill with the flu, but it was still totally worth it). Seven of the top ten songs in my iTunes library are their songs (ranging from “Clocks” to “Life in Technicolor II”). I know that a lot of people hate the band; they think its music is boring, annoying, and/or overrated. I was obviously never one of those people. But I’m becoming one of them now.
When I heard that Coldplay had released a new song late last month, I was afraid to listen to it. The group’s track record over the past two or three years has not been good. The song they cut for last year’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” soundtrack was an enormous let down. Their previous EP, “Mylo Xyloto” was easily their worst album. The only redeemable songs on it were the ones that were classic Coldplay: just Martin singing along with a guitar and piano until a steady-buildup to an epic final chorus. No bells. No whistles (literally or figuratively). The best song on that album is “Us Against the World,” and it is actually one of my favorite songs by them. Oddly enough, it would have been perfect for the “Catching Fire” soundtrack. I mean, the chorus includes the phrase “through chaos as it swirls/it’s us against the world.”
Just when I thought Coldplay’s music couldn’t get any worse, it did. The band released the first single, “Midnight” off its forthcoming album, “Ghost Stories,” near the end of February. Lyrically speaking, the song has some great potential. But the band fails to deliver (also, is there even a band? I can’t even figure out what instruments are being played in the song).
“Midnight” appears to be suffering from an identity crisis. It has no idea what type of song it wants to be. Does it want to be a simple and eerie song? Does it want to be a lullaby? Does it want to be an EDM song? Does it want to be a Muse song? The answer to all of the above is YES. It tries to be all these things at once, but fails miserably. It sounds like the “ingredients” of the song were thrown in a blender and then produced by Keyboard Cat.
And then Martin’s voice is so synthesized that you can barely understand what he is saying. The song has no melody, no rhythm. It would be quickly forgettable if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s so bizarrely unintelligible that it made my ears bleed.
“Midnight” raises so many questions. WHAT in the world is this? Why is this song so overproduced? Why can’t Chris Martin sit at the piano and sing this song like a normal human? What is up with the synthesizers? Are the other guys even playing their instruments or is the rest of it completely computer-generated? Who thought this song sounded good?
The other new song the band released, “Magic,” is actually pretty simple. It’s so simple that it sounds like elevator music. There’s not much else to say about it. I guess it’s better than “Midnight,” but that’s not really saying much.
I get that artists evolve. I get that fans don’t want album after album to sound the same. I get that critics have been hounding the band for years for being “appealingly unoriginal,” for being “mid-paced conservative,” and for trying too hard. I get that Coldplay was criticized for that exact reason after releasing its third album, “X & Y.” I get that the follow-up album, “Viva La Vida,” was radically different than any music the band had released before – and turned into a well-deserved, critically-acclaimed smash success.
What I don’t get, however, is the band’s increasing reliance on weird techno-elements. It’s trying too hard to be something that it’s not. It’s trying too hard to please the critics. It’s trying too hard to do a 180 degree turn from its early-2000s self. Based on numerous interviews I’ve seen and heard, Martin is incredibly critical of himself, which leads me to wonder if he is easily influenced by what other people think of him. He is so self-deprecating that one might think he was putting on a show, but it’s easy to see from his neurotic in-studio interviews that he truly believes that his work isn’t that good. Maybe after his band’s first three albums were called boring or bad knockoffs of Muse and U2, he and the band erroneously thought they needed to dramatically change their sound. If that is the case, these four have taken the band’s criticism too far.
Somebody needs to sit these guys down and tell them that change is not always a good thing. Your goal as a musician is not to sound like a Muse-inspired T-Pain.
This isn’t working, guys. Go back to writing and recording stripped down music.