By Eliza Logan
Coldplay is like Marmite – and not just because they are either loved or hated. The band shares the virtues of the iconic spread – distinctive, reliable, versatile, and uncompromisingly British – and yet many think of them as awkward, distinctive, and unappealing. Unfortunately, there is some evidence to support the latter opinion (most notably their chalk and cheese collaboration with The Chainsmokers which sadly is their most streamed song on Spotify) but their mistakes cannot outshine their greatest hits of which there is a long list.
In fact, the variety of tracks below debunk the common claim that all their music is miserable and repetitive and demonstrate the sheer diversity found within their discography. Though sometimes executed with more success than others, their ability to morph their sound into the different musical landscapes of different times is commendable and yet they maintain a sense of continuity through the unshakeable vocals set against intricate instrumentals. Their ability to collaborate with other esteemed artists (no not the Chainsmokers) from both Beyonce and Jay Z to Noel Gallagher is further testament to their versatility, making it impossible to over-generalise them as ‘boring’.
For me, Chris Martin’s familiar tone is a comfort like no other – an indispensable feature in the soundtrack of a British noughties childhood. Though my appreciation for them may be bound up in nostalgia, they receive an unfair amount of criticism making the ‘hater base’ that has consolidated as a result unfounded. Why did it become cool to hate Coldplay? Thanks to their variety of sound, I maintain that there’s a Coldplay song for almost everyone, regardless of usual taste. In fact, I scrapped my initial plan to rank their best hits, deciding that the evolution of their sound makes their songs incomparable. Instead, justice is served better by exploring them individually, the conclusion being that their songs definitely do not “all sound the same”.
It’s no coincidence that their career-launching hit ‘Yellow’ has stood the test of time, as it is Coldplay at their most authentic and the genesis of their sound. Stripped back of the bells and whistles that embellish subsequent hits, you are left with poignant lyrics supported by rock instrumentals that keep you hooked. An unconventional lost song, the breadth and depth of emotion hits with each listen, making it both a realistic yet idealistic representation of love epitomised by the motif phrase ‘for you I’d bleed myself dry’. It’s equally shabby and charming, reminiscent of the UCL halls that birthed the band back in 1996. It keeps you hooked throughout and tempts you to come back again and again.
Fix You (2005)
Soppy? Yes. Devastating? Yes. Excessive? Yes. And yet it still works. The haunting balance of hope and despair makes it difficult not to feel something when you listen to this song. A huge success, whose presence on hundreds of playlists I doubt will disappear anytime soon so put your pride away and accept that you love it. Bonus points if you listen to the Glastonbury 2011 version – potentially symptomatic of the lack of live performances recently but the atmosphere of this one, carried by the crowd’s contributions, sends shivers up my spine. While you’re there I’d also recommend that performance of ‘The Scientist’, a rendition of an equally emotive anthem which es even more moving than the original.
Viva La Vida (2008)
An inescapable melody makes this song the band’s best performing hit, but underneath the highly recognisable tune are themes of war and revolution that allow for original and powerful lyrics, making its mainstream success more impressive. This song was everywhere following release and continues to be one that most people will have heard.
Adventure of a Lifetime (2015)
A great example of their ability to revamp their old style to fit with the times. An uplifting, catchy single, ideal for contemporary hit radio but one which doesn’t compromise on instrumental skill. There’s no way you can call this song boring – its energy is contagious.
LESSER KNOWN HEROES:
The edgier cousin of well-known ‘Clocks’, Daylight encapsulates this album’s sense of letting loose following the admittedly more subdued tones of ‘Parachutes’. The influences of Radiohead, U2, and the like are evident but made distinctively Coldplay by the poignant lyrics
In My Place (2002)
Unlike some of their earlier singles, this song is less overplayed but thanks to the distinctive drum introduction and wistful guitar line it still manages to conjure up the same saccharine sentiment of their other crowd-pleasing hits.
Death and All His Friends (2008)
For me, this album track encapsulates the best aspects of Coldplay’s music – the soothing tones of the stripped-back piano introduction quickly give way to the arrival of the band’s infectious energy making it an easily chantable track. It ends with the ‘Life in Technicolour’ motif that opens the album, demonstrating the bands genius in creating tracks that are good enough to stand alone but are also indispensable to the fabric of the album – something which they return to in ‘Mylo Xyloto’, an album designed to be listened from start to finish as each track runs seamlessly into another.
Christmas Lights (2010)
Coldplay’s Christmas anthem is a welcome respite from the squeaky clean optimism of most festive hits that often aren’t representative of the turbulence of the holiday season. Yet Coldplay capture the ups and downs perfectly – the optimism of the Christmas lights that ‘keep shining on’ signalling hope despite heartache making it not seem ‘like Christmas at all’. The warmth of this ballad makes it the only Christmas song I want to listen to all year round
Charlie Brown (2011)
Nominated for a Grammy award, the success of this single cannot be underrated, and yet in comparison to the hits from the same era ‘Paradise’ and ‘Princess of China’ it has been forgotten about. The energy and optimism of this song are unparalleled, though it is far from being a corny hit. BBC music described it as representative of a ‘sun-breaking-through-clouds moment’ and I can’t sum it up better.
Magic is the triumphant infiltration of the Coldplay we know with synth beats and a bass-heavy backing, marking their foray into the world of electronic music characteristic of the album “Ghost Stories”. An irresistibly atmospheric lullaby, it’s a slow burner but one that you’ll find yourself coming back to again and again.
Honourable mentions worth a listen:
Lost! (2008) (and the Jay Z version Lost+)
Strawberry Swing (2008)
Violet Hill (2008)
Every Teardrop is a Waterfall (2011)
I hope this has been a good reminder to Coldplay fans of the extent of their skill, whilst inspiring haters to re-evaluate their opinion, or at least come up with a more reasonable excuse for disliking them.
Illustration: Anna Kuptsova