I’ve been hesitant to criticize Coldplay for a while now. And part of me hoped I would never have to. As an ardent fan of “old Coldplay,” it’s not second nature to dig into the group that meant so much to me as I was becoming a huge fan of 2000s music that walked the line between indie, rock, melancholy, and psych/ambient/electronic.
There is a part of my soul that still intimately knows Coldplay’s Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head.
My blood pressure drops if I play “Don’t Panic” and I feel young heartbreak anew when “Warning Sign” finds its way into a playlist. X&Y came at a turning point, and I understood what “The Hardest Part” could really be in a relationship as I left for college. Viva la Vida took an entirely new direction, one I fell in love with immediately. I improvised free movements with my limbs late at night in the dance studios on campus to “Strawberry Swing” and “Death And All of His Friends,” as felt a new chapter beginning. When I found the Prospekt’s March EP in tandem, I knew I had found my most personal, all-time favorite Coldplay release as an adult. I thought they’d gone full-on instrumental indie.
But then came Mylo Xyloto.
And sure, I liked “Paradise” while driving in the car. I found the collaborations with major pop artists interesting. I thought, they are doing that thing that artists do in-between really good albums. They do something experimental to flex their muscles, to make new fans, to try something for the sake of it. But then they kept doing it. And when they went back to their original formula, they’d kind of lost it. Ghost Stories felt like an attempt to reach back for something that was no longer there, like the real-life divorce that inspired it.
Their most recent full-length album, A Head Full of Dreams, only cemented their new role and reputation as indie-pop hit single makers.
Yes, “A Sky Full of Stars” is great, and “Hymn for the Weekend” is much better than a lot of the crap that ends up on the radio today. But for all their new fans who want “Something Just Like This,” I really do not.
I want music that doesn’t conform to what is popular just because the band got big. I want music that still stirs the soul even though the band might no longer be struggling. I want music that reflects and stays true to the artistic mission a band begins with. I don’t know what Coldplay’s mission is anymore.
And I would rather have hit singles by Coldplay on the radio over whatever alt-country rock they think counts as music these days. But I also think they can do so, so much better than Kaleidoscope.
“All I Can Think About Is You” is a repeat formula from older times, infused with a stadium rock feel. Great for live concerts – which is what they’re good at these days – but not for recordings. “Miracles” is an overdone formula and I’m ready to be done by the time Big Sean comes in. “A L I E N S” (really? spaces between the letters?) hints at sense of older work in Viva or X&Y, even referencing “the speed of light,” but it still sounds like a canned and over-produced product. “Hypnotised” is the only remotely original song on the EP, but it’s still composed for the stage; it’s something they can perform in huge stadiums to evoke a sense of feeling using shallow shadows of their previous work.
The new Kaleidoscope EP says nothing new about Coldplay or their music.
They are still very talented musicians and performers. They can make hit after hit just like Maroon 5 and they never get old. They will go down forever as a major music group known and loved worldwide. But how long will they continue to cater to the vague global crowd that loves heavy beats, experimental electronics, piano interludes, and optimistic lyrics with the “sound” of Coldplay and Chris Martin’s vocals behind it?
Part of me still wonders what they could have become if the had stayed on the path that led them to create Viva la Vida and Prospekt’s March. But for now, I’ll be exploring their pre-2010 EPs that I never got around to before.
There has never been a better time to be in love with indie music and the musicians who create it. I write about and share what I discover because I find it difficult not to.