Coldplay is the least popular Most Popular Band in the World of all time. There’s a long list of possible explanations, including but not limited to the ever-increasing diversification of pop music, hip-hop brainwashing teenage suburbanites into buying turntables instead of guitars, and of course, global warming. But the main one seems to be a general unwillingness for anyone to admit liking Coldplay even though everyone has “Clocks,” “Speed Of Sound,” and “Viva La Vida” on his or her iPod.
I openly confess that I would never openly identify myself as a Coldplay fan despite my many passionate renditions of “Yellow” in the shelter of my bedroom. The release of Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay’s fifth album, therefore presented me with a chance to finally come to grips with my appreciation for the foursome.
Chris Martin once said that Coldplay always set out to put at least one song “that everyone needs to hear before they die” on each of their albums. This song usually ends up being the lead single, getting tacked onto at least two or three television ads that don’t go away for six months, and forcefully drilling itself into the consciousness of every man, woman and child in the Western world. So in reviewing the actual music (as opposed to our perception of the music) on Mylo Xyloto, a good place to start is by pointing out that for the first time, Coldplay has failed in this regard. “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” and “Paradise” almost reach this level, but they are simply not on the same plane as “Yellow,” “Clocks,” “Speed Of Sound” or “Viva La Vida” in terms of being 21st century classics. And in many ways, this is symbolic as the album as a whole; it’s still Coldplay-ey enough to sound like them, but it’s definitely not a retread of any of their previous releases either.
On at least one track, the band definitely went out of its way to make something unexpected. How? By stealing a riff from somewhere in eastern Asia, deciding to make it a duet, and landing Rihanna to sing it along with Chris Martin. In theory, this song should suck, and there’s probably going to be a lot people hating it based off the concept alone. But in reality, it’s perfectly executed, with Martin and Rihanna’s voices having some type of awesome ménage a trois with the song’s synthesizer. If any other band pulled this off, they’d be anointed musical geniuses, but since it’s Coldplay, expect everyone you ask about it to respond with a shrug (but secretly love it when it comes through their earbuds).
Despite defending Coldplay’s honor against the faceless masses however, I will definitely not call this a “great” album. There are simply too many moments, specifically “U.F.O.” “Up In Flames,” and “Up With The Birds” that try to jerk tears but end up falling flat as failed Joshua Tree impressions. Some would argue that statement encapsulates Coldplay’s entire career, and sure, the U2 similarities have always been undeniable. But Coldplay has always been able to keep its identity independent despite drawing heavy influence from the Irish lads, and if that isn’t how great music evolves, I’m not sure exactly how it does. Mylo Xyloto might not be a classic album, but it’s good enough to make the world reconsider its irrational antipathy towards the band.