I don’t mean that Coldplay steals from other groups (though they have been accused of that before too, but so have lots of bands). What I mean is that their sound is very similar to music that’s already out there. So why should I bother to listen to them?
Valid or invalid complaint: It’s a toss up. This might just be a personal problem.
Complaint No. 4: I just don’t understand why people like them
Coldplay is so big that when the band delayed the release of 2005 album X&Y, its record label’s stock actually dropped. They’re so big that they’ve just released a concept album jokingly named after the idea of musical toes (Martin says the word ‘Xyloto’ was originally xylo-toes) and nobody seems to find that ridiculous. Have fans always been that taken in? I spoke with music producer and Gang of Four member Andy Gill (husband of TIME London Bureau Chief Catherine Mayer, by the way), who saw the band play in a London club before they’d even released an album. “There were a lot of fans there who were clearly into it, more so than you’d expect from an unsigned band,” he said. “Chris Martin was a great singer and he had a rapport with the audience. It was very obvious that they were going to do well.”
“They’re highly made fun of cause they’re cheesy, but they seem so genuine,” says Joana Oritz, a 22-year-old student in Austin, Texas. Oritz is a self-described “music snob” and when people ask what her favorite band is, “I really hesitate to say Coldplay, because then people are like, ‘You know all this stuff about music and then you’re going to pick them?’” But she does pick them. Oritz says she loves Coldplay so much that in high school, she used to neglect her homework in favor of watching a live concert DVD of their A Rush of Blood to the Head tour.
Maybe Coldplay is so beloved because the band is genuinely nice. Their songs are sweet, their melodies tugs at your heartstrings (or play your xylo toes, whatever) and Chris Martin seems like someone who, if you met him on the street, might actually care to remember your name. Coldplay may be the current butt of adult-contemporary jokes, but even the most scathing review will wind up complementing its members on their politeness, affability and seeming ignorance of their superstar status. That’s pretty rare for rock ‘n’ roll.
Valid or invalid complaint: Invalid. I think I’m just being a jerk
So maybe I don’t really hate Coldplay. They’re a charming band with pleasant songs and a surprising amount of staying power. “I listened to them in high school for the same reasons that I listen to them now,” says Chris Chu, frontman for indie band The Morning Benders. “There aren’t that many bands I can say that about; most either dwindled into obscurity or stopped making music that I liked.” Chu has a point; Coldplay have been Coldplay-ing for more than a decade and their popularity shows no signs of slowing down.
They’re often called the last big arena rock band, probably because they really are the last big arena rock band—a group through which millions of people can have a shared cultural experience. Officials sales figures won’t be out until next week, but the assumption is that Mylo Xyloto will be one of the year’s top selling albums, right up there with Adele’s 21 and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. Coldplay doesn’t push rock boundaries—it doesn’t even gently nudge them. But if this is the status quo, I think I can bear it.
(MORE: Iron & Wine, The Flaming Lips, and Other Musical Acts Pick Their Favorite Songs Of All Time)