These are confusing times. We live in a world where it’s perfectly okay — even cool — to obsess over the lives and fashion of Auto-Tuned pop stars. I mean, I myself am guilty of this. Just check my Spotify. It’s the age of pop music and bands are on the sidelines, selling out stadiums in silence, neither trending nor making it to Top 10. But not Coldplay. Since coming out with “A Head Full of Dreams,” an album that, for all intents and purposes, is their most anti-Coldplay album to date, the band has made quite the noise. Their brash departure from their own sound, teaming up with a pop icon like Beyoncé, and simply deciding to write “happier” songs… all these have contributed to the degeneration of their street cred, if they ever had any. While they have always been a mainstream pop act, they have never been more considered as sellouts as they are today.
The time of Yellow from “Parachutes,” the early 2000s, was the age of singing male groups and Coldplay was a respite. There was a fresh-faced, slightly wet Chris Martin singing in the cold about stars and bones — words we would never find in a standard boyband lyric sheet — and his arrival was welcome. “A Rush of Blood to the Head” proved similar: a collection of sentimental, melodic, melancholy but decidedly un-moody tunes that set the tone for alternative music at that time. I never thought I would see the day when I would be made fun of for liking the band. What’s not to like, right? Even the coolest, most rock ‘n’ rollin’ person I know likes Yellow. Turns out, I was wrong.
Although I wasn’t alone in this fandom, there were, just under the radar, waiting for a chance to pounce, people who hated Coldplay with a passion. Part of it was about Gwyneth. Yeah, Chris Martin married Hollywood (in particular, the founder of a lifestyle site that calls itself GOOP) and his approval ratings with the cool crowd dropped. Sure, they broke up and he became depressed — one would expect songs sadder than Fix You to come out of that, but no. He went ahead and wrote Adventure of a Lifetime, a song that’s so upbeat and joyful, we all thought he’s either gone crazy or fell and tripped on some acid. This latest album was most out of character and I knew it — it made me ashamed to admit I even liked them in the first place. So when someone told me that Yellow is the “stupidest” song to have ever been written, I just laughed. I didn’t defend them, instead I read the lyrics again and sort of internally agreed.
Before their concert in Manila was even announced, when people ask me which band I would most like to watch perform, I always say Coldplay and Radiohead and maybe U2. Maybe. Those are the essentials, right? “But Chris Martin is such a sissy” (or a derivative of that) is one of the replies I always got, mostly from men who most likely have a problem accessing emotions. But I would just laugh.
I got a vinyl copy of “A Head Full of Dreams” as a gift and underhandedly made fun of it on social media (because the vinyl itself is pink), but I really do love it. When did it become embarassing to like Coldplay? Why is it a thing? It was a reality that I’ve learned to deal with as a fan with self-deprecating humor and a sort of hyper-awareness of the band’s so-called sissy-ness. I thought, if I was better at making fun of the band than all of their haters combined, maybe people would give me a break for liking them so much.
Then came The Day — Coldplay shows in Asia were announced and I happened to be able to snag some tickets to their Singapore show, which was right before they would come to the Manila. A friend found out about this and told me, “Manonood ka ng Coldplay? Akala ko cool ka.” I wasn’t sure how to feel. So many emotions. Immediately, there was an inner rage. You dare castigate me for my taste music? You like The Chainsmokers! (Incidentally, Coldplay just came out with a collaboration with The Chainsmokers — why, whyyy?) Next came doubt. Maybe I am uncool. So mainstream. So basic.
And then I realized that I was deeply offended — for myself and the band I liked. It was a joke, but it wasn’t in jest. All this in under three minutes. Then, again, I just laughed it off. It dawned on me: Who cares?
And so I watched Coldplay in Singapore and it was the best show I’ve ever seen. The fact that Yellow was the second song on the setlist proved that the band was fully aware of what they were doing. They’re not holding on to that hit song or placing it on a pedestal. They’re not baiting fans with nostalgia. Coldplay’s intentions were clear: “A Head Full of Dreams” is what they sound like now.
The songs they performed outside of their latest album were aligned with that: Viva La Vida, Paradise, A Sky Full of Stars, Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall, Clocks. Even Fix You was big — everything was, except for Everglow, their latest album’s token quiet song, which Chris Martin performed alone with a piano. It was two hours of non-stop energy. The band performed as if every song was a finale. Many times I thought it was going to end but it never did. In retrospect, you’d actually know it if they’re on their final song (it was Something Just Like This). It wasn’t epic, it didn’t leave the crowd hanging. It was like a “Hey by the way this is our new song, bye-yee.” The show flowed, starting and ending in a way that left the audience so completely satisfied and all-Coldplayed out that we didn’t even notice they didn’t play The Scientist, Shiver or Violet Hill (I was counting on the latter, it makes my stomach turn. I would’ve cried).
I was told some weeks ago that the time to see Coldplay perform live has passed, that they’ve peaked at “A Rush of Blood to the Head” and seeing them now would be watching a completely different, compromised, lesser band. But I did just watch them and I can say this is untrue: Present Coldplay is consummate and now is the best time to see them perform live. I’m actually scared for their next album. How will they ever top this tour? God only knows.