MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 75: COLDPLAY

It’s been quite a journey, this blog series. Since starting this venture in February 2019, I decided to embark one what someone from the outside (who doesn’t know me at all) would consider to be a fruitless task of folly- to delve into and discover 100 artists (and then a further 50 iconic ones) that have shaped music as it is today, and to discuss various songs and how they’ve shaped my own life as well…well, that’s an exuberant feat in and of itself, right? Surely, it can’t be done, right? Well, 2 years later and onto blog #75, it’s been quite an experience, and to be honest, I even thought that I wouldn’t even last as much as I did. I set out to try to attain something that even I may have initially thought at the time, was too lofty, and yet, decided to embark anyway. What has resulted from the years of 2019, 2020 and now 2021, has been one of the most enriching experiences when it comes to music, as I’m reminded that God can and does use the music that is the most unexpected, for Him to reveal things about ourselves and Himself along the way. Since starting to widen my own appreciation for music that isn’t explicitly ‘Christian’ from 2019 onward, I’ve discovered a world that is very much expanse, unique, and in some ways, still within the scope of being God-inspired, as a lot of the artists I’ve unearthed over the last 2 years, have been challenging us all, myself included, of what it means to have good music, to have inspirational music, to have God Himself move through music that isn’t necessarily read in a certain way…and then everything else in between. Artists like Switchfoot, Skillet, Train, Sara Bareilles, Delta Goodrem, Lifehouse, Hanson, John Mayer, Lecrae, Lady A, Rascal Flatts, Daughtry, Jason Mraz, Seal, Alanis Morrisette, the Goo Goo Dolls, John Farnham, Delirious?, Chris Tomlin, Phil Collins and Shania Twain are just some of the many, many artists I allowed myself to be acquainted with over the last couple of years, and during that time, my love for music, both CCM and mainstream and everything else, began to expand and grow. Some people may think that I may be a heretic for listening to mainstream music, if I am a Bible-believing Christian, but herein lies the point, that I’ve stressed all throughout my 2 years of musical exploration. That God can and does speak through the unexpected, the things in your life that you wouldn’t necessarily have thought. And that includes mainstream music. And without further ado, now off to blog #75, to dive deep into the discography of one of Britain’s most accomplished, well-known, and hard-hitting bands, that I’ve come across ever since U2…Coldplay.

Yes you heard that right. I’ve decided to venture down this unique rabbit-hole of Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman and Will Champion, or as they are otherwise called, Coldplay. Since starting in the late 1990s and amassing a vast number of radio hits and 8 studio albums (and countless other EPs and live projects) later, we have been blessed with a band that has had the ability to reach millions of people around the world, with music that can be only described as music that pierces to the soul, that heals, and challenges the very nature of what healing music is supposed to look like and be. Much like to how U2 revolutionised rock music in the 1980s, so too has Coldplay challenged the way that music out of Britain was supposed to look like during the 2000s. Other bands and artists carried the mantle as well- with Snow Patrol, Radiohead, The Verve and Keane also impacting the world as much as Coldplay during that time, but this blog ought not to be a history lesson. There’s google for that. Also to that point, this blog ought not to be a regurgitation of each and every radio hit and my ‘argument’ as to why Coldplay deserves the praise it has received for the better part of 2 decades. There’s websites like songmeanings and songfacts for that too.

So, what indeed is this blog about? If I am to switch up the layout of this blog, what is it that makes Coldplay so special, so unique, so impactful across generations and years, that articles like songfacts and songmeanings haven’t really talked about? Well, to put it honestly…not much. And let’s just be blunt for a moment. If you’re looking for more information and facts, then this blog probably won’t be for you. Yes, there I said it. I know that in previous blogs before, I was undertaking these posts as sort-of like a history task…but now, let’s just say that from here on out, these posts will be much more introspective and reflective compared to which I’ve written thus far. Call it some clarity and a direction shift because of COVID-19, call it whatever you think it is, what I will say is this- Coldplay’s music has been instrumental over the years in so many people’s lives, and over the last week or so that I have been listening to this British band (and on and off over the last 2 years as well), I can say the exact same thing. There’s a sense of honesty, vulnerability, and a way of delivering such a song with grace, poise, emotion and heart that I can unfortunately say is lacking a lot in modern music right now, that Coldplay actually has. They are indeed very valuable to society, especially now during COVID-19 and all the other disasters around the world (the aftermath of the U.S. election, the Australian floods, the complications with the COVID-19 vaccine), and Coldplay’s music can give us all comfort during times like these. Sometimes there isn’t any technical and systematic reason why a band/artist is influential, they just are. And in Coldplay’s case, it has always been the songs that show us why this band’s tenure has gone on for as long as it had. Not any sale, but rather, the song and the emotion that each song carries with it, is what I believe should be the focus and motivations for bands in general. Not awards or accolades, but by how many lives these songs have touched for the better. And Coldplay’s music has touched many, mine included!

There’s been many songs over the years by Coldplay that has challenged us all in our own walks of life, impacted the very places of our being where we’ve needed songs to get us through, and reminded us all that there is a song out there, by Coldplay or some other band/artist, that can speak to us like no other, that can be our soundtrack in life for a season, helping us through circumstances and situations that maybe our family can’t. Nevertheless, Chris Martin and co. have birthed a band that is by far one of the most loved and celebrated, while equally one of the most polarising and disliked, bands since U2. There, I said it- Coldplay has made an impact just like U2 has (and still does)- a lot of Coldplay’s songs are reminiscent of some of U2’s earliest, and lemme just say, that if no one really heard much of U2 or Coldplay, then both their song catalogues mixed together and presented to someone, would show that both U2 and Coldplay’s music are very similar, musically and lyrically, and in the best possible way. Chris’s musicianship has brought the band to a place that if they continue to make albums the way that they do, at the end of their tenure, they maybe could surpass U2 and one of the most influential bands of the modern rock music era (not including other iconic bands like ABBA, Bee Gees, Queen and The Beatles, of course!).

With a career spanning more than 20 years, Chris and co. have shown us a myriad of songs over the years that deal with a plethora of things about the human condition. ‘Yellow’, one of the band’s earliest songs from their debut album Parachutes, is a track devoted to this theme of…well, devotion to another person. The track presents the persona longing to do something for someone- writing a song, swimming the ocean, things to express adoration and gratitude for another. The song can be read as romantic, but it can still be a song sung between friends and family- ‘Yellow’ reminds us to have the courage it takes for us to showcase our thanks and respect to people in our lives that mean something to us. And while ‘Yellow’ the colour has a negative connotation with it (yellow peril, yellow fever, yellow card in sports), this song tries to turn this negative connotation on its head, but stating that yes, we can feel yellow at times (it can be a term to describe us as being afraid and cowardly at some point in our lives), but this song in its entirety can give us the courage we need to step into the unknown with intentionality and purpose, knowing that our loved ones are by our sides, for whatever the unknown is going to be. Coldplay also continues with the heartfelt themes as the albums progress. ‘Trouble’, also from Parachutes, finds the persona in said song, realising that it was their decisions that caused a relationship to sour, and trouble to come to the persona in a way that they themselves realise that they can’t get out of their predicament. They try to apologise to their friend, and ‘Trouble’ is the result. While this song can be based upon an autobiographical experience, it doesn’t need to be, and such a song can hopefully become a catalyst to us all, to hopefully not go down a path into something shady and to stay away from the trouble in our lives that we know is detrimental to our soul. Coldplay also try their hand in piano ballads with the song ‘The Scientist’, a song where the persona, who’s a scientist, is so caught up in his work and discoveries, that he neglects his significant other, and that when realising this, the persona longs for him to be taken ‘back to the start’, maybe for a redo. ‘The Scientist’ allows us to look in ourselves to see if there are any possible re-dos in our lives, and to hopefully live from a certain point on, with no regrets. Piano again becomes the forefront of ‘Clocks’, another anthem about love, and how Chris and co. created such a song that looks at the passing of time, and how life never stops, that what we need to say and express to people ought not to be bottled inside, so much so that we miss the opportunity to say what we need to say to people, and our trajectories of our life could change because of it.

‘Speed of Sound’, ‘Talk’ and ‘The Hardest Part’ continue to showcase Coldplay’s dominance in both the musical and lyrical department in their songs in the mid-2000s on the album X&Y, as the band present us the themes of being inspired from the unlikeliest places and being in awe of life and creation (‘Speed of Sound’), being worried about the future and confessing uncertainties about it to people  you’re closest to, all the while being quietly excited about the possibilities of what the unknown can bring (‘Talk’), and seeing a possibility of letting someone go, for the greater good, but still realising that it can be the hardest thing you can possibly do (‘The Hardest Part’), respectively. Coldplay returned a few years later with Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, arguably one of the band’s most overlooked album to date- an album that even I haven’t had much of a time getting into, except for the title track of ‘Viva La Vida’, a song inspired by the painting by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo; and having a sense of a revolutionary-atmosphere to the song and album as a whole. While I still don’t really get what the song is entirely saying (still along the lines of starting up a revolution for all the mis-fits and down-and-outs), songfacts gets into the song’s meaning and the album’s concept quite well, which we can all read about here. In relation to this album that is overlooked, even for me, I’ll say this- perhaps I’ll go back to listen to Viva La Vida the album at a later date. It is the album that has intrigued me the most. The different one, the one that I reckon has a lot of meaning and underlying things that even in 2021, we need to hear about. And for what it’s worth, ‘Viva La Vida’ the song is an humbler of a song, as Chris Martin depicts a persona who ‘used to rule the world’ and now ‘sweeps the streets that I used to know’, a way of saying that at any moment in time, we can crash all the way back down to earth, and realise that whatever was given to us as  gift, can easily be taken away from us again, if not stewarded by us, properly!

Coldplay’s concept album Mylo Xyloto was unveiled in 2011, and throughout the album and the songs present on this release, we see a depiction of two characters of Mylo and Xylotomy, living in a depressive, scary, dystopia, coming across each other, and falling in love, only to culminate in them running away together to parts and places unknown, and therefore, songs being placed in the album to reflect this running theme of the album. ‘Charlie Brown’, the album’s most unique song, speaks about reflecting on your past and coming to terms with the fact that sometimes, dreams of the past can’t get realised for whatever reason, and whatever comes from that is something you have to reconcile within yourself as you journey through relationships in life. ‘Paradise’, the song before ‘Charlie Brown’ on the track-list, follows a storyline that the album has presented, and if ‘Charlie Brown’ is about realising lost dreams, ‘Paradise’ is about longing to have a paradise to belong to, to live in this idyllic place of being, but then realising that in order to get there, you have to give up something of yourself that can be of great importance to you. For someone to love from normalcy to utopia, there’s always a transition, and something that they know they have to give up, whether its expectations of the future, or preconceived ideas of what this utopia would be. Even this notion of who to expect in this utopia and who not to, should be something that is on the chopping block of being abandoned before reaching this ‘utopia’, because in all honesty and fairness, to believe with great certainty of who is to show up and turn up in this ‘utopia’ or afterlife, is something very futile to believe, because if we are to assume that God’s ways are in fact bigger than ours, then who are we, mere humans, to declare who we should see in heaven or not, based upon what our human minds can understand or comprehend? ‘Princess of China’ is Coldplay’s attempt of presenting a song full of EDM and R&B influences, as this song, sung from a females POV, is presented with Rihanna in a duet with Chris Martin, about the persona’s issue with their male partner being disengaged with their relationship, and leaving for something comfortable, new, or just different, and leaving behind something that may have been the best thing, had this person stayed and really fixed whatever was wrong with the relationship. Both Rihanna and Chris compliment each other pretty well, and this song, though it’s meant to be listened to as an entire album package and experience, can still be heard as a one-off, and still be enjoyed as such. ‘Every Teardrop is a Waterfall’, the first single from Mylo Xyloto, is another standout songs on the album- it may have been for all the wrong reasons, but the fact of the matter is this- ‘Every Teardrop is a Waterfall’ is a great dance tune, about turning bad things into good, or as the song suggests, making sure that every teardrop felt by us all, has the potential to turn into a waterfall of possibility, excitement, intentionality and purpose, and hopefully creating new exciting things, out of something so hurtful and detrimental. It is a reminder to me, that everything that we have experienced in our lives, will be used by our Heavenly Father, for our good and His glory, no matter how difficult the circumstance we find ourselves in. And if God can allow Coldplay to remind me of this fact, then I guess mainstream music isn’t as ‘problematic’ or even as ‘sinful’ as what we were even led to believe in the first place!

Ghost Stories, A Head Full of Dreams and Everyday Life are the final three albums (for now) from Coldplay, unveiled in 2014, 2015 and 2019 respectively, and whilst for me it felt like Coldplay’s most impactful songs were pre-2014, at least few songs from each album were standouts, even though I myself didn’t really fully connect with each of these three later records compared to their previous albums. Pure-dance EDM track ‘Sky Full of Stars’ anchors Ghost Stories along with lesser-known but still popular ‘Magic’, with each song channelling a different musical atmosphere for the band. Collaborating with Avicii on ‘Sky Full of Stars’ (a rising EDM remixer whose life was unfortunately cut short), Coldplay created a song that was so jovial and happy, that their initial intention for the song was to create one to be so jovial and happy- they set out what they were meant to do. As spoken by Chris himself, ‘…what that song represents on Ghost Stories is the release after you’ve climbed the mountain – after you’ve done anything challenging. That’s why that song is so unashamedly happy and danceable: because that’s what it needed to be. I love singing it. I know we didn’t break the mould, but it’s just so fun to play…’ ‘Magic’, the first single from Ghost Stories, is a hauntingly refreshing song that is very bass-heavy, as the band present this theme of ‘magic’ that occurs between to people in a relationship, and the nuances that come with entering a relationship that has its highs and lows, that regardless of what occurs inside of a relationship, it is the ‘magic’ that people always come back to, to reignite the sparks, and knowing that all the ups and downs are worth it, if only to regain the magic that may have occurred initially in the relationship. Following along from the subdued bass-heavy Ghost Stories comes an adventurous album A Head Full of Dreams, an album that I feel was the most complete album I’ve come across from the band, ever since albums like Mylo Xyloto and X&Y.

‘Adventure of a Lifetime’, one of the singles from the album, finds lead singer Chris Martin singing about a renewed sense of adventure, joy, love, magic and purpose, as this song becomes a real groovy track of hope and possibility, a far cry from the sombre and reflective Ghost Stories. Maybe it was because during such a time, Chris divorced his then-wife Gwyneth Paltrow…nevertheless, 2015 saw the band, and Chris himself, feel more invigorated, and ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ is the result, and the whole album as well being a much more colourful and uplifting album in a general sense. The song itself is coupled with a unique and strange, and weirdly enjoyable music video, that finds the band singing the song in the jungle and having a ball- except the band are not humans, but chimpanzees instead. The music video is heavily CGI-ridden, and the apes are shown actually singing, and so I know that no apes were actually featured in the video. Nevertheless, ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ shows the band becoming more loose, uninhibited and much more free than albums of the past, and is a reminder for each of us to always try to seek out the adventure and wonder of life, to live with a sense of enjoyment rather than that of duty or obligation. ‘Hymn For the Weekend’ features R&B legend Beyonce, and is a song about…well, it’s about…lemme just say that the song is about having a good time, feeling ‘drunk and high’ as the song literally suggests…it’s a catchy song, don’t get me wrong, but the content itself? Doesn’t feel that much of a inspirational song, if lyrics are concerned. Regardless, this song was great commercially, even if I myself didn’t feel as connected, and maybe, this song can inspire a generation of people that are more carefree and a lot less ‘living life for the rules’, understanding that it is out of love, affection and adoration for another, that we have the privilege and get to live in a certain way out of respect for the other, instead of following rules because of being worried if you’d be accepted or not. And if ‘Hymn For the Weekend’ can conjure up this understand of this song, then I guess it’s served its purpose, right? ‘Up & Up’ is the closing song from A Head Full of Dreams; and is quite possibly one of the longest songs the band has done, standing at 6:45. A song about pressing forward through adversity and never giving up, ‘Up & Up’ is a great motivational song to go up-and-at-‘em on a day where you feel like not doing much, or even on a day where you’re running around the block, and need a song to pump you up. ‘Up & Up’ reminds us all to see life through a lens of always viewing situations as opportunities for us to get back up and make the best of what we have been given, instead of wallowing in the dumps. ‘Up and Up’ does this with much poise, grace and emotion, as Coldplay presents a song that has become one of my favourites of their whole career thus far.

The band then took a bit of a break; and returned in 2019 with Everyday Life. While I still haven’t really heard this album in its entirety, I have heard a few songs here and there- ‘Church’, ‘Orphans’, ‘Guns’ and ‘Broken’ each talk about issues in life that we as humans and people need to address- the hypocrisy in the church and what that feels like for many people who have been led to believe Church as being a sacred place, but now realising that man has twisted it into being something else, while an issue of orphans and people longing for homes reminds us all that there is indeed people that need our care and love, even if we believe we may not be called to adopt people, we ought to know someone who wants to. ‘Guns’ speaks on this issue of gun violence, and the ease that people can acquire weapons on the black market, while ‘Broken’ is a gospel song with Chris Martin emulating Elvis as much as possible, delivering a song that can easily have been released in the 1950s and still be a hit. ‘Broken’ reminds us all that we are all dealing with things, and we all need grace and mercy, love, and forgiveness, welcoming into community instead of being shunned from it. While I do not know of Chris’s own religious beliefs, ‘Broken’ nonetheless allows us to look to the Lord for guidance and help, rather than our own sinful selves for wholeness and strength.

Coldplay has had a major impact on music and people’s lives, but I reckon two songs stand clear above the rest- 2017’s collaboration with The Chainsmokers, ‘Something Just Like This’, and the 2005 powerful spiritual-esque hit ‘Fix You’. Both these songs epitomise the motives of the band, and what the band want to accomplish with their music. Healing and hope, restoration and renewal, revitalisation and realignment, those are the things that can and does occur when hearing Coldplay songs, and none other than ‘Fix You’ and ‘Something Just Like This’. ‘Something Just Like This’ is a reminder for all of us, through the instrumentation of The Chainsmokers and the vocals of Coldplay, that we are all looking for hope, purpose and belonging, and trying to believe that there are superheroes out there trying to save the day, is what we say so that we can make sense of the world. But it’s not really about superheroes though. We don’t necessarily want the superhero to fix things though, because as bleak as we can often see the world, we know superheroes don’t exist. What we really need, is someone in our lives to journey along with life, either our friends, family or significant other. We want our lives to matter, and the way they matter for us, is by knowing that we have people in our lives that love us, care for us, and miss us if ever we are away from them. We want our lives to count, and the people around us to love us too. ‘Something Just Like This’, addresses this yearning, and is a song that we can all relate to, no matter what stage in life we’re up to.

And then there’s ‘Fix You’, the song that I reckon is the song to listen to, if ever there is only one by Coldplay to hear. It’d be this. A song that has been covered by a lot of artists (I’ll post a number of covers below), ‘Fix You’ is a song about just that- someone singing to someone else, that they will try to ‘fix’ them in their time of need. While the song can seem to be a romantic one at first, upon a lot of listens, this track is as much universal as it can be- the song reminding us all that there will be times in life where we should allow people in to do the ‘fixing’ on us, and there are times in our lives where we need to be there for another person, and ‘fix’ their life if required. A song that has been one for the generations, ‘Fix You’ challenges us to look beyond our self-serving interests, and to try to place our shoes in the other and in turn, our empathy of another. We are called to be ambassadors for other people, to love people as we know we have been loved ourselves. To answer the call to ‘fix’ people if and when required, and it doesn’t have to be actual physical ‘fixing’ either. Sometimes we can be so quick off the mark; and try to solve all and every issue that someone can be facing, all the while forgetting that sometimes, the other person just wants our presence more so than our ‘solutions’. Being there for another person should be more our focus, and is a better way to show our love, than to always believe that we have the right answers, even if in the long run, our ‘answers’ cause more harm than good. Sometimes saying things that are true, can nonetheless cause friction between people. Being there without trying to fix anything, places our own need to be saviour down the list, and to just sit and hear the other person wrestle with their own demons, takes courage and strength, and a level of maturity that I reckon, God can give us. ‘Fix You’ is a moment of clarity when we need it most, is a moment of realisation if we are indeed overstepping and trying to fix things that can only be fixed with time and perspective. And with dozens of covers of the song, it’s hard not to deny the songs power. Isn’t it true, that sometimes it takes one song to ‘blow up’, to remind us of the power of the rest of the songs in the band’s catalogue? ‘Fix You’ is the band’s crowning achievement, and is where anyone should start, if you want to get into this band that has indeed revolutionised the way we see rock music today.

So there it is in a nutshell…Coldplay. A band that, according to Wikipedia, has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the world’s most impactful artists in terms of sales, worldwide. Winning 9 Brit Awards, 7 MTV Video Music Awards, and 7 Grammy Awards from 35 nominations; the band’s first three albums, Parachutes, A Rush of Blood to the Head and X&Y, are considered some of the best-selling albums of all of British music history. Even Rolling Stone voted the band as being the fourth best artist of the 2000s, as well as Q magazine including the quartet as being one of the artists of the century, in their list online. Accolades and awards aside, this is a band that has impacted a lot of people, fans, and critics alike, and songs like ‘Fix You’, ‘Yellow’, ‘Viva La Vida’, ‘A Sky Full of Stars’ and ‘Something Just Like This’, are just some of the many, many results, that this band has delivered music-wise over the years. While it can seem as unfortunate now that the band has pressed pause on their touring, not just because of the pandemic, but because of environmental reasons, we can still be assured that even if the band stops touring all-together, we have the knowledge that these songs can go beyond the touring experience, into someone’s heart and change their perspective on love, life, and themselves in the process. God can use even the unlikeliest of sources, Coldplay, to bring about change in a community. If God can use Balaam’s donkey to speak to Balaam audibly, then I guess nothing is outside the realm of possibility for our Heavenly Father!

Does Coldplay make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘Yellow’ or ‘Fix You’, that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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