Dear Chris Martin, here’s why Coldplay are funny

In an interview coinciding with his Super Bowl performance, where his band unwisely invited a contrast with the twin musical forces that are Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, lead singer Chris Martin confesses to not understanding why Coldplay are funny:

“I had a couple of years in the mid-2000s where it was really confusing to me,” he said. “I was like, ‘Why is our band sometimes a punch line?'”

A member of Coldplay not understanding why Coldplay are funny is, itself, fairly funny.

Well, Chris, I’d explain, but I’m not sure you’d understand. Someone who calls their child “Apple” clearly has limited self-awareness. But for anyone else unconvinced of Coldplay’s amusingness, one sentence gleaned from a Guardian review of your performance explains both why your band is funny and why you aren’t in a position to appreciate it:

Coldplay perform[ed] three of their biggest hits – Viva La Vida, Paradise and recent single Adventure of a Lifetime – on a flower-shaped stage, their instruments garlanded with flowers and the band’s name written in Hindi on the drum kit.

You wrote “Coldplay” … in Hindi … on the drum kit. Game over.

Or, as they say in Hindi, कहानी खत्म.

Now, the whole embracing flower power and mysticism thing was cool (as opposed to Cold) fifty years ago when the Beatles did it. It’s far from cool now, and especially not at a gig sponsored by a cola corporation in the middle of a football match.

Their new song, which they performed at the Super Bowl, is called “Adventure Of A Lifetime”, a name that’s too clichéd for a self-help author. It comes from an album called “A Head Full Of Dreams”, the last word of which should surely be pronounced “Dweams”. Because Coldplay are many things – rich, successful, remarkably consistent, and by many accounts really lovely guys – but they are not cool.

Many of their ideas are twee, even some of the ones that are monster hits. That’s been the case ever since their second and also head-themed album, A Rush Of Blood To The Head, which describes excitement without generating any of it.

But what that record did generate, in spades, was catchy, radio-friendly hits. I can’t hear the arpeggiated keyboard intro to “Clocks” without wanting to punch a wall, or at least a clock, but there’s no denying its popularity.

Also, they once released an album called Mylo Xyloto. And with that, the prosecution rests.

The thing is, I like a lot of what Coldplay do. Honestly. I was a massive fan of the first album, Parachutes. And ever since then, every album they’ve released has had a number of huge, singalong hits. “In My Place”, “Speed Of Sound”, “Fix You”, “Viva La Vida”, “Magic”, “Paradise”. All killers at karaoke, which is, of course, the ultimate test.

I saw them live at Splendour In The Grass a few years ago, and they were excellent. Honestly. Sure, they were selling t-shirts saying “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” at the merch tent, but if you set aside the cloying sentimentality of that lyric, they put on an excellent show.

Some musicians are dorks, and like it or not, that’s Coldplay’s place. Similarly, Bono seems unable to comprehend that after being pretty cool in the 80s and 90s, U2 are now a powerful, stodgy institution quite like the ones he likes to lecture about poverty. His band nowadays has a lot in common with their younger British imitators from across the Irish Sea, except Coldplay don’t have to give away their records for free.

Worse things can happen. Even Paul McCartney, became consumed by tweeness as he aged. (Ringo was twee even in The Beatles, bless him.) Sure, it happened to Coldplay after one album, but they’re still hugely popular and somehow selling records even in this age of piracy, so why not enjoy it?

The best solution from here, Chris Martin, is not to wonder why your band’s funny, but to laugh along. Which, surprisingly, you seem to be extremely good at.

The same Coldplay that once released a song called “Hurts Like Heaven” also produced one of thefunniest videos I’ve seen in ages for a recent Red Nose Day. In it, they’re trying to write a Game of Thrones musical that everyone except the band realises is terrible.

Martin leaps around with manic gusto, and we seeing him writing lots of hilariously terrible yet still-catchy tunes for it – the reggae number “Rastafarian Targaryen” and the incest love ballad “Closer To Home” are particular standouts. The latter features the lyric “Are you thinking about Joffrey, such a spirited lad / I was his uncle, I was also his dad”. Then Liam Neeson chimes in with a voiceover – “It’s the first romantic ballad about incest in Coldplay’s career.”

Now, that’s funny. So was Chris Martin’s episode of Extras, where he tackily tried to work cross-promotion into charitable projects and an excruciating cameo.

I’m not sure Coldplay wrote either of those scripts. But they went along with them, and good on them for it.

There’s something endearingly humble about the band, too. In the same interview that Martin confessed to not getting why his creative impulses were hilarious, he admitted that he’d pitched a song to Beyoncé and she’d declined, describing it as “awful”. This follows from drummer Will Champion’s admission that Bowie declined a pitch, saying “It’s not very good, is it?” What other band would have been sincere enough to admit to being dissed by Bey and Bowie?

I’d advise them not to do gigs alongside the ridiculously cool Beyoncé and Bruno Mars in future, and once they’ve burned the place down, definitely don’t return to the stage for a weepy version of “Fix You”.

But hey – if you come to Sydney and play another stadium gig full of upbeat but faintly effete power pop and sincere ballads, I’ll happily go along. Just don’t expect me not to snigger if you write “Coldplay” somewhere in Hindi.

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