There are few media punching bags bigger than Coldplay. Yes, you have your Nickelbacks, Justin Biebers, and Shia Lebeoufs, but no one is less deserving of all the ragging they get than Coldplay. Sure they aren’t exactly hip and have dipped since their first few albums, but I would argue their biggest crime is being too earnest and wearing their heart on their sleeves. Sure Chris Martin is a bit of a cheeseball, but he has written some great songs and released at least three worthwhile albums with the band. Their latest, Ghost Stories, is the UK band taking a break (for the most part) from their arena rock ways in favor of a quieter, more melancholic sound. At only nine tracks, Coldplay show a welcome amount of restraint, even if they only hit on half the tracks.
Lead single “Magic” is the lead single for a reason: it’s the best song on Ghost Stories with a sort of In Rainbows guitar riff and a catchy R&B-infused chorus. “True Love” is a simple unrequited love song that sparkles with Martin’s falsetto and the crackling electronics all around it. “A Sky Full of Stars” is unreal corny, but you have to be kidding me if you don’t think I’m going to go nuts, jump up and down, and pump my fist vehemently when hearing it at weddings this summer. “Oceans” has the sort of simple and classic romanticism that could have landed on their wonderful debut Parachutes.On the other side of the coin, “Midnight” is a blatant and tepid Bon Iver ripoff, “Always In My Head” is a slow strange choice for an opener, and “Another’s Arms” is about as generic of a breakup song as there is. But even with those moments, there remains appeal and certain moments on Ghost Stories that make it worthwhile.
Coldplay’s strength has always been a sense of earnestness combined with some infectious song-writing. I think it has always been a disservice to their public perception to think of themselves as true trendsetters. Ghost Stories is just one more artifact supporting Coldplay’s unimportant place in the grand scheme of things.
Sure, Chris Martin and Co. have left the realm of arena rock for this album, but it seems they have done so to chase styles Radiohead and James Blake were succeeding at years ago. There is not a lot of direction on songs like “Midnight” and “Always In My Head”. In fact, Coldplay is kind of in that adult contemporary sweet spot with Ghost Stories. They are a big name making inoffensive music, having stolen just enough from other acts to seem somewhat hip.
Beyond all this, Chris Martin’s voice is just beyond unbearable these days. I don’t know whether it’s changed or whether I’m just tired of it. I agree with most of what Wes said above, but am just way more turned off by everything in front of me I suppose. All I know is that “Sky Full of Stars” is going to have some sick dub remixes, other than that there is not much for me to enjoy here.
Wes is being far too kind to Coldplay here. They are completely deserving of the ragging they get, and really deserve more than ever after releasing the not-so-magical Ghost Stories. It is finally at the point where there is just absolutely nothing appealing about them. The lyrics are duller than ever, supplying nothing but a pathetic attempt at pulling on peoples heart strings with very basic “feel good”/love rhetoric. The entire album plays with lyrics like, “All I know/Is that I love you so/So much that it hurts”. Then onto repetitive lines of like repeating “you’re always in my head” 40 times in one song. Speaking of repetitive, in the title track “Magic”, the line “I still believe in magic” is at one point is followed up by 5 “yes I do’s”. Then capped off with an “of course I do”. I would say Austin’s adult contemporary note is spot-on in terms of music, but actually the opposite when it comes to lyrics. These are dumbed-down even for children songs.
Aside from the uninspired, kindergarten-esque lyrics that make me what to scratch my eyes out, the music is nothing short of bland as well. I hear glimpses of beauty squashed by repetitive beats and piano riffs, as well as (to Austin’s point) the horrendous voice of Chris Martin. Also, it is a hard pill to swallow that a band that once aspired to be the next Radiohead in music and originality, now seems to aspire to be the next Avicii. What’s worse is that they still don’t even sound as good as Avicii, even after recruiting him as a guest producer. Bring back Brian Eno, Coldplay. (Also, are they really at the point where they are just making another less-than-average club song?)
If we stepped back for a moment and think of this album as a singular component for a band, and not tied to history of monstrous record-setting sales, I have to think that this album as well as the band would be shown zero love by anyone. No major labels would want them, they would be torn to shreds by critics, and fans would flock by the dozens at most, rather than the hundreds of thousands to millions that they currently have. It truly feels like they have officially gone off the deep end, and in the laziest way possible.
Can’t Miss: “Magic”, “Sky Full of Stars”
Can’t Hit: Everything Else