Tomorrow, the dream of many a music fan will be realized: Coldplay is performing in Manila. Well, the dream of many a music fan with enough money to fork out. Others will have to settle for a marathon of their music, crying over clandestine videos, proclaiming “post-concert depression” like the rest. Even others would just shrug. And then there’s me, doing this list, a token mention of what is an inescapable reality for many months. Coldplay’s got many hits, but some of their songs would fall under the cracks because they’re just such juggernauts. So, my list of five underrated Coldplay songs – according to me, at least. You will have a different list. Or you’ll be crying.
I’ll hazard a guess and say the casual Coldplay fan does not know that “Shiver” is the first single released off their debut full-length Parachutes. (The actual first single was “Brothers & Sisters” from their Safety EP.) Even I didn’t, and I played this song a lot during my college years, when I thought this applied to many a romantic tribulation with an expected unrequited ending. It’s really an indicator of the band’s early years, when they were still trying to get the formula right. Chris Martin would later admit to being influenced by Jeff Buckley on this song – now that I know more, yes, I can hear it – and calling it “not quite as good”.
After Parachutes came A Rush of Blood to the Head, which was, of course, the album for them – so I’m skipping that, and heading straight towards the really big expectations that faced their third album, X&Y. That spurred a bunch of big tracks, too – “Fix You” is was inescapable for years – but for some reason my favorite from that album is its opener, “Square One”. Okay, it’s not just some reason. This is me gravitating, once again, towards the relatively atmospheric, and X&Y was filled with tracks that emitted a sense of calm while moving things much faster than it actually seems (see also “Low”). But “Square One” was the one that set the stage for, admittedly, the only Coldplay album I own a physical copy of.
The same goes for “Strawberry Swing”, which was released as a later single for Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. This is, I’ll say, the weird point in Coldplay’s career. They’re still wildly popular, yes, but they’re trying to push things around. I remember how radio stations here hyped “Violet Hill” up and everybody thought it was not the Coldplay they used to know. It’s really the Brian Eno influence: the acclaimed producer helmed the album, and forced the band to make each song sound different. “Strawberry Swing” has that subtlety the quieter of their previous songs had, but was also clearly driven by guitars, making it one of those hybrids that pulled the trick off well.
And then Mylo Xyloto came along. I think this is the point when Coldplay decided to just go for arenas. They’re comfortable, very comfortable. They got their sound. Most importantly, they can get away with many things. I don’t remember if people disliked “Princess of China” simply because Rihanna is there – the whole “Coldplay can’t be pop!” thing that they eventually embraced anyway. But, for some reason, I actually like this song. It’s a driving little thing, a statement of intent that pulls everybody over. Chris Martin admitted that he really wrote this song with Rihanna in mind – perhaps it’s the Brian Eno influence at work again. (He co-wrote the song, but did not lead Mylo Xyloto like its immediate predecessor.) But, again, a weird phase. This album was awash with synths, and it somewhat set the stage for where they are now.
Finally, a nod towards Ghost Stories, that left turn they did in which they decide to go quiet, really quiet. It is the album where they reconnect with their past sound, sort of, although many people assume it’s Chris Martin dealing with his break-up with Gwyneth Paltrow. (I guess it doesn’t matter now, because he’s still a rock star, and she’s now a curator of organic shit or something.) “Magic”, the lead single, was understandably received a bit of a tepid reaction: critics liked it, but it didn’t light the charts up in flames. It’s a shame, because I thought the band proved they’re more than arena fillers with this album, even if they might have over-egged it. But then, they had “A Sky Full of Stars”, which was as inescapable as “Fix You”, and everything is well in the world again. Coldplay is still ubiquitous to the point of snotty annoyance for some. And people will be crying tomorrow and for the rest of the week – or, ugh, month. [NB]