Like a weather vane, Coldplay’s career trajectory has shown us the way pop culture is pointing, but as a rock act it always seems to follow in the sonic footsteps of another do-gooder foursome. Then again, U2’s little cousin eventually had to grow up and find its own footing. Even if that means making light R&B.
The parallels to U2 are not a cheap shot. Observe the oeuvre: With its Edge-like riff, “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” is only the latest in a string of singles bearing a deep debt to the Dubliners. Hiring their producer (Brian Eno) hasn’t clouded the mystery. And like Bono’s, Chris Martin’s charm and sincerity (even naïveté) have an undeniably musical way of tugging on the heartstrings despite the vocal limitations of both.
As when U2 unleashed “The Fly” more than 20 years ago, Coldplay has lassoed its fortunes to the rising club-music trend, ensuring we can’t escape it. Last year’s Mylo Xyloto may be an inferior album overburdened by doleful farewells, starved of euphoria and lyrically hokey, but it shores up the band’s place in the DJ playlist. Live, Martin and his mates sport splatter-painted pirate getups as their cathartic, mini epics challenge our cynicism. That’s not a bad thing.
Welsh act Marina & The Diamonds opens with a smart, baroque take on electro-pop that’s dying for radio play—or a stage musical. First up is U.K. singer and runway favorite Charli XCX, a more dubious proposition, wrapping Gaga grandiosity in gothy club tracks.