I’ve got to be careful here. I’m very aware that writing on a topic such as this will get me in to all sorts of trouble, and perhaps even result in a repeat accusation of cultural snobbery, as when I ragged on James for liking Groove Armada a few weeks ago. As is often the case, James rightly put me in my place – I hadn’t really listened to Groove Armada, and based my dislike of their music purely on the fact that they seemed to be everywhere. And that they just signed a ‘record deal’ with a drinks company. But that aside…
I’ve just listened to the now-vaguely-famous interview with Chris Martin on BBC Radio Four’s Front Row arts programme. You can still listen to it by downloading the 13th July Front Row Podcast from iTunes – I highly recommend doing so, if only so that this post makes any sense.
Now call me a snob if you like, but if Chris Martin isn’t a stone cold wanker then I’ll seek out and eat a copy of Coldplay’s new album ‘Viva La Vida – or Death and All His Friends’ (see, I’m already safe!).
The last time I deliberately listened to a Coldplay song was when their second album came out back in 2002. Now, I’m not trying to pretend that I liked them back then and that now that they’re popular and successful, I’ve conveniently changed my mind. I remember buying the album on release day and listening to it on the train on my way home from work, and I quite liked it. As seems to be my way, I immediately declared it a classic, listened again to a couple of choice tracks and then filed it away in my CD rack. Where it stayed.
The thing about their music is that, despite Chris Martin’s best efforts, it really doesn’t have anything to say, to the point where I’ve never felt an urge to pull out one of their albums and put it on. Lyrically he’s all over the place (most famously, “I drew a line, I drew a line for you, oh what a thing to do, and it was all yellow”). To Chris Martin, lyrics are an irrelevancy – they’re there only because the majority of people who listen to Coldplay need something to sing along to, however banal. (An exception to the rule – I did enjoy, and still do, one of their first ever singles, ‘Shiver’, a marginally chilling song about a stalker. But other than that, nothing of theirs that I’ve ever listened to has ever grasped hold of me and shaken me up.)
Listening to the hype around the new album (and, for that matter, the last one), you’d be forgiven for believing all the PR claims that Chris Martin is one of the world’s most gifted songwriters, and that all his songs are deeply layered with metaphor and embedded with social criticism and satire. The thing is, listening to Chris Martin on Front Row, I’m not sure he actually believes it himself.
Now if you’ve never listened to Front Row before, let me explain something – the interviews on there are hardly interrogations. On the spectrum of tough interviews, they’re a bit more spiky than Michael Parkinson, but nowhere near the accusatory invective of, say, Jeremy Paxman. For some reason though, Chris Martin wasn’t having any of it. He responded to every question with answers that make Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell look like a sparkling wit. And, despite their being not even the slightest hint of malice in any of the questions, Chris Martin seemed determined to see every one of them as a poisoned dart aimed straight for his head. Asked about the number of references to death on the album, Chris Martin reacted as though the interviewer just called his mother a whore. “I object to that, you’re trying to journalistically twist my words”, he said, which left the interviewer somewhat baffled. He tried again, all the time flattering Chris Martin and talking him up, giving him every opportunity to proclaim his own genius. Instead, he walked out of the interview. The BBC wrapped things up with the words “Coldplay’s Chris Martin, reluctant popstar”.
(This, let me remind you, is the man who married Gwyneth Paltrow and called his daughter Apple. But perhaps that’s not relevant.)
Reluctant Popstar he may be. But he’s also a massive tool.