The importance of any given artist is dependent on only one thing. You can chart their lasting effects, the people they influenced or the new techniques they pioneered, but when you get down to it all that matters is how much they care. Great artists give everything they have as honestly as possible at every show and every recording. That’s where Coldplay’s newest record Viva La Vida falls short; it doesn’t sound like they give a shit.
Since their breakthrough album Parachutes in 2000, Coldplay has been making music that sounds big, and Viva La Vida sounds huge. The album seems like a cohesive work because of the epic feeling Brain Eno’s production lends to it. An enormous budget and very good players make every song a titanic construction.
But this is all overcompensation. It doesn’t sound like these big arrangements were meant to complement the vocals, but rather to hide them. Chris Martin’s voice squeaks from behind all this, in a way that’s more pathetic than endearing. He’s going through the motions, hitting high notes when he wants to be exciting and falling down to a whisper when he tries to be intimate, but it’s all just a scam. No vocal tricks or big production can conceal his faults. He sounds too self-conscious, too controlled, and too rigid to be truly earnest.
But maybe it’s overly demanding to ask for honesty from everyone. True, it’s a difficult thing to really bare yourself for everyone to see. There are undeniable benefits to playing music in a way that feels comfortable, and maybe that’s enough for some people. But it all feels like a waste of time. If I choose to sit down and listen to what Chris Martin has to say for 45 minutes, the least I expect is honesty. The least I expect is to feel like he’s concerned with the things that he’s saying. If Martin doesn’t care, then why should I?
LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org