Coldplay not guilty

Everybody hates Coldplay. Which is weird considering most people love Coldplay; Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends is now #1 in 36 countries, a figure which only seems to augment the outrage.

Coldplay isn’t unique in this regard: entertainers across the board receive criticism for everything from selling-out to going electric, but Coldplay seem to be one of a handful of bands unique for simply being hated for no reason or poor reasons, ie whiny vocals, too much piano, association with gay fans (this just in, homophobia: still not dead), or simply being boring, slow, fluffy, pseudo-intellectual…the insubstantial list goes on. But it’s not as if Coldplay is the first band to use piano, abuse the falsetto, produce overly dramatic music videos, sell millions of records, or wed Hollywood actresses. So just what is it about Coldplay that makes everyone determined to make people who enjoy their music feel bad? What is it about Coldplay that inspires that egregious term “guilty pleasure”?

In Chuck Klosterman’s collection of essays Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, a 2004 essay entitled “Not Guilty” explores the term “guilty pleasure” in terms of The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures: 1,001 Things You Hate to Love:

Ostensibly a reference for those who want to feel embarrassed about being engaged with life, The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures is a compilation of everything that’s been popular over the past fifty years to normal people, augmented by short essays about why we can’t help but adore these terrible, terrible things. The failure of it is its never-explained premise, which is that there are certain things we’re just supposed to inherently feel shame about. What the authors fail to realize is that the only people who believe in some kind of “universal taste” are insecure, uncreative elitists who need to use somebody else’s art to validate their own limited worldview…It never matters what you like; what matters is why you like it. (Klosterman, 277)

Succint, but spot-on; a person who likes Coldplay because he or she thinks the guitar solo in “Violet Hill” makes him feel like taking on the world is probably more credible than a person who likes Coldplay because he or she thinks Chris Martin is dreamy. But that’s beside the point. The point here is that the term “guilty pleasure” is simply ridiculous; there is simply no band or artist (or movie or hobby or…) that exists that one should feel guilty for liking; to say otherwise implies that a) allowing “insecure” people to dictate your likes and dislikes is alright and b) being involved with certain aspects of life is somehow unacceptable, based on an unreliable, and often times bizarre, scale that you are keen on following.

Coldplay fans, worship on.


4 thoughts on “Coldplay not guilty

  1. jim July 15, 2008 / 4:43 am

    To me they simply don’t inspire debate at all. Which is the worst insult I can level at something. Maybe not, but I’ve never heard an argument against them based on the music itself, but I guess I avoid mainstream crits lately. The hatred seems mostly based on popularity and perceived (by me) blandness, but it’s really not surprising bland music that doesn’t inspire any kind of debate would be popular with a lot of people. Among megapopular retail store muzak-type music, you can do a lot worse.

  2. lisa July 18, 2008 / 3:35 pm

    Rock on, Savage Garden lovers.

    Thank you, that is all.


  3. Anna July 27, 2008 / 1:28 pm

    Melodie: I checked out that article, and while I think there are parts that are quite debatable, it’s also a pretty accurate assessment; the guy is obviously bright and knows what he’s talking about.

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