October 7, 2014

KIRSHNER| Ghost Stories and the End of Coldplay

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By ELIE KIRSHNER

Coldplay is frequently plagued by the criticism that they sound too much like themselves. In their recent albums, most notably in this year’s Ghost Stories and 2011’s Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay has responded to this persistent commentary, altering their sound and making it unfortunately familiar in a different way.

I have always been particularly charmed by Coldplay. Whether it was lead singer Chris Martin’s soft melodic voice, the band’s signature romantic soft rock style or its pleasant piano and gentle guitar riffs, Coldplay has rarely failed to soothe and captivate me. Coldplay wasn’t the most experimental band in the world; not every band can be. They made good, often great music, even if they failed to shatter their own mold.

In Ghost Stories, Coldplay leaves behind much of their classic sound, embracing a synthetic, generic and generally uninspiring style. The slow piano tracks and moving vocals that once defined Coldplay are a thing of the past. These familiar elements have been haphazardly replaced by upbeat, generic pop backgrounds and contemporary repetitive hooks from Martin. Where A Rush Of Blood to the Head, (probably Coldplay’s finest album) would emphasize Martin’s vocal talent, Ghost Stories tries to hide it behind a newfound bass, omnipresent manufactured beats and empty ambience.

A particularly prominent example of this is one of the album’s more popular tracks, “Midnight,” which will undoubtedly make you wonder if T-Pain had broken into the studio. The use of auto-tune is both unprecedented and unwelcome, completely obscuring Martin’s voice and making for an awkwardly slow pop song.

“A Sky Full of Stars,” the album’s largest commercial success, is the epitome of true Coldplay’s dissolution. The song is a standard dance number you would expect to see teenagers clumsily fist-pumping to at a middle school event. The main section of the song contains none of Martin, instead blasting generic house music that can be found in every David Guetta song.

There are little moments in Ghost Stories where the old Coldplay peeks out, when Martin’s voice is again the focal point, and the beats die down. These moments when Martin’s trademark vocal style does reappear, (one example being “O,” the final track) he seems strangely out of place, often singing over a distracting synthesized background.

Coldplay once made music that you could lose yourself in — the type of music you heard in your head while staring intently out the window. Now it blurs with the rest of what you hear on the radio.

Ghost Stories will not immediately jump out as a horrific album, though it is a very mediocre one. It is however, not Coldplay. It is a sell-out, a pop-infused effects-binge that feels like a betrayal to the unique sound I once adored.

Coldplay, a band that was often accused of sounding too much like themselves has finally shaken that indictment. Coldplay once sounded like Coldplay; now they sound like everyone else.

Elie Kirshner is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at ek554@cornell.edu.

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