How Coldplay stays on top in the hip-hop age
Coldplay may be the blueprint for the 21st century rock band.
These days, rock stars are fewer and farther between, to the point that Nielsen Music says that so far in 2017, hip-hop has overthrown rock as the most popular genre in America for the first time. In Pollstar’s list of Top 50 tours so far this year, there are only three rock bands that were established this century — Twenty-One Pilots, Kings of Leon and Panic! At the Disco — all lodged near the bottom of the list.
Coldplay, however, is bucking that trend. The British band’s last album, “A Head Full of Dreams,” sold nearly 2 million copies worldwide, enough to land it at No. 8 for all of 2015, even though it was only on sale for less than a month. Its stadium tour supporting the album has been so big that it made its second stop at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 1, a year after the tour started. Its most recent single, “Something Just Like This,” a collaboration with The Chainsmokers, peaked at No. 3 this spring, one of the few rock tracks to make an impact on pop radio this year.
And that kind of collaboration may be the secret to Coldplay’s success.
“When you’ve been a band for nearly 20 years, finding fresh inspiration isn’t always that easy,” Coldplay drummer Will Champion told the Los Angeles Times. “So when someone new comes in, you grab the chance.”
But the collaboration is not just for inspiration. Lisa Worden, music director at L.A. radio station KROQ-FM, told the Times that working with Beyoncé or the upand-comer Tove Lo helps the band stay relevant in the ever-changing pop landscape.
“It keeps them in touch with a younger audience, which hears ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ and says, ‘Coldplay is still speaking to us,’” Worden said.
While Coldplay isn’t the only rock band working with high-profile collaborators, it is the band that has seemingly embraced the new musical styles the most. Maroon 5 has had a string of pop hits with rappers Wiz Khalifa (“Payphone”), Kendrick Lamar (“Don’t Wanna Know”) and Future (“Cold”), but their sound hasn’t really changed all that much.
Fall Out Boy hasn’t changed much either, even after working with everyone from rapper Post Malone on the new single “Champions” to Kanye West and Lil Wayne on the “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” remix.
However, Coldplay looks like it plans to take its new inspirations and run with them. It’s a long way from “Yellow” to “Adventure of a Lifetime.”
“We felt like rock music has been done,” singer Chris Martin told the Daily Telegraph when “A Head Full of Dreams” was released.
“There’s an awful lot of rock music already out there,” agreed bassist Guy Berryman.
“I’m not sure there is anything left to add.”
However, this new hybrid of rock and pop and dance music that Coldplay has been working on seems to be working for both the band and its fans.
Coldplay’s new EP, “Kaleidoscope” (Atlantic), is heavy on the collaborations, featuring its smash hit “Something Just Like This” with the Chainsmokers, as well as the new single “Miracles (Someone Special)” with rapper Big Sean. “A L IENS ,” which the band co wrote with the great Brian Eno, will also be released as a single with proceeds going to Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), an international group that rescues migrants and refugees struggling in the Mediterranean Sea.
And it’s here where Coldplay’s interests dovetail with the band’s broader purpose.
Martin has been very involved with the Global Citizen group, which aims to eliminate extreme poverty in the world by 2030. He has signed on as the curator of the Global Citizen Festival concerts around the world until 2030, including the one scheduled for Sept. 23 in Central Park and the most recent one in Germany, where Coldplay shared the stage with Shakira on “Yellow” and “A Sky Full of Stars.”
By maintaining Coldplay’s A-list status, the band also gives the causes it supports a higher profile.
“Everyone has this togetherness vision, which sounds a little hippie at first — just as ‘Imagine’ does,” Martin said when he accepted the Global Citizen role in 2015. “But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. The reason we wanted to get involved with ... was because they include everybody.”
Coldplay has found that embracing new music styles through collaboration may be the secret to its success.