Coldplay’s music is the ambient noise of eating at a Subway restaurant inside of a Target, mutually avoiding eye contact with someone you went to middle school with as they walk by. It’s a wholly identifiable sound, by ear, but in words it evades any concrete terms. And yet, as a swell of recent Coldplay covers and popular TikTok sounds suggests, Coldplay continues to hold its banal grip on youth culture.
Young musicians, some of whom may be described as “cool,” covering Coldplay songs? Seems to me like the equivalent of Depop sellers collaborating with Talbots. Coldplay doesn’t seem normcore enough to be considered hip or even ironic; instead it’s just properly boring. Perhaps, though, our cultural accelerationism has brought us to this abject stage where we have little to do but regurgitate what we already know.
On TikTok, the use of Coldplay seems to oscillate between some sense of irony and earnestness. A mashup of “Viva la Vida” (which, fine, goes harder than it needs to) with “Swing” by Savage (undeniable bop, five stars) is a fun and unexpected use of Coldplay for people to dance to, while the original and slowed-down versions of “Yellow” are regularly used in montages moms make of their kids from infancy to toddlerhood.
It’s possible that this use of Coldplay on TikTok has renewed some interest in the group, thus inspiring many of the fresh covers that have emerged recently. Considering Coldplay is one of the best-selling bands in the world, it’s not surprising that they’re a popular band to cover. That is perfectly fine. Unironically, wholeheartedly loving popular things is good.
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On YouTube, covers of Coldplay’s older songs from bands with a few hundred listeners or a couple thousand streams have popped up with regularity over the last few months. They’re… all right. One comes from a band called Hovvdy, an indie band with a couple EPs of covers. Another comes from flor, a band signed to early aughts pop-punk mainstay Fueled by Ramen, which is owned by Warner Music Group. It’s this timid, lazy recycling branded as something innovative that I find most joyless.
Above all, though, I find the general persistence of Coldplay perplexing. For years, I assumed much of their continuity was supported by corporations purchasing their music for their safe in-store playlists. Instead, it seems we’ve fully absorbed them into our cultural consciousness to the point where someone, somewhere is interested in hearing covers of their songs that are ultimately only a couple notes different from the originals. It’s depressing. We could have new music, new movies, new shows, if only our dockets weren’t already loaded with remakes, revivals and reboots. Instead, we’ll be forced to watch Marvel movies and listen to Coldplay until we die.