Everyone and their Snapchat buddy has an opinion about the recent Coldplay performance at the Global Citizen Festival that took place in Mumbai. That includes Subhash Chandra, media mogul and Rajya Sabha MP, whose sanskari lament about “youth smoking, drinking and dancing” during the Coldplay concert was properly trolled on Twitter. Aside from his typos (Rabinder Sangeet) and questionable moral policing, Chandra should have known he was barking up the wrong tree, anyway. After all, Indian Twitter had been buzzing excitedly with speculation about the British pop rock band’s performance in India at least for the last three months.
And it isn’t just India that is nuts for Coldplay. Now that reports have come in that tickets for the band’s A Head Full of Dreams Tour in Singapore sold out in less than two hours, we know that denizens of the island city-state are just as crazy about Coldplay as us here in India. This is rather puzzling given that despite the massive commercial success of the band, its music is most often described as “middle of the road” and “inoffensive”. Not even the staunchest fan could take these words as a strong commendation.
Of course, any arguments of this sort would have been a hard sell to those who waited in the queue at the MMRDA Grounds in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex, waiting to get into the Global Citizen Festival India which Coldplay was headlining. Of course to all those who, on Saturday, braved the searing heat, erratic availability of drinking water, the earnest speeches of celebrity guests and a painfully awkward performance by Ananya Birla, the whole point of the evening was Coldplay. Despite the presence of one of the music industry’s most powerful, pioneering artistes – Jay-Z – all the attention had been riveted on the British band, which was last relevant in 2008, when it’s one truly great album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, was released. What is even more puzzling is that such a large section of Coldplay’s fans are made up of young people. These are people who are supposed to be rebellious young firestarters, who take their political and social cues from their musical idols, like all those youngsters who once upon a time shocked older fuddy duddies by emulating the likes of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Madonna, Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan. Coldplay is possibly one of the most non-controversial bands of all times (unless we count the “conscious uncoupling” of Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow). Other musical acts could be held guilty of overwhelming artistic arrogance, such as The Beatles and Kanye West, both of whom compared themselves to Jesus and invited massive outrage. Never Coldplay, though.
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But perhaps it’s this very, blandness and inoffensiveness that makes Coldplay so popular. Critics would classify their inoffensiveness as a deficiency, as a troubling inability to take a stand or challenge anything, since this is not music that can be marched to or raised slogans to. But perhaps that is exactly what fans want. As one concert goer explained early in the evening, “There is something so feel good about their music. It makes you forget everything else for a while.” So maybe it’s ok that Coldplay doesn’t stand for anything, except perhaps love, a word that frontman Chris Martin uses almost like a mantra. At a time of deepening political, economic and social divides, music that manages to offend almost no one is probably a good thing.