Coldplay, the Crowd Pleaser

Chris Martin Mug

I’ve always thought of Coldplay as a band that everyone likes, but is no one’s favorite. They seem to be universally loved because their singles are radio- and stadium sing-along-friendly (‘Fix You,’ ‘Paradise,’ even the mellow ‘Everglow’). They’ve collaborated with the likes of Rihanna, Beyoncé and The Chainsmokers. Almost every album of theirs tops the Billboard album chart, supposedly the most important musical chart in the universe. They and their songs inspire many things and one of those things is think-pieces by music critics that were, at some point in their life, have been ashamed to be a Coldplay fan. They’ve also inspired hate (the if-you-have-nothing-nice-to-say-about-Coldplay-by-all-means-say-it variety) and they probably will continue to do so, just as they will continue being popular and rich.

Pleasing crowds is most bands’ job, but Coldplay does it much better than the Lifehouses and The Callings of the world. Christ Martin comes off as an affable lead vocalist, the kind of international superstar who would fart and sneeze and act like a normal person around you to prove that he’s capable of normal person activities like farting. Just the thought of that helps with the crowd-pleasing aspect of their job.

I’ve also thought of Coldplay as the kind of band that even people who don’t like music would fly thousands of miles to see live because they want to experience a Coldplay concert because they heard they’re great, and they are. I have one Facebook friend who was ecstatic about them even though her Coldplay anecdote was mostly about how there’s a Coldplay song that soundtracked some of the most significant events in her life. So that’s one person whose actual favorite band is Coldplay, I guess.

Coldplay is disliked for several reasons, both by serious music critics and the garden variety hater. They’ve been accused of peddling corny sentiments in very melodic songs. The dislike may also partly be due to the fact that Chris Martin is super charming. And, maybe, some people maybe find liking charming people basic? I really don’t know!

Remember when it was announced they were going to tour in Asia and some people were super excited, while others were snarky toward those who were excited? Some people were irked that some people were getting so excited about Coldplay coming to Asia. This is how the irked persons’ saw it: ‘Don’t be excited about Coldplay because you’re not a fan!’ Those who were irked probably don’t care about Coldplay, or are super fans. It was hard to tell. But, it kinda supports my suspicion that Coldplay is generally liked but is no one’s favorite. I mean, I know where the Madonna fans, the Rihanna Navies, the Britney Army, and the Lambs are at. The Coldplayers, where are they?

The Head Full of Dreams Tour in Bangkok had all the concert tropes – grand sing-alongs, the lying down and emoting on the rain-soaked platform, the soaring anthems about fixing yourself, and the boy band joke. You can totally feel the pressure of having to participate in all the tropes, but you don’t mind. You can totally sense the corniness of having to wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care, but… you really don’t care because you feel like this band earns your participation, and it wouldn’t be so corny if it’s to a song you like (it’s ‘A Sky Full of Stars’ for me), because they’re really good live. So I realized, Coldplay is a band that gives the people what they want and the people take it… because they want it. And that’s nice. As nice as Coldplay.

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Where I Was When the King Died

Photographers, spectators and mourners at the Grand Palace
Photographers, spectators and mourners at the Grand Palace

I was at a newly opened chichi Italian-French restaurant called La Casa Nostra when the official announcement was made. On my way there, people on the MRT were noticeably extra-attentive to their phones. That has always been how people behave in Bangkok trains, ie, glued to their phone, but on that afternoon the air was thick with worry, anticipation and grief.

La Casa Nostra is one of those restaurants that are annoyingly dim. The lighting is so minimal that you would have to squint your eyes to read the menu, and when the food arrives you’ll have to use your phone’s backlight to see if your food is as you ordered it. The restaurant’s design calls attention to its classiness and for a brief moment, I considered roaming around as there were only a few customers. That night, though, it was impossible to think about anything other than what Twitter already knew at least 3-4 hours in advance.

The staff were wearing all black but it could have been their normal uniform. I was halfway through my meal when Richard Barrow tweeted the inevitable. I was ready to be ushered out of the restaurant and be told to go home and respect the people’s mourning. I had expected a lot of unrealistic scenarios upon the announcement. I expected most of the staff to break into tears and kindly show the customers out, but even more people came in. The photographer who was taking photos of the neatly lined wine glasses on the bar counter seemed unmoved – a true professional. Despite the room’s dimness, we saw a waitress break into tears. Customers were not asked to leave but were left alone with their meal.

The king’s death reminded me of Cory Aquino’s death. I remember the collective sadness that swept the Philippines when she died. That was before the country was divided into ‘yellows’ and ‘rainbows’ (hindi yellow), which let the observance of her burial be peaceful and free from the ugly taint of politics. But that couldn’t possibly be the same as what just happened to the people of Thailand. They have just lost a king, the only one they’ve ever known and revered in their lifetime.

As foreigners, we are expected to behave in a strictly respectful manner during this period when the country is experiencing its greatest sorrow. That means refraining from engaging in any festive activities. Smiling in public might even be frowned upon. Black shirts should probably not contain any unsavory graphic.

It’s not uncommon to see expats expressing their sympathies online, although there are those that can’t be bothered. And because people want to know things, they are probably asking themselves and others like themselves these questions: Am I supposed to demonstrate full-on commiseration or should I take it easy with the sympathies? When going to Tesco, should I wear black or should I save those for the malls and office?

The last thing an expat would want to be seen as is unsympathetic, although it must be said, failure to show an aura of being deep in sorrow won’t likely to get one in trouble as long as the line between nonchalant and disrespectful isn’t crossed. It wouldn’t be outrageous to think that some expats are feeling the need to be extra-sympathetic and may be compelled to overdo it. They are in a very safe place. At a time like this, one never knows of one is in the company of a mourner who would look down on your refusal or inability to wear black. Some might not be too concerned about what color garment you wear, but some might be too concerned.