At last! How reasuring it was to see in the Arts section of the Sunday The New York Times the beginning of the backlash against the inexplicably popular Coldplay. The writer, Jon Pareles, was afraid he was the only one who thinks that Coldplay is "the decade's most insufferable band" but he's not. It just seems that way because of the hegemony of opinion around them enforced by fawning media coverage, ubiquitous airplay, and high corporate stakes in their success. It's good to see the cracks in the monolith finally showing. I have wondered since I first heard of this band why anyone would feel any passion about it and when they would go away. It was an ill wind blowing through pop music that brought Coldplay and their oppresive mix of contrived earnestness and self-absorption to the forefront -- as Pareles notes, anthemic self-pity is an especially toxic mix. But it's one that mirrors the personality that rampant consumerism expects in individuals, a self-pity so concentrated you don't recognize the underlying conformity (everybody's vicariously pretending to be pathetically alone on the largest stage in the world with Chris Martin). The kind of self-centeredness and unrestrained individualism that Coldplay's music implictly endorses as a winning personality trait is the very thing that ultimately prevents communitarian aims, that makes absurd the idea that you should be selfless without getting to whine to the entire universe about how much you are sacrificing. It's ego music of the worst sort, and its listeners are encouraged by it to retreat into its eiderdown layers and make an ostrich hole out of them, since what is going on between a person's ears (or in their "heart") is all that matters in the world anyway.
Hopefully this article will be the first voice in what will become a chorus of naysayers to the oppressively antiseptic music of earnest ego. And then maybe they will go after Kanye West, another inexplicable musical hero, prized for his very ineffectuality and inoffensiveness, next.