overview: I think only young people approach pop music without cynicism. The rest of us can be pretty vicious about it and not particularly honest, either. The Beatles have dominated a large portion of pop music's legacy for years now. Of course they were originally popular among young people. Anyone who is even remotely similar to them is subsequently negatively compared to them. For the purposes of this exercise, I'm going to focus on Coldplay, purveyors of "sensitive rock" or simply a standout pop music act of their generation.
They've long been a favorite of mine. I didn't become a dedicated fan until Coldplay's second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, but from there I came to greatly appreciate their increasing mastery of their own abilities. That's what any fan likes about anything they like, right, if they stick around? Fans either like the first impression they have of something and are satisfied with that, or stick around and form additional ones. People who don't remain fans tend to become cynical. They chart a decline, real or imagined, rather than an evolution. Coldplay hit that moment with their third album, X&Y. This is my favorite Coldplay album, completely solid from start to finish, filled with songs that vary in their charms. The band won critics back with their fourth album, Viva La Vida, an ambitious shift in their basic style that like X&Y finds it hard to hit a bad note. Coldplay's fifth album, Mylo Xyloto, is a return to more traditional pop music.
Like everyone else, I first heard Coldplay with the single "Yellow" from Parachutes (2000). If "Yellow" had been the only song the band ever became known for, it would be cute and memorable but it would be easy to agree with the critics who still have yet to give Coldplay their due (although U2 has been waiting for that for far longer). Parachutes is also notable for "Trouble," which heavily features Chris Martin's piano. A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002) was a follow-up that addressed concerns that Coldplay might be considered fairly insubstantial, whether in "Politik" or "Clocks." "In My Place" might almost be considered Coldplay's best Beatles song. "The Scientist," however, is the album's best song, a heartbreaking ballad that proved the band's true depths.
X&Y (2005) is known for "Speed of Sound" and "Fix You," but like I said, I love the whole album, from the dance beat of "White Shadows" to the love song "Swallowed in the Sea." Viva La Vida (2008) plays a lot to Coldplay's underrated musical chops, from the opening "Life in Technicolor" to the title track, which brings the string section to the fore. The companion EP Prospekt's March (2008) has an alternate version of "Technicolor" featuring a brilliant appearance from Jay-Z, while it closes with the contemplative "Now My Feet Won't Touch the Ground." Mylo Xyloto (2011) features "Princess of China" with exceptional guest vocals from Rihanna. It's known for "Paradise," but the instrumental "Us Against the World" breaks my heart (more than the actual track "Don't Let it Break Your Heart"). There's also "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall," the first single from the album.
The only member of Coldplay that anyone really knows is frontman Chris Martin, who eventually married actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Martin is the quintessential sensitive rocker, and most of Coldplay's music follows his lead, sometimes lush, sometimes pleading, sometimes aching, sometimes jubilant. The band is constantly adapting to the times while remaining distinctly their own. I continue to admire Coldplay because they are most of all transcendent, masters of emotion. They know how to translate the human experience into song. They're completely self-aware, too, as can be proven by a knowing appearance in Shaun of the Dead, while Martin once dueted with Conan O'Brien for a memorably surreal rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
personalities: Aside from Chris Martin (lead vocalist), there's also Buy Berryman (bass), Johnny Buckland (guitar), and Will Champion (drums).