There aren’t a ton of artists who hit the magical ‘100 million sold’ benchmark. It’s a longer list than you’d probably think, but still pretty exclusive. Today’s band has done it—and likely isn’t the household name you’d expect. And they probably haven’t been at the tip of your tongue in over a decade.
Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland met during their first week at University College London in September of 1996. They’d spend the first year planning in a band called Pectoralz. Guy Berryman, another classmate joined them and completed their lineup with Will Champion. Now calling themselves Starfish, they performed at local clubs.
A student who enjoyed seeing the group said he had a band of his own and was looking potentially join in. While he didn’t ultimately have the chops, he told Starfish that his band’s name was Coldplay. The guys loved it—and the student them to go ahead use the moniker, since he felt his band was never going to hit it big. Toiling with small EP’s and band problems; in 1999 they decided on two things: to operate a democracy and have a strict ‘no hard drugs’ policy. This was inspired by events, and bands like U2 and R.E.M. who had similar stances. Safe to say they were ready to take their talents up a notch, but they needed someone to notice.
After four years and three EPs without a hit song, Parlophone Records gave them a chance and their debut was released in July of 2000. The album was a smash hit, with multiple singles hitting the Top 5 and even led to Coldplay headlining the Glastonbury Festival. Today I’m listening to their sophomore effort A Rush Of Blood To The Head, released in August of 2002. The band wrote over 20 songs for the album, knowing they’d need to weed it down to around 12. Recording wrapped in June of ’02, but the band felt the final product was “rubbish” and, with the label’s permission, they agreed to postpone release.
They wanted a fresh sound from their debut. Martin sat down alone one day and created the piano riff that would end up being the track ‘Clocks’. The band knew immediately the riff would lead to a hit single. Critical acclaim was furious, Rolling Stone called Coldplay the ‘best band of the year’ and the album brought them a Grammy Award for ‘Record of the Year’. Commercial performance was outstanding as well—number one on the charts and it has sold nearly 20 million copies to date.
Calling their music pop or alt rock simply doesn’t describe it. They have this melodic way to get your toes tapping and contagious lyrics that make you want to sing along. Generally speaking, their music is on the lighter side, so potentially a change of pace if you’re big into rock.
They experimented a bit more with ballads and acoustic songs on this album, which did show some growth as a band compared to their debut. Martin’s signature falsetto was on full display as well, noting that he seemed to sharpen it through vocal coaching. Some people like to poke fun at Coldplay because of the softer feel, but it’s no bother. At 100 million albums sold and counting, a lot of people are buying their music and streaming it. For me, their music took a bit of a poppy turn after this record, and maybe isn’t quite as good—so going back to this occasionally reminds me of the Coldplay I first enjoyed.
I could probably go on and on about the band and this album, but the best advice I can give is to toss on your headphones today and listen to it. It might just end up on one of your all-time lists too, and then it’ll put you right in my place.
Top 3 Tracks: