When Seth Rogen’s character Cal slams his friend and co-star Paul Rudd for listening to Coldplay and not being “man enough”, it was one of the funniest lines in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but there’s a bit of truth to it. Whether they like it or not, Coldplay are a band of four men who write rock songs that resonate with many of their listeners. Their lyrics are melodramatic and vague, but the overall vibe is massive, worldly, and often deeply emotional. They sing of things that everyone can relate to, from loss and heartbreak to love and friendship. This is why they are a hugely popular band amongst males, just as Ben Gibbard, Tegan and Sara, and Lana Del Rey are for women.
Despite this popularity, it is hard for Coldplay to shake their reputation as effeminate and soft. Their first album to be released after The 40-Year-OldViron was X&Y, which was a disaster that stripped away the emotion and soaring synth lines that set them apart. They rebounded with Viva La Vida in 2008, the most Coldplay of all their albums. It’s the purest expression of their music and brand, marrying their requisite softness with ambitions of grandeur and importance. It was a brilliant decision to embrace who they are, and to not try and forcefully break artistic boundaries.
With their latest album Ghost Stories, they seem to have learned the lesson from Viva La Vida and have reverted to their more emotional and simpler self. While it might not reach the heights of their previous work, it is clear that they have found a balance that works well for them and that they should continue to follow it.