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Surfacing in 2000 with the breakthrough single "Yellow," British group Coldplay quickly became one of the biggest acts of the early 21st century, honing a blend of introspective Brit-pop and anthemic rock that helped push the band to the top of album charts worldwide. Coldplay's emergence couldn't have been more perfectly timed: with Radiohead embracing cerebral electronic soundscapes and Oasis further exploring psychedelic experimentation, audiences were hungry for a fresh-faced rock group with big aspirations and an even bigger sound. After the band's first three LPs went multi-platinum in several countries, Coldplay continued to mature, topping their early success with higher record sales, an ever-evolving sound that absorbed multiple genres, and record-breaking global stadium tours.
Band members Chris Martin (vocals/piano), Jonny Buckland (guitar), Will Champion (drums), and Guy Berryman (bass) were all born into musical households. Martin, the eldest of five, began playing the piano as a young child and later took solace in the work of Tom Waits. Buckland, on the other hand, grew up with the heavy guitar sounds of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Scotland native Berryman preferred funk to indie rock, thereby leaving him to play bass, while multi-instrumentalist Champion didn't plan to be a drummer until he joined Coldplay's lineup. The bandmates came together in 1996 while attending the University College of London, and the Safety EP was issued shortly after their first gig at a Manchester festival for unsigned bands. The release only saw 500 pressings, as did the subsequent Brothers & Sisters EP. Nevertheless, it was enough to win the band a U.K. deal with Parlophone Records in April 1999, and the five-track Blue Room EP arrived that fall. With nods from the media, Coldplay were hailed as the next Travis, thanks to their simple acoustics and charming personas.
Parlophone ushered Coldplay into Parr St. Studios in Liverpool, where they recorded the bulk of their debut album. Parachutes was released in July 2000 and became a swift hit on the strength of four U.K. singles, several of which enjoyed popularity in America as well. With "Yellow" climbing the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, Parachutes was released in the U.S. in November, where its sales soon rivaled -- and eventually surpassed -- those in the U.K.
Riding on the strength of their universally popular debut, Coldplay headed back into the studio in fall 2001 to work on a sophomore album. They emerged with the darker and more aggressive A Rush of Blood to the Head, releasing the album worldwide in August 2002 and embarking on a global concert tour soon after. Piano ballad "The Scientist" enjoyed regular radio rotation, while both "Clocks" and "In My Place" won Grammy Awards.
Riding the success of Rush of Blood, Coldplay pushed those ideas even further and began recording material for a third album in early 2004. Previously recorded material with longtime producer Ken Nelson was scrapped early on, while Danton Supple (Morrissey, the Cure) joined Coldplay to complete the recording of what would become their third album, X&Y. "Speed of Sound" marked the band's first single from the effort in spring 2005; the album followed in June, topping charts around the world and selling more than eight million copies during its first year. They embarked on another global tour, scoring additional hits with the Kraftwerk-inspired "Talk" and the multi-platinum "Fix You."
Such success put Coldplay on the same commercial level as U2, but with increased popularity and exposure came negative criticism over their earnestness and formulaic sound. Regrouping, the quartet retreated to the studio in late 2006 to work with famed producer Brian Eno (U2, David Bowie). Recording sessions with Eno were completed within one year, followed by several months of mixing and growing anticipation from the band's audience. Viva la Vida -- also known by its extended name, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends -- ultimately arrived in June 2008. With its refreshed sound and expanded sound palette, the album became an instant hit, especially upon the strength of the chart-topping "Viva la Vida." Worldwide sales approached six million by November, when Coldplay released several new recordings (including a collaboration with rapper Jay-Z) as part of the Prospekt's March EP. A massive global tour was later commemorated on the limited edition live compilation LeftRightLeftRightLeft, which the band gave away for free during the final stops of their Viva la Vida trek.
Continuing their experimentation with non-rock genres, the band dipped into synth-forward electronic and hip-hop beats for their fifth studio set, 2011's concept album Mylo Xyloto, which was produced by Markus Dravs, Daniel Green, and Rik Simpson (the official press release added "with enoxification and additional composition by Brian Eno"). Topping charts across the globe, Mylo Xyloto also yielded a handful of hit singles, including "Princess of China" with Rihanna and their second number one, "Paradise." As with past eras, Mylo was memorialized with Live 2012, which followed a hugely successful world tour that included a special performance at the London Paralympics closing ceremony.
Work began on their sixth album in late 2012 at their Bakery and Beehive studios in North London, where longtime producers Paul Epworth, Daniel Green, and Rik Simpson joined them for sessions. Seeking to scale back from the sensory explosions of Viva and Mylo, the band explored indie electronic and synth-pop textures. While working on the effort, Martin and his wife Gwyneth Paltrow announced their split, which turned the resulting effort into an introspective and cathartic breakup album. The Grammy-nominated Ghost Stories arrived in May 2014 and topped charts once again. Platinum singles "Magic" and the Avicii-assisted electronic anthem "A Sky Full of Stars" became top ten hits in the U.K. while climbing into the top 15 on the U.S. charts. Coldplay briefly promoted the effort on a six-date tour that found the band playing intimate shows in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, and London. Recordings from that jaunt landed on Ghost Stories: Live 2014, an audio/video package that contained live versions of every song from the album.
Soon after finishing their promotional duties for Ghost Stories, Coldplay returned to the studio to work on their seventh LP. Recording in Los Angeles and London, the band collaborated with Noel Gallagher, Beyoncé, Tove Lo, and Merry Clayton (best known for her vocals on the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter) as well as producers Rik Simpson and Stargate. The joyous, disco-tinged lead single, "Adventure of a Lifetime," arrived in November 2015, just a few weeks before the full-length A Head Full of Dreams was released. Their seventh straight U.K. number one, the album included multi-platinum, international hits "Hymn for the Weekend" (which peaked at number six in the U.K. and number 25 in the U.S.), "Up & Up," and "Everglow." The band embarked on the 144-date A Head Full of Dreams tour in support of the album, selling out stadiums across the globe. While on the road, Coldplay released "Something Just Like This," a collaboration with the EDM-pop group the Chainsmokers that appeared on the Chainsmokers' album Memories: Do Not Open as well as on Coldplay's EP Kaleidoscope. On November 15, 2017 in Buenos Aires, the band played the final show of their trek, which became the third all-time highest-grossing concert tour to date. A year later, they capped the Head Full of Dreams era with the release of CD/DVD set Live in Buenos Aires/Live in São Paulo, as well as the career-spanning documentary A Head Full of Dreams, directed by Mat Whitecross (Supersonic).
That same week, Coldplay had one more surprise for fans. After a series of crafty social media announcements hinted at new Parlophone signees Los Unidades, it was revealed that this "new" band was simply Coldplay in disguise. Assuming a new identity to benefit the Global Citizen organization -- which aims to end extreme poverty around the world -- Coldplay recruited a diverse cast of collaborators for the Global Citizen: EP 1, including Stormzy, David Guetta, and Nigerian artists Wizkid and Tiwa Savage. The effort was promoted with the single "E-Lo," featuring Pharrell Williams and Jozzy.
Coldplay kicked off a new-album era at the end of 2019, announcing the impending release with purposefully old-fashioned methods like postcards to fans, subway posters, and even newspaper advertisements. Issued that November, the 16-song Everyday Life was split into two sides, Sunrise and Sunset, and found the band dipping back into the international sounds heard on Global Citizen: EP 1. Featuring guests such as Stromae and Femi Kuti, Everyday Life found Coldplay in a typically plaintive yet hopeful space, but also included their most politically vocal material to date, addressing police brutality ("Trouble in Town"), firearm control ("Guns," the first Coldplay song to include swearing), and the global refugee crisis ("Orphans"). The album was premiered during a live telecast from Amman, Jordan on its release date. ~ Andrew Leahey & Neil Z. Yeung
- London, England
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