The 90s were a time that was heavily dominated by alternative music. Grunge  had run rampant with the success of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. But now bands were going for more experimental sounds, and alternative music slowly became the mainstream in the world of rock n’ roll.

In 1996, Coldplay formed and were one of the few bands to survive the BritPop era of music hailing from Europe. And then, in 2000 they released their mega-hit single Yellow from their debut album Parachutes – their first step onto becoming one of the most successful acts (both British and internationally) of the decade. But lately, they’ve been quite the meme, being only second in line to hate on after  Nickelback.

The difference in styles from Parachutes to two of their latest albums, Ghost Stories and A Head Full of Dreams are quite large. Compared to their previous, more rock-influenced records around the Mylo Xyloto era, the current music that Coldplay produces is much more pop-oriented and radio friendly. It doesn’t help that their lyrics fall short as well, with front man Christ Martin admitting that his melodies are more likely to be remembered than his lyrics.

But what constitutes a sell-out? Often times the cries of sell-outs are just people raising pitchforks at artists for being musically different than their last record. But there’s definitely some validity to it in the form of artists capitalizing on a certain record’s sound and staying the same to try and guarantee success, or changing their sound to something more mainstream and easily accessible for the masses to enjoy. Both these arguments have been lobbed at Coldplay and other bands.

On the flipside, it might be a little unfair to use the term sell-out. At the end of the day, the music industry is a business and artists have to do what they need to do to survive — even if it includes becoming washed-out-record-label-slaves in order to stay relevant. On the other hand, there are those bands that do in fact, change themselves musically, but are still met with disdain from their fan bases for sounding different than what drew them in in the first place. Ironically it’s not even a bad thing to sell out sometimes — The Beatles are the best example; they went from playing in shady German bars to cleaning up their act at the insistence of new manager Brian Epstein into the good guy look that they’re famous for, and of course, the rest is history, just look at their discography.

There’s a classic joke too, that goes Bob Dylan was cooler before he went electric (referring to his more folksy earlier days), making him a ‘sell-out’ as well. And then you have artists who were anti-sellout : Jason Mraz and John Mayer for example, were both playing cutesy pop love songs and raking in those royalties, and then once they had the money, they chose to pursue their own individual paths and create music they wanted to create that are quite different from what they previously made but truer to what they wanted to sound like.

Selling out, maybe, isn’t the end of the world. Music is heavily subjective, and sure being a Coldplay fan these days is the butt of one too many jokes, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still big enough to draw crowds to the brim and sell records like crazy.

Even for self-proclaimed music snobs like me, who are generally not fond of rock artists aiming for more pop/EDM sounds, many of us still quite like Coldplay (if not as much as before) and definitely accept the new music they are bringing. With Coldplay being self-aware of this fact, with many a time Martin stating how they know how fans feel, they still enjoy making the music they make, and many of us still exist (even if sometimes a little embarrassed to say it) who are fans. Selling out isn’t definitely the end of the world in the music industry, and you can always go back and enjoy their pre-sellout days, and maybe sometimes it’s just better for everyone involved.


by Nuhan B. Abid