Ah, Coldplay: the erstwhile pop music whipping boy of the 2000s, piled-on to such an extent that the name of the group no longer evokes music, but an abstraction of an abstraction, a punchline of a punchline, several degrees removed from signifying a collective of capital-A Artists that might be taken capital-S Seriously. Cracking on Coldplay has become a generational touchstone, particularly within the Apatow-y Bro Man Child contingent (see this link, and that link and plenty of other YouTube-accessible vignettes that happen to be maddeningly homophobic and otherwise problematic, an issue that extends beyond the scope of this post), a species of hipster that has a more complicated relationship with capital-A Authenticity than other types: the Bro Man Child values Authenticity, but loathes hipper-than-thou posturing, and is quick to find the humor therein.
So this is what I’m thinking about as I press play on Jesse Boykins III‘s cover of a jazzy, low-key number from Coldplay’s first album. This is a song that I love. It may be my favorite Coldplay song. It’s understated, and mysterious, and dissonant, and a little bit unstable in a way that reminds me of why, early on, Coldplay used to inspire Radiohead comparisons. I don’t even want to look at my iTunes right now to see how often I’ve listened to it, because I’m scared, because I’ve been conditioned to think of it as a guilty pleasure. I was even hesitant to write this post for fear of internal ATG backlash, and potential music blog blacklisting. So I’m pressing play with my nose turned up, and my eyebrows furrowed, knowing I should be approaching this as a capital-H Hater.
Turns out that this cover, like the original, is too good to hate. The instrumental adjustments, including signature R&B guitar fills, multitrack harmonies, and especially those generously swelling strings in the chorus, are very much on point. Most interestingly though, Boykins manages to keep that captivatingly unstable aura about the song while imbuing the lyrics with a new feeling of earnestness. He is, of course, a soul singer, and soul singers generally traffic in earnestness; that’s what capital-S Soul music is all about. But his approach demonstrates all this latent earnestness (and thus Soul) that previously existed in the song, unbeknownst to me and probably most people, who generally know it as the song from Wedding Crashers.
So here’s what I learned today: 1) Coldplay’s music contains a good deal of latent Soul, which manifests as earnestness. 2) This is what connoisseurs of Authentic music purport to dislike, while knowing that it’s impossible to hate a band like Coldplay as one might hate The Eagles. 3) Maybe the new Authenticity lies in the work of unabashedly earnest artists like Jesse Boykins III, who see Soul everywhere and aren’t afraid to celebrate it. 4) Capitalizing “concept words” in your pieces makes you seem smart, but can get out of hand quickly.
STREAM: Jesse Boykins III – “Sparks (Coldplay cover)”