This coming Sunday will be arguably the biggest day in Coldplay’s career. They’ll be playing the coveted slot of the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show, where hundreds of millions will be watching them (while hanging with Beyoncé, of course). But while there is much to celebrate in the Coldplay world right now, fans of the band have to be a bit apprehensive when they have repeatedly hinted that they might be calling it quits soon, with the recent A Head Full of Dreams serving as their swan song. With a potential Coldplay breakup imminent, let’s ask ourselves, after 17 years and seven albums, should the band pack it in for good?
The case against Coldplay breaking up is simple: They’re still one of the biggest bands in the world. The fact that they were chosen to perform at what the NFL is desperately hoping will go down as the biggest Super Bowl of all-time crystallizes that fact. But really, for the foreseeable future, anything Coldplay does will have an immediate audience. When you have that kind of staying power, why would you want to break up? You have a ready stream of fame and fortune, and the notion that anything you make, no matter how experimental, will garner the attention of the public. Why would anyone want to give that up?
And yet, there could be a very simple reason why Coldplay would want to pack it in: creative stagnation. After all this time, the band may simply feel like they’ve done all they can together, and the best option for everyone involved is to go in new directions. And if we’re being honest, the music press might agree with that idea. Consider how their albums have performed on the review-aggregating site Metacritic. 2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head has the highest score with an 80, while X&Y and Viva La Vida each came in with a respectable 72. Recently, though, things have gotten worse. Their last two albums, Ghost Stories, and A Head Full of Dreams, have a 61 and 60 on the site, respectively, marking a huge drop-off from where the band was at its peak. This would suggest that the notion that Coldplay is growing stagnant is one that several music critics share.
Admittedly, you have to take that with a grain of salt when you consider how Coldplay’s reputation might have affected some of these scores. The notion of Coldplay as an “uncool” band has only grown throughout the years. There’s the incredibly poorly-aged “do you how I know you’re gay” joke from The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the shot the Foo Fighters took at them in the “Walk” video, and countless other little jokes over the years that have made them one of the easiest bands to make fun of. This, of course, should have no bearing on the quality of their music, but it could be argued that some critics subconsciously saw less in the band’s work because they didn’t want to say nice things about an uncool band. There’s just one problem with this line of thinking: I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Coldplay fan, and even I think their last two albums have been their worst. So, even if all the jokes about Coldplay are working against them, they still might be running of out things to say.
With all that said, calling it quits now might be a bit hasty. First off, the main issue with each of the last two Coldplay albums is that they’ve been inconsistent. Take Ghost Stories, for example. On tracks like “Always in My Head” and “True Love,” Chris Martin’s pain over his divorce from Gwyneth Paltrow came in perfectly clear, resulting in some of the more emotionally resonant tracks the band has recorded. Unfortunately, the album really dragged in places, and the Avicii collaboration “A Sky Full of Stars,” despite being a hit, felt like a shameless attempt to latch on to popular trends, and it probably won’t be remembered especially fondly. Likewise, A Head Full of Dreams had moments of beauty that recalled 2011’s criminally underrated Mylo Xyloto, but it just felt unfocused, and ultimately unsatisfying.
All of this is to say that Coldplay probably have another truly great album in them, as they’ve shown flashes, but they’ve just been a bit off their game as of late. For that reason, I hope they don’t break up, at least until they can go in the studio one last time, and knock out an all-time classic. With that said, if they decide there’s just no reason to keep making music together, we’ll know exactly why. Truth be told, Coldplay has already given the world a ton of great music, and despite all the jokes that have been made about them, the band will have left a fine legacy behind. It’s okay to admit that.