Coldplay’s negative stigma: the mainstream complex

Emma Dahl

The other night, I discovered that a friend of mine had been harboring a secret love of Coldplay. She acted embarrassed about admitting her fondness for them, as if it were something to be ashamed of. Why was she keeping it a secret? There must be a reason she didn’t tell me that she shared my love of Coldplay for over a year.

Could it be a result of a strong anti-Coldplay atmosphere on campus? Not necessarily.

Sophomore Josh Tacke offered his opinions on the band.

“Coldplay has a sterilizing effect on me as a listener. What are they bringing to the table?” he said.

While there are students who don’t like the band, Whitman isn’t completely devoid of Coldplay fans, either.

“I like Coldplay because they have a very unique sound that’s very diverse … and it seems very honest,” said sophomore Carrie Walker.

But this just proves that people have different opinions regarding music, which is normal. So where did the shame in liking them come from?

The answer lies within the fact that a stigma surrounds popular music; it can’t be denied. Popular music is often disregarded simply because of its mainstream status. Why? There are a couple of reasons. For one, I think there’s a fear that comes with liking a thing that everyone else likes, that going along with the crowd gives off the impression that you are a mindless member of the flock, and people don’t want to be seen that way.

Another source of this stigma has to do with causes of popularity; there is a possibility that something is popular for the wrong reasons, because it might be superficial, poorly made music. As long as it has a catchy melody or a heavy bass drop or sexy lyrics, a song has a shot at finding hit status on the charts. It’s natural to balk at something that might be shallow and unappealing to our deeper musical selves.

But is that always the case? Does popular music always fall short of our expectations? Sometimes a song is a hit for the right reasons––namely, the band that produced the music has real talent, and people are naturally attracted to that talent en masse. But can a song still be “good” despite being wildly popular? Can its lyrics still speak to the human spirit even if it’s played millions of times on the radio? I think it can. Popularity might be an indicator of shallowness, but it doesn’t guarantee it.

The same way it’s dangerous to judge a book by its cover, it’s unwise to pass off popular bands as crowd-pleasers without any kind of depth in their work. Our interests should be our own and not determined by what the majority is doing, and that goes both ways; don’t mindlessly follow the crowd, but don’t mindlessly flee from it either. I’m not saying that Coldplay is the exception here, but you should follow what you want to follow, whether a million other people are doing it too or if you’re just riding solo.