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Would you buy a car from Chris Martin? ...


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Safe music + softly spoken statements = superstardom ...


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"We're going to be slaughtered with this record." ...




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When you get right down to it, there's probably no reason Coldplay should be as famous as they are. Four lads from working-class backgrounds who met at the University of London, they entered an unsigned band competition on a whim, released a string of EPs and then — almost overnight — struck gold in the U.K. with the single "Yellow," off their debut LP, Parachutes. Two years later, they released their second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, and based on the strength of one single — "Clocks" — basically did what more prominent British acts like Oasis and Radiohead failed to do: They became superstars in America.

And this was all done by a band made up of a lead singer who primarily played piano (and skipped around the stage like a happy preschooler) and three other guys who almost no one could name. Their music is atmospheric, airy and — most of all — safe. While Noel and Liam Gallagher fought booze and each other, and Thom Yorke fought invisible corporate demons, Chris Martin fought, well, nothing in particular. His songs are about everything every person in the world has ever felt (fear, love, insecurity, etc.), yet he's the one now standing on the precipice of rock immortality. He's the one with the Oscar-winning wife. And he's the one with the hotly anticipated album.

"There are things we could do to sell more records, and there are things we could do to sell less records. We stopped thinking about record sales and interviews and just tried to impress each other in a tiny rehearsal room," Martin sighs. "Although secretly we'd be very happy if [X&Y] does well, really the fact that we get to play every day and get to do our dream job is good enough. If we started thinking any other way, it would be very dangerous."

Dangerous or not, the specter of commercial failure haunted Coldplay throughout the making of X&Y. When news broke that the album — which the band had started making early last year — wasn't going to be finished by Capitol Records' promised delivery date (the first financial quarter of 2005), EMI (the megacorp that owns Capitol and a host of other labels) issued a profit warning to its shareholders. When Martin is asked about this, it's literally the only time that he seems to lose interest in his left hand. In fact, he seems genuinely un-Martin-like — angry — about the whole thing.

"We find the whole thing ridiculous. We don't really care about shareholders. How can we? We care about going in and playing for people who want to hear us, and we care about the 16-year-old in Nebraska who buys our album and his day is a little better for listening to it," he says. "We don't care about a little piece of paper that comes out every three months with some numbers on it.

"Most of corporate America and corporate Europe are all under the power of shareholders, these great, unidentifiable bodies of people, for whom most things are done. A lot of bad things are done to make these shareholders happy," he adds. "Somehow you can do something and get rid of the responsibility of your action by saying it was for the shareholders, like mining in Alaska or something."

As it turns out, EMI shareholders have very little to worry about. On X&Y, Coldplay deliver the album they were born to make: complex (but not too difficult), spacey, beautiful and overwhelmingly accessible. Though they cite both Kraftwerk and Brian Eno as major influences, this isn't Autobahn or Music for Airports. It's more like those albums' little cousin ... imitating, stealing toys and ultimately combining the best of both.

But the shareholders flap raises an interesting (and very 21st century) question: How can Martin — frontman for a band so closely tied to corporations, profit margins and IPOs — maintain his edge and remain a credible message board for free trade and global unity?

The same way he always has: unassumingly, politely and effortlessly. And with a whole lot of T-shirts.


NEXT: 'A lot of people think this is the moment to hate us.' ...
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Photo: Capitol

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"Speed of Sound"
X&Y
(Capitol)




"Speed of Sound" (live)
X&Y
(Capitol)



"Moses"
Coldplay Live 2003 DVD
(Capitol)




"God Put a Smile Upon Your Face"
A Rush of Blood to the Head
(Capitol)



"The Scientist"
A Rush of Blood to the Head
(Capitol)



"Clocks"
A Rush of Blood to the Head
(Capitol)



"The Scientist" (live)
2003 MTV Video Music Awards
(MTV)



"A Rush of Blood to the Head" (live)
Coldplay Live 2003 DVD
(Capitol)



"Yellow" (live)
MTV UK Live on 10/11/02
(MTV UK)



"In My Place" (live)
2002 MTV Europe Music Awards
(MTV)



"Trouble"
Parachutes
(Capitol)



"Don't Panic"
Parachutes
(Capitol)



"Yellow"
Parachutes
(Capitol)

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