Coldplay frontman Chris Martin once joked that the two biggest challenges in his life were trying to follow Radiohead and trying to follow Brad Pitt. The Pitt reference was personal, of course—Martin had been married to Pitt’s former fiancée Gwyneth Paltrow—but his self-assessment still felt remarkably apt: Coldplay isn’t just one of the most popular bands in the world, but also torchbearers for a kind of mainstream art-rock whose roots reach back through Radiohead, U2, Pink Floyd, and even The Beatles. Yes, the music is anthemic enough to fill arenas—“Clocks,” “Speed of Sound,” “Paradise,” “A Sky Full of Stars”—but detailed and atmospheric, too, stretching the conventions of modern rock without ever losing the emotional thread.
Formed in London in the mid-’90s, the band debuted with 2000’s Parachutes. Seasons have changed—the arty experiments of 2008’s Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, the electro-rush of 2011’s Mylo Xyloto, the eclecticism of 2019’s Everyday Life—but the core of their sound has been consistent: Propulsive, uplifting, grand but vulnerable. In crowded bars and lonely bedrooms, the effect is more or less the same: At the end of the day, Coldplay came for the heart.