Patrick Ryan USA TODAY
It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly Coldplay became a critics’ punching bag.
Over the past two decades, the Chris Martin-led band has built a brand of treacly, uplifting and largely inoffensive stadium rock. But somewhere between 2008’s Grammy-winning juggernaut “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends” and being upstaged by Beyoncé and Bruno Mars during their 2016 Super Bowl halftime show, the British musicians fell out of popular favor. The band is second only to Nickelback in online memes mocking their banality, with many headlines wondering aloud, “Why do we hate Coldplay?”
The derision is understandable, if unwarranted. Who among us hasn’t half-drunkenly belted “The Scientist” at karaoke or shamefully turned up the radio whenever “Something Just like This” comes on? There’s nothing wrong with being unabashedly sentimental, and there’s no denying that Coldplay makes catchy music.
That all goes to say that the group’s eighth studio outing “Everyday Life” is completely and utterly fine. The 16-song double album, out Friday, doesn’t take many big swings – alternating between sweeping, “Kumbaya”-style anthems and gentle piano ballads, occasionally hitting on something transcendent like the rousing “Church.”
When they deviate from the formula, results are a mixed bag. Martin seems out of his depth singing with a gospel choir on “BrokEn,” a hand-clapping spiritual hymn asking for God’s light. Attempts at social consciousness on the tongue-in-cheek “Guns” and police brutality-focused “Trouble in Town” are good-intentioned but on the nose. It’s impossible not to feel at least slight discomfort listening to the latter, as Martin softly coos lyrics like “they hung my brother brown” and “I get no peace, and I just get more police.”
But other digressions are wholly welcome. Martin’s lilting vocals are perfectly suited to dreamy doo-wop ballad “Cry Cry Cry,” and “Arabesque” is a rollicking blast of saxophone-driven New Orleans jazz. And although you may roll your eyes at the prospect of a middle-aged white man singing about Africa’s picturesque landscapes on “Èkó,” the song’s central story about a man returning home to his love is wistfully beautiful.
Sprawling and sometimes frustratingly impersonal, “Everyday Life” finds Coldplay comfortably in their lane. It’s ambitious without being risky: dipping into a variety of genres and topical issues but hewing closely enough to the band’s feel-good, hits-filled catalog to satisfy longtime fans. For the rest of us, it’s mostly the musical equivalent of a shrug.