Friday, July 18, 2008

Radiohead vs. Coldplay


This post is an extension of a conversation I had with some friends at the beach on Thursday. The question: Who's better, Radiohead or Coldplay? As a huge fan of both groups, I will now endeavor to compare their music, lyrics, and commercial success. Enjoy!

1. Success
In a span of eight years, Coldplay has achieved worldwide fame and amassed millions of record sales. Their meteoric rise has been unusual, a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster music industry. Their four albums, Parachutes, A Rush of Blood to the Head, X&Y, and Viva la Vida, have sold a combined 30 million copies. Songs like Clocks, Viva la Vida, Fix you, Yellow, and The Scientist have become mainstream radio staples. On the other hand, Radiohead's seven studio albums (Pablo Honey, The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief, and In Rainbows) have sold an estimated 23 million copies worldwide. Advantage: Coldplay

2. Lyrics:
Chris Martin's lyrics tend to be somewhat misty and unclear. Coldplay songs tend to focus on love, with an occasional venture into tales of death and other somewhat ambiguous territory. Martin is not the strongest writer, but he does have a knack for creating a catchy, memorable lyric that sticks with the listener. And almost all Coldplay songs have no objectionable material in them, making them into a bit of an anomaly in the modern music industry. Thom Yorke of Radiohead is obviously a stronger writer, but listeners may be put off by the dark undertones of most Radiohead songs. Themes vary wildly, but focus on songs of inner loneliness and pain. Additionally, Yorke occasionally uses strong profanity in his songs (i.e. A Wolf at the Door, Creep, and Myxomatosis). Advantage: Coldplay

3. Music
Coldplay's catchy but predictable soft alt-rock has won the hearts of millions of fans the world over, but also earned the undying hatred of almost as many critics. After the release of X&Y, the New York Times labeled Coldplay as " the most insufferable band of the decade". Coldplay earns heavy rotation on my iPod, and I would consider myself a huge fan of them. But compared to Radiohead, their music pales drastically. In my opinion, Radiohead far outshines Coldplay and nearly every other band on the planet. Their eclectic mix of styles ensures that each song will never grow old, that there will always be something new to hear the next time around. The members of Radiohead are brilliant, brilliant musicians, and they create songs that push the boundaries of the alt-rock genre into new and unexplored territory. Most music critics have nothing but praise to give this band, making them one of the most critically successful groups of all time. Advantage: Radiohead

So who's better? That's for you to decide. In my opinion, it's Radiohead, hands down (although I do have concerns about some of the song's content). But I know people who would beg to differ. What do you think? Leave a comment and tell us!



22 comments:

murf said...

Well I have to say that you have me stumped since I've never heard a song from either group—yeah, I'm old and decrepit. I'll have to get Matt to weigh in since I think he's pretty familiar with both groups. I hereby make it a resolution to listen to some songs from both groups and then weigh in (as an ignoramus...not that this ever stopped me from giving an uninformed opinion).

Bear Murf said...

Alright holmes, here is the thing. I'm a die hard fan of radiohead, just a wonderful group of great musicians and...interesting lyrics. I think to really enjoy radiohead you need to listen to them for quite a while, and even then some may not like them. The first time I listened to coldplay I loved them although their lyrics can be a bit strange. "Shoot an apple off my head"? Could be some reference to Isaac Newton but I doubt it. And radiohead, the first time I listened to them I absolutely hated them, with a passion. I told my friend he was stupid for liking them, then I listened to them more..and more...and more. And now they are definitely one of my favorite bands. First of all musically they are amazing, Throughout their career they developed such a diverse sound that no album sounds the same (also considering they switched from a heavier guitar sound to electronic). Thom Yorke explained this saying he would switch from guitar to electronic dance type machines and piano because there was so much he could do on guitar, and he didn't know piano and the electronic stuff was really new too. Because he and the members took an attitude like this it gives them really diverse sound. And then too their lyrics, Thom Yoke definitely has a strange style, but I thoroughly enjoy it (depressing music is just one of my favorites...for some strange reason). Sometimes when he writes it seems like he just thinks of words and slaps them down on a page, but when he sings them there is a genuine mood to them that makes the words sound right, like they mean something to him. I dunno it just works for me. And as far as building up fans, here in the USA I'm positive coldplay has more, but Radiohead is one of the big bands in Europe (as is coldplay, but seriously, radiohead). And as a final note I realize this argument is really one sided, but thats the way it is. Coldplay is good, but radiohead is way more rounded with a stronger base in music and lyrics, my only vice with them is Thom Yorke. (On his single album (which I liked) nearly every song whines about global warming. Either way Radihead is by far the better band....coldplay is good though. And lastly...I'm pretty sure I destroyed in english spelling here but...oh well.

Please Pay Cashier said...

Well, it actually really helps if you have actually heard of Radiohead, which a lot of people might not have. I have, however. Also, a lot of music isn't always "better" than other music, it is better in that fact that you might like it better depending on what mood you are. If you are wanting to listen to a cloudy love song, you might listen to Coldplay. However, if you want to listen to a cloudy song about nothing, (or rather you don't know what it's about), then you should listen to Radiohead. Also, with Coldplay, you can usually hear most of the words that are being sung and have memorized their catchy tunes. However, Radiohead might be something you would listen to if you were in a daydreamy state and was "too tired" to remember words or have to think about them. In all these cases, it simply depends on your mood. However, if I listened to both bands equally, then I might be able to judge differently. Thanks for the post, I love reading them.

murf said...

Having listened to an extensive playlist (4 songs by Coldplay and about 8 by Radiohead) I am now qualified to way in as an "expert."

Radiohead's lyrics (to put it midlly) suck. My own estimation is that the writer sits around until he comes up with one catchy phrase (catchy to him) and then repeats it again and again and again...and again until one thinks one is listening to a broken record. This is good music?

Coldplay. Hey, they are pretty good! At least one can understand the lyrics and the writer doesn't have to repeat himself ad infinitum.

Matt tells me Radiohead has to grow on you like coffee, so maybe I need to listen to them some more...

murf said...

Oops that would be "weigh in as an expert."

So sorry.

smurferboy said...

Sorry dude. 8 songs by Radiohead is not nearly enough. Go get their album Hail to the Thief and listen to the whole thing at least three times through. I guarantee you'll be addicted then.

Bear Murf said...

Hmm I doubt my dad will get addicted to radiohead. Yeah as far as which one to listen to...for most I would suggest coldplay, a much easier band to get into. Radiohead takes a much more acquired taste. And about radiohead's lyrics being foggy, I severely disagree. I personally think coldplay's lyrics are more foggy. They are catchy yes, but thats it. Most really don't go beyond that. For radiohead I think if you listen to the lyrics and actually try to understand them...you will get something out of it. Which is obviously hard for some people, I kind of enjoy doing it. But for the majority of their songs Thom Yorke really is expressing something or has a meaning to them, you just have to search for it. You can even find one in "A Wolf at the Door" (Although it would be really hard to, its a different song, and vulgar, but there is a meaning there). Yeah, so for intellectuals such as myself and other radiohead listeners, go radiohead. For people who just can't understand, like my father, go coldplay. Nah I'm just kiddin...kind of.

smurferboy said...

Yeah I totally agree with you. A good portion of Radiohead's lyrics have a message, but Yorke forces the listener to really understand the song to get the message. A WOLF AT THE DOOR is a perfect example. In the space of less than 3 minutes, Yorke weaves a complete story that's undeniably effective, albeit somewhat offensive. I will admit, a lot of their older stuff (Kid A mainly) sounds very stream-of-consciousness. What you guys probably don't know is that Thom was suffering severe writer's block at the time Kid A was recorded. I read articles in which he stated that sometimes he would sit down, write the first thing that popped into his head, and then compose a tune around it. Many times he couldn't finish the lyrics until months later, and even then it wasn't really a song in the modern sense of the word. But he and the rest of the band took the songs and created a whole new style of music for them. I think the fact that they were able to not only overcome Thom's struggles but also create such an incredible work of art out of it is a sure proof of greatness. If Chris Martin suddenly stopped writing his catchy but predictable feel-good pop lyrics, how long do you think Coldplay could survive?

P.S. May I remind you that Kid A won the Grammy for best alternative album that year?

migalooch p. said...

If your argument is that you have to listen to all the Radiohead songs 50x before you can judge them, then I'll opt out thank you. I listened to Coldplay once and have loved them ever since. That's pretty straight forward I think. mp

smurferboy said...

Oh, misguided ignorance.....

migalooch p. said...

if you have to have a doctorate in Radiohead to appreciate them, i'm ok my ignorance.

Anonymous said...

to be super honest from a guy that still buys cds and doesnt download music, coldplay doesnt come as close as radiohead. and coldplay is still doing what radiohead did with kid a. kid a, i dont know it had a asian feel to it, the tacky percussions i love it, and i felt viva la vida was somewhat familiar. radiohead has already done what coldplay is doing now. i have all of radioheads albums except for amnesiac. and i have all of the coldplay albums except for x&y i hear its their weakest. on every radiohead album there are about 2-4 really catchy songs 5-8 great songs 8-10 decent songs and maybe one or two skipables. coldplay's albums proly 1-2 really catchy song. 3-7 decent songs- and the rest are skipable.

on second note, coldplay are mainstream sellouts. cheap love lyrics anyone can do and its been done before, good sleeping music.
radiohead is just a good change of pace from what excuse of music and lyrics they call these days. and you dont have to listen to each song 50x you just have to pick an album of your taste, every album has an almost differnt feel. and one is most probably the music you like. personally i love every radiohead album so far....

p.s. MYXOMATOSIS ROCKS

Nate said...

Coldplay has a better sound, better music and better lyrics than Radiohead. I just don't dig radiohead's style......Coldplay.

smurferboy said...

Nate! How can you as a musician honestly say that Coldplay has a better sound and better music??????? Radiohead tops them in every way!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I started off as a Coldplay fan after I heard the song "The Scientist." I liked their style of music and bought their first two albums. However, after discovering Radiohead a few years later I was hooked. Now I have all of Radiohead's albums and am addicted to each one. The music is purely brilliant and beautiful. I love the 90s sound of Pablo Honey to the electronic sound of Kid A. Hail to the Thief was seriously underrated. The first time I listened to it I was not impressed, but listening to it another time through I loved it so much. Radiohead is not a band that most people will like after listening one or two songs. You need to listen to their albums at least twice through to really appreciate them. Radiohead's originality is superb and they are undoubtedly one of the best bands in the world.

Tom Greenhalgh said...

Personally I think Radiohead are a superior band because of the many eclectic styles and sounds they have created and mastered over the years. They have a very unique blend, the best of which is seen on Kid A in my opinion. Coldplay stayed within the realm of britpop for a while but seem to have expanded into a much more mature, accomplished band (although I don't think X&Y was a very good album at all). I reviewed both bands entire discography on my blog. first link Coldplay, second link Radiohead. Leave your thoughts or comments...

http://everythingmusicreviews.blogspot.com/search/label/Coldplay

http://everythingmusicreviews.blogspot.com/search/label/Radiohead

Anonymous said...

R-A-D-I-O-H-E-A-D

Jonathan M said...

Well, I was a Coldplay fan long before hearing any Radiohead tunes, save for Creep. Coldplay's whistle-worthy tunes and accessible lyrics lured me like a tractor beam.

After listening to them for a while, I could not bear to listen to another second of these airy tunes. I noticed a kind of delusional perspective on life and love in their songs. The songs seem to tell you want to hear. Coldplay was bumped down from a "Favorite" to "Band-I'd-listen-to-every-now-and-then."

In my search for a new favorite, I stumbled upon some awesome track I heard on this anime I used to watch, "Ergo Proxy." It was "Paranoid Android", and it played during the credits of this anime. Despite only being a minute or so of the song, I was intrigued by this guy's creepy voice and even creepier lyrics. Google "Radiohead".

I listened to "Paranoid Android" all the way through and fell in love. "You don't remember / You don't remember / Why don't you remember my name?", an incredible guitar solo, a sobering break-down; this song drove me through more emotions than my last ex. I started listening to more tunes.

"Karma Police", "Just", "Scatterbrain", I just could not find a bad song. "Motion Picture Soundtrack" sealed the deal for me. Radiohead's songs never ceased to surprise me with a new sound from electric to acoustic to rock and alt-rock. The lyrics seemed cryptic and all the more rewarding to interpret.

Coldplay is great. Love and love lost are expressed beautifully through Chris Martin's mouth; however, there is no way that I can listen to that day to day. Radiohead offers a variety of songs and emotions to ponder, cry, rock-out and smile to. Their music feels grounded compared to the slightly corporate Brit-pop that is Coldplay.

I highly recommend Radiohead. I would have to say that discovering them has been one of the few notable events in my life (my first drunk night, my first time, etc.) (Yes, really, that important!). Best albums? "The Bends", "OK Computer" and their new one, "In Rainbows".

Anonymous said...

Kid A is one of the most influential, music-altering albums of the last 15 years, while OK Computer, Hail to the Thief, and In Rainbows are all outstanding in their own right. Coldplay is about 5 years behind and still a watered-down version. If you need any more convincing, watch this year's Grammy's when Gwyneth Paltrow introduces Radiohead...I think she likes them more than Coldplay, and her husband is Chris Martin! This shouldn't be a debate...at all.

Anonymous said...

I tend to like both but reading this blog I have to chuckle. Radiohead fans, and in general the band, take themselves too seriously. They take the music even more seriously than it deserves to be taken. Talking about some of the band's music as "defining" and "changing music" is pretty laughable.

Anonymous said...

RADIOHEAD easily, coldplay are so boring and even there livley stuff is boring, its like they're trying to be different but not pushing the boundries enough. Radiohead however have some songs which can only be described as ART, the music teamed with thom's voice and lyrics just spark something inside of you

Why can't we all just get along? said...

After reading through the comments, I suddenly had a strong desire to post a well-formulated comment. My personal preference would be Coldplay, but only my a hair. If you're an avid listener to both and as musically inclined as I am, you're probably going to realize that both are different outright. They share a niche in the same genre, but that's where the similarity ends. I'm going to start by referring to Radiohead. This particular group has been creative outright since OK Computer, when they began to play with their time signatures and electronics. Coldplay is similar, but in no way is a bland Radiohead. Coldplay varied their musical style from the beginning- listening to their albums in chronological order will reveal a distinct difference in musical styles. Where Radiohead started out somewhat bland themselves, a fact that receives little publicity, Coldplay were the same, having an album full of wistful ballads and love songs. All the same, Parachutes was wonderfully bland and fit in with the rest of the currently popular music the same way Pablo Honey was much like its contemporaries. A difference was very noticeable in A Rush of Blood to the Head and in The Bends alike that split them from their predecessors and the popular, similar music that once held them captive in the fog of the typical radio wave. In the same way that all other bands do, Coldplay and Radiohead had begun to develop their own sounds. Straight off, Radiohead became more musically original, (Prime example: "Bullet Proof... I Wish I Was) and Coldplay's music was slightly rockier and more lively, though their lyrics really went down the rabbit hole (Prime example: "A Whisper"). Each of them had different musical influences at the time. This continued throughout their albums; X&Y was Coldplay's OK Computer, Viva La Vida their Kid A. The two bands grew more experimental at the same pace; this change was just much more obvious in Radiohead, who had their experimental tracks on their albums and saved the less memorable songs for the B-sides. However, Coldplay is just the opposite: Listen to their B-sides and unreleased songs, and you'll get a taste of how far they're willing to step out of their comfort zone, their most creative and experimental track being 'A Spell A Rebel Yell.' The key difference between Coldplay and Radiohead is their creativity vs. their similarity between albums. Where Radiohead had many albums spanning many genres, each of these albums at most had a distinct sound to them. The key difference that separates Coldplay from their predecessor is that Coldplay's albums feature a wide sonic range, but don't change as much from album to album. As the more biased fans of either bands may have realized, both Radiohead and Coldplay differ equally and are both creative, but in different ways. But why, do you ask, do I like Coldplay more than Radiohead? I'm not completely sure. Maybe I like the hazy lyrics and wide range of ground they've already covered. But it's entirely up to you to decide- both bands are special in their own ways, and neither is the other. It all boils down to a matter of opinion.