Coldplay has just announced its latest album title, which is going to be called Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. I have no idea why. It’s one of the worst album titles I’ve heard. People are probably going to buy a bazillion copies of it. Huh.

If you mention Coldplay to people, you get a reaction. It’s usually either violent or rapturous. Their fans are rapidly fan-atic, and their detractors really detract. For example, some people won’t listen to Coldplay at all because they’re “overplayed.” Okay, fair enough – it makes sense to avoid a band if you’ve heard them too much. But that doesn’t necessarily make the music terrible. Many beautiful pieces of classical music are overplayed precisely because they are wonderful. I don’t mean to say that frequency of play only happens to good music – just that the two things aren’t related by necessity.

I think there’s an underlying issue here, and it’s the issue of popularity in music. Some people, when they listen to music, refuse to listen to anything that is considered too popular. The old joke is that if anyone else has heard of your favorite band, then you need to find a new one. If you like obscure indie rock, fine – there’s some good stuff out there. But I think it’s a mistake to discount a band because they happen to be on a record label (or, heaven forbid, actually make money in their career). Popularity doesn’t indicate quality, right? Everybody knows that. But not everybody knows that unpopularity doesn’t indicate quality either.

I like Coldplay. They’re one of three or four bands whose albums I would buy on the day they come out, regardless of the singles. I trust them to give me a good slice of music. But I wasn’t a huge fan of X&Y. The band was too conscious of its own success, many of the songs weren’t heartfelt, and (I hesitate to say this about any album) it was too long. There were wonderful parts – Fix You is one of their greatest tracks. But after the delightful surprise that was A Rush of Blood to the Head, it was disappointing to find Coldplay getting so full of itself.

So. The new album. I have no idea if it will be good. I’m pretty sure it won’t be the greatest thing they’ve ever done, as their own hype will try to sell the album. After X&Y didn’t quite live up to the hope, they need to impress me this time around for me to stick around. They might. We’ll see.

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