Why does a song sound better when someone is pining for love than when someone is singing about being in love? Is it because the listener is envious of the artist's romance? Or does the listener simply find it cloying?

It has been said that in order to make genuinely good music, you have to be absolutely miserable. (If this is true, a musician's lot is a sad one.) In the case of Coldplay's principal songwriter and vocalist, Chris Martin, it's not that he was necessarily unhappy when his group recorded its first two albums, but that he was searching for something. His quest for love came pouring out of singles such as "Shiver" (from Parachutes) and "Daylight" (from A Rush of Blood to the Head), and his sincerity touched a mass nerve.

After landing a Hollywood prize in the form of Gwyneth Paltrow and the subsequent emergence of the Apple of their eye (sorry, had to be done), it sounds like Martin is in high spirits (too bad) on Coldplay's third full-length, X&Y. Sharing its name with the two most popular sex chromosomes, the album attempts to reach the heights of such unadulterated gems as "Spies" and "Trouble." "White Shadows," in which Martin's refrain "Everything you ever wanted/In a permanent state" rides on a jaunty bouncing bass line, tries to evoke the feeling of happiness through its music and lyrics. Similarly, the title track, despite cheesy phrases such as "you and me," "riding on tidal waves," and "outer space," seems sincere in its romantic intentions.

But Martin's trite and predictable lyrics eventually prove to be X&Y's downfall. Case in point: the lead single "Speed of Sound," in which he matches Kate Bush's chorus "Running Up That Hill" note for note. Or the cringe-worthy "Fix You," whose Phantom of the Opera-esque organ attempts to mask Martin's disposable lament: "Lights will guide you home and ignite your bones ... I will fix you." Lame.

Although not nearly as soul stirring as the first two Coldplay efforts, X&Y isn't all bad. While it doesn't reflect how good the group really is, it's not repulsive, which could be said of the records their rapidly multiplying clones are making. This album is enough to hold you over until Martin's life falls apart and his music gets good again.


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