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Coldplay's Chris Martin: A low-key, ego-free rock star


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Coldplay's Chris Martin: A low-key, ego-free rock star



Critics may be awarding Chris Martin gold stars for his creative output on Coldplay's new album, but he flunks the rock-star test when it comes to swagger. In a field notorious for outsized egos and overweening braggarts, the singer delights in denigrating himself and brandishing his imperfections the way his peers flash tattoos.


In a self-mocking voice mail, he identifies himself as the singer for "Britain's favorite soft-rock experts."


Describing the surfeit of material crafted for Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, out Tuesday, Martin cracks: "We write a lot of songs, and most are even worse than the ones we release."

And where does the band's fourth album rate among its predecessors? "It's definitely in the top four."


Pressed to confess one positive aspect about his contribution to Viva, he finally summons a boast. Sort of. "The only thing I can say is I tried really hard," says Martin, 31. "I give myself an A for effort and man hours. But I'm not going to claim to be as talented as Usher or Beyoncé. I'm surrounded by enough people in my life who are super-successful that I always feel I can do a bit better. And I'm lucky I'm in a band, because we can hide each other's faults."


Martin's waggish diffidence has obvious charm, but his insecurities seem unwarranted. Despite years of slumping album sales, Coldplay has thrived and now ranks alongside U2 and Radiohead as rock's biggest global sensations, a reputation that seems safe with the arrival of Viva. The bold 10-track set captures the band's live energy and experiments with dissonance, grooves, adventurous arrangements and Eastern rhythms without abandoning such core strengths as big hooks, emotional saturation and sumptuous melodies. In the U.K., the Telegraph dubbed Viva "bright, warm, rich and strikingly memorable," while The Independent sneered, "It's the new Gold Standard of Average Music." Martin stopped reading reviews after The New York Times skewered X&Y in 2005.


"I'll only get depressed," he says. "Last time, there were some bad ones. What I took from that is we have to try as hard as we humanly can so people don't part with their money unnecessarily. Criticism gets under my skin for about 20 minutes. I get upset, angry, driven, focused, and I start writing. You can only try to get better."


Martin credits producers Brian Eno and Markus Dravs, who worked with Coldplay heroes U2 and Arcade Fire, respectively, for pushing Coldplay to stretch. Eno enlisted a hypnotist to coax subconscious input.


"The whole goal was to feel free and not constrained by outside pressure," Martin says. "Getting a hypnotist was an effort to break from the past. All I remember about that day was lying on the floor and being told to try this and try that. None of us remember what we did. With Brian Eno, you do what he says."


The sessions resulted in riffs and sounds for 42, Strawberry Swing and an unfinished track that may pop up later, along with a vocal version of instrumental Life In Technicolor and a duet with Kylie Minogue.


The latter was cut from Viva, not for being "too sexy," as Martin joked in a widely reported radio interview, but "because it's not finished," he says, predicting a late 2009 release. "Her singing is amazing, and mine isn't so good yet."


Martin, bassist Guy Berryman, guitarist Jonny Buckland and drummer Will Champion shaped Viva in their new London studio, a renovated bakery "that put the focus on the band," he says. "It's nondescript, not flash. We didn't have our friends, kids, girlfriends or wives there. It was sort of Harry Potterish and magic to us. Otherwise, we'd phone in parts from beach houses around the world."


The studio is minutes from the home he shares with actress Gwyneth Paltrow, whom he wed in 2003, and their daughter Apple and son Moses. He's mum on his private life, acknowledging only that "there are elements that are not so brilliant, but the pros always outweigh the cons. I don't have to worry about gas bills, unless nobody buys a CD again."


That prospect isn't entirely groundless, given the industry's dire state.

"Nobody thinks about paying for anything, and music is becoming like tap water," Martin says. "That's probably where it's going. You pay a music bill and turn on the tap when you want music. I don't think pop stars should leave space on the wall anymore for platinum discs. Forget that aspect of interior design. I'm less concerned with the business model and more with how to compete with (Radiohead's) OK Computer. The one thing that bothers me is how new people will find a way."


Of course, he has a few self-doubts about his own future. He's committed to sticking with Coldplay. ("Without the band, I know full well I would be playing Elton John standards on a cruise ship.") And when he turned 30, Martin felt qualms about waning creative powers.


" 'Nerd alert' is the phrase," he says. "I went to Wikipedia and checked to see how old Michael Stipe was when R.E.M. did Automatic for the People. He was two years older (than I was). Jay-Z made The Blueprint at 31. So it was all OK. I think you are sent good songs between 28 and 33."


So Martin isn't procrastinating. While he lavishes some free time on his obsessions for World War II books and Woody Allen films, he's usually busy composing pop songs.


"And if I'm fed up with being Mr. Coldplay, I try to pretend I'm Rihanna for a day," he says. "It's a far sexier way to spend 24 hours."




Coldplay, singer Chris Martin hot to make fans happy


Touted as one of 2008's hottest commodities, Coldplay is playing it cool.

"On the last record, we got caught up in things we didn't enjoy, like people talking about share prices and investors," singer Chris Martin says. "We got very big but felt a little lost.


"This time, we were hungry to disassociate ourselves from anything other than improving someone's holiday or bath time."

On Tuesday, the British quartet releases fourth album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends amid huge marketplace expectations, especially from label EMI. The company is desperate for a blockbuster after its takeover last year by a private equity group resulted in layoffs and financial strain.



Arguably the heir apparent to U2, the band has sold 30 million albums since 2000 debut Parachutes. Their last, 2005's X&Y, held Billboard's No. 1 spot for three weeks straight and eventually sold 10 million copies worldwide, according to Nielsen SoundScan.


Today, Coldplay is turning a cold shoulder to revenue pressures.

"I want people to keep their jobs," Martin says, "but our primary consideration has to be the 16-year-olds who are going to listen to it and not the shareholders who are never going to listen to it."


Rejecting hard-sell tactics, Coldplay enticed fans with freebies: the single Violet Hill at Coldplay.com (2 million downloads in a week), streaming the full album at iheartmusic.com and concerts Monday in London, Tuesday in Barcelona and June 23 in New York.


Tickets are selling fast for the Viva La Vida tour, which was set to launch this weekend, but has been pushed back to July 14 because of production delays.


"We're still asking people to buy our record, but we're putting as much free stuff out there as possible," Martin says. "It's like the shopping channel that gives you a trampoline for buying a running machine. We wanted to say thanks."

Viva has racked up the tallest pre-release sales in iTunes history, and it's outselling the top 40 combined at online retailer Play.com. The title track, Coldplay's hottest single ever, is the No. 1 download with 768,000 sold to date. Yet with CD sales in a tailspin, the band is unlikely to match past peaks.


"Jack Johnson had his best career week this year, and Mariah Carey had her best opening, so it's not impossible to show growth in 2008," says Geoff Mayfield, Billboard's director of charts. "But it's foolhardy to predict Coldplay will have its biggest week ever."


The challenge is creative, not commercial, counters Martin, insisting, "We were and still are extremely fired up. We're still trying to prove why we got the job in the first place."



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Rocking Revved Up Coldplay Star's Sad Sex Life


(I'll hijack your thread instead of making a new one for this worthless news :P)


COLDPLAY star CHRIS MARTIN was inspired to become a rock star because he was sick of having nothing more than platonic relationships with girls he fancied.


Now married to Hollywood beauty Gwyneth Paltrow, the singer admits his teenage years were full of romantic frustrations.


He tells Rolling Stone magazine, "I had a tricky time with girls until I was, like, 21. I got trapped in the friendship tip many, many times.


"It was like, 'I need to be a rock star because this is no good - being the kind of guy that everybody likes but no one wants to have sex with. I don't want to be the person that makes everybody laugh before they go off and bang. I want to be the guy that everybody bangs."


The candid Coldplay frontman tells the publication that Paltrow is his only "serious relationship".


He adds, "I don't think it's that weird. It wouldn't be weird 200 years ago... Think of Romeo and Juliet."


And he insists he has no problems being married to one of the world's most famous women: "I always felt it would be great to be with a very powerful woman because it would keep you in your place.


"Being married to someone very successful and very powerful basically keeps you hungry to improve."



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