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Book Review: Viva Coldplay: A Biography by Martin Roach

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Viva Coldplay by Martin Roach, serial biographer, is one of those books that come with the warning subtitle: ‘a biography’. Books with that subtitle tend to be quickly written (this one is a revised version of a book that went before, Nobody Said It Was Easy), shallow texts dedicated solely to the more famous events in a celebrity’s life and come with sometimes nauseating sycophantic praise for the celebrity being covered (I read one about J.K. Rowling that followed this template to the letter and was a complete waste of my time). 

For anyone who is unaware, Coldplay is a British band that formed in 1996 or thereabouts. They went on to storm the charts and crack America with a series of successful albums and singles. I’ve heard quite a few of their songs as they were hard to miss during the late 90s, so I do at least have some knowledge of the songs. This book goes into detail about how each new single and album was instrumental to their overall success (repeat as needed until you put down the book). 

While the book does seem very well researched (there are a lot of detailed anecdotes and quotes attributed to the band), the writing verges on the sycophantic a lot and this can make it difficult to read (at least, without making me reach for my revolver). It’s obvious that the man is a fan, and it shows far too much. This makes it feel like the band can do no wrong in the author’s eyes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see a clean-living band but sometimes you want scandal; it makes things more interesting. 

The book was definitely interesting at times and I did find myself learning a lot more about the band (well, more about Chris Martin than the band – they remain very much in the background throughout). However I do feel that those times didn’t come often enough.

Something that should tell you about how engaging the book is is that it took me almost a week to read 200 pages, and I’m a fast reader. It’s hard to see who it’s targeted at, because new readers such as myself would probably be repelled from the band’s output by the way the author hypes them up like they are demigods (no doubt Chris Martin, being the angst-ridden front-man of the group, would object to that), whereas die-hard fans would find absolutely nothing new in this book.

And it’s a minor point, but worth stating: I feel that this book is somewhat expensive for what you’re getting (£14.95 over this side of the pond), which is 200 pages of praise for Coldplay and some photos of them. While that may be enough for some people, it’s not for me. The book is good as a reference point and a one-time read, but not much else. One to avoid, methinks. 

You can’t fault the author though – nobody said it was easy to write a biography of Coldplay. (There, I almost made it out of the article without doing a Coldplay pun.)

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