OH NO YOU DIDN’T, CHRIS.
Last night in Miami, Coldplay -- aka The Great “What if We Took Just Everything Irritating about U2 and Made THAT a Band” Experiment -- debuted a new song.
It is called “Houston #1.”
Brothers and sisters, I need to sit down.
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Look, I am not a native Texan. I have lived in the state a mere 18 years. I know a football team’s worth of folks whose ancestors have been here since it was a new state, its own republic and possibly Mexico.
But I love this state and, frankly, Hurricane Harvey has wrecked it in ways that Texas is going to have to deal with for the foreseeable future. We are not even close to being out of the woods on this.
What I am saying is, while Houston was reeling, while Houston was turning into Venice inside of four days, Coldplay inflicted upon it “Houston.”
Let’s break this nightmare down like it’s the Zapruder film.
In the middle of the Miami show, Chris Martin suddenly says, “We wanna do something now...we were supposed to play in Houston on Friday and of course the hurricane was coming.
"A lot of people were supposed to come to the concert, and we let them down," Martin continued. "We're so grateful for all the people who come to our shows, and canceling shows is not something we like to do, but in this instance we kind of had to."
Let’s pause here for a moment to acknowledge something: All of this is FINE. Classy, even. So far, so good. Hey, maybe he will dedicate “Speed of Sound” to Houston. That is a song about renewal and miracles and is kind of a ripoff of both Kate Bush and “Beautiful Day,” but that would be a nice shout-out to a city that is suffering, right?
“We thought, well, since we’re in Miami and since we’ve got a couple of days to spare,” Martin says, “let’s write a song for Houston, and we’ll sing it to you tonight and we’ll send it over there in all the spirit of joy and friendship and hopefulness.”
Um ... OK ... where are you going with this, man?
“We all grew up loving country music,” Martin says.
“And, of course, that’s kind of what we think of when we go to Texas,” Martin says.
Oh, no, Chris, whatever you are thinking of doing right now, stop ...
“This is a new song, and we’ll never play this again, it’s a one-off,” Martin says.
Also maybe not a great sign ...
And then ... the twanging starts as Martin and company break into their idea of country song.
“I’m dreamin’ of when I get back to Houston/I’m dreamin’ about a very special place/I’m dreamin' of when Houston has no problems/ in that city where they send you into space.”
(Well, technically correct, I suppose, but there is something a bit funny about this line considering they are playing in the state where people do actually launch you into space. Whatever, they’re British, it’s fine.)
“I'm dreamin' of when I get back to Texas/ Corpus Christi, Harris County, Galveston.”
(This very much seems like it was pulled from a CNN ticker.)
“There's a harmony that bonds down there in Houston/ Oh, Houston, you got to keep on keepin' on.”
(Uh ... OK)
“From Miami, we are sending love to Houston/ We're praying that you make it through the rain./ I know nothing's gonna break the will of Houston/ Oh, how we can't wait to go down there again.”
This is where it gets a tad offensive. While it is a nice thought that nothing’s going to break the will of Houston, what Houston could use right now is boats, money, a reconsidered infrastructure, emergency services, shelter, food, clothing, diapers and ... look, it’s a long list. When nature decides to have its way with a coastal city of 4 million, love and prayers can and will only do so much.
“I am dreamin' of when I get back to Texas/ Corpus Christi, Harris County, Galveston./ There's a harmony that bonds down there in Houston/Oh, Houston you got to keep on keepin' on.”
When you are done holding your dome, let us contemplate a few additional questions:
1. About the country thing: The most famous person in pop music from Houston is Beyonce Knowles, an increasingly world-historical pop force whom -- given her and Jay’s inexplicable fondness for Coldplay -- Chris Martin has probably met. Possibly many, many times.
Other famous Houston musicians include: ZZ Top, DJ Screw, Blue October, Yolanda Adams, the Geto Boys and, if you count Lake Jackson, the almighty Selena. As of 2017, Houston is considered the most ethnically diverse city is America.
All of this is Google-able in about two minutes time. You want to write about Houston, maybe a knocked-off honky-tonk ditty isn’t the most thoughtful way to go.
Of course country music is crucial to Texas, but let’s be honest: 1) paying tribute to a genre by writing a bad song in that genre is cliched and rude, not matter how genuine the sentiment; and 2) in 2017, a song about Houston would make more sense ripping off “Just Got Paid” or Paul Wall or “Crazy in Love.”
2. I have been rewatching Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” recently, which is a staggeringly well-written movie if you are fond of the sort of post-Shakespeare/King James Bible/ Deadwood-y speechifying of the 19th century.
At one point Lincoln all but yells at his Cabinet: “I am the president of the United States, clothed with immense power!”
Of course a pop group isn’t a president. But pop acts that play stadiums are clothed in immense power.
Coldplay could have donated their share of the door (as in the four guys on stage’s share, not the gross or the crew’s but THEIR share) to any one of a dozen organizations (and please tell me if they did).
They could have released a live recording of this unfortunate song on a limited edition 7” backed with an etching of Chris Martin’s face and charged $20 for the thing and sent all that money to a nonprofit getting Houstonians out of harm’s way and helping them.
Heck, if they had really wanted to own the entertainment news cycle, they could have asked their audience to think about who they plan to vote for in the future and how that candidate might react if a similar situation happened in Florida.
But nope. Just a bad song burnishing their bland brand.
Houston deserves better.