Coldplay 'Parachutes' Into U.S. Success

It's become known as the "British evasion" -- many British acts, especially newcomers, are either having great difficulty or dodging entirely the issue of getting hits on today's U.S. charts. But

It's become known as the "British evasion" -- many British acts, especially newcomers, are either having great difficulty or dodging entirely the issue of getting hits on today's U.S. charts. But rock band Coldplay is making itself an exception.

The band -- a commercial and critical success in its native England -- is starting to find a sizable U.S. audience with its debut album, "Parachutes" (Parlophone/Nettwerk/Capitol Records), which has become a hit on The Billboard 200. Propelling sales for the album, say insiders, are airplay for the first single, "Yellow," and influential praise from music critics.

Aided by an eagerly awaited U.S. tour and not handicapped by either a slick "pretty boy" image or attention-seeking gimmicks, Coldplay is winning over fans for no other reason than the band's style of introspective music, according to industry observers.

"Parachutes" debuted at No. 1 on the U.K. albums chart in July 2000, when it was released there. Since then, the band has received a slew of U.K. music awards and nominations. Coldplay has been nominated for three Brit Awards: best British group, best British album, and best British newcomer.

This year's Brit Awards will be presented Feb. 26 in London. Last year, "Parachutes" won the Q Award (presented by U.K. music magazine Q) for best album of the year. In addition, U.K. magazine New Musical Express (NME) has nominated Coldplay for five NME Awards: best band, best album ("Parachutes"), best single ("Yellow"), best newcomer, and best evening session (for Coldplay on BBC Radio 1). The polls also awarded Coldplay the honors in the indie rock category for best band, best album, and best single for "Yellow."

Released in the U.S. on Nov. 7, 2000, "Parachutes" jumped to No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart in the Jan. 13 issue, and is now at No. 68 on The Billboard 200.

Roy Lott, president of EMI Recorded Music North America and president of Capitol, says the appeal of Coldplay is simple: "Their music is special and distinctive. They have lyrics that connect with people."

He adds that unlike other British acts, "Coldplay has lyrics which are universal. The band is similar to Radiohead in that way. Some other British acts which haven't been a big success in America have lyrics which speak mainly to a British or European audience. Coldplay isn't like that, and that's one of the reasons they've crossed over to an American audience."

As the band's guitarist Jonny Buckland explains, "We just wanted to do an album of good songs that are emotional and quite simple -- a natural-sounding record that wasn't heavily produced. Our songwriting doesn't have a formula."

London-based Coldplay was founded in 1996, and the current lineup consists of Buckland, lead singer Chris Martin, bassist Guy Berryman, and drummer Will Champion.

The band is on tour in Australia until Feb. 4. On Feb. 8, the band embarks on a North American tour, which kicks off in Vancouver. In April, the band begins a U.K. tour, and there are tentative plans for Coldplay to launch another U.S. tour in May or June.

Lott says many of the U.S. dates on the upcoming tour "sold out quickly. In some cities, we even had to move some of the shows to larger venues."

"We just want to play well," says Buckland of Coldplay's crucial upcoming North American tour. "We're a lot better than we used to be. We don't use backing tracks. We try to change the set list on different nights."

Meanwhile, "Yellow" has become a hit on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart, where it just broke into the top-10, at No. 9. The "Yellow" video is in heavy rotation on MTV2 and medium rotation on MTV.

Buckland says that even though the band's laid-back sound may be misinterpreted as gloomy, Coldplay's music is "eternally hopeful."

He adds that the band is working on its next album, which "might be out sooner rather than later."

Lott is confident that Coldplay won't meet the same fate as many other acts that experience their first big hit, become a darling of critics and modern-rock radio, and then fall out of favor with the music industry and the public when the act's follow-up album is released.

"Coldplay isn't a one-hit-wonder band," Lott insists. "We're going to make sure of it. Fortunately, the press doesn't view this band as a one-hit wonder. All people have to do is listen to the 'Parachutes' album to know that."

As Buckland says, "Proving ourselves hasn't lost its excitement for us.