articles / interviews Coldplay Cappella: Collegiate Crooners Do Chris Martin

I've never really been much of a Coldplay fan: their music sounds like it was written just to score movies and TV shows — and much of it ends up edited for that purpose or just plain overplayed over the airwaves.

But back in 2006, I was listening to the latest BOCA album — "Best of College A Cappella," an annual mix CD compiled from that year's a cappella recordings — when an arrangement of "The Scientist" caught me off guard. I almost didn't recognize it without Chris Martin's trademark whine, and I was pleasantly surprised at the layers and swells in the a cappella arrangement.

In 2009, however, Coldplay has become ridiculously overdone in the a cappella world. On the new BOCA CD, a track labeled "Coldplay Medley" actually plays an a cappella version of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up," a clever little rickroll poking fun at the community's affinity for covering that band.

There are still some good interpretations, though; out of the abundance of collegiate a cappella Coldplay covers, here are five of my favorites:

1. "The Scientist" as performed by Last Call (Cornell)
This is the one that started it all for me. And while the live version linked here doesn't have quite the precision of its studio counterpart, it does maintain some of the recording's most compelling moments: the buttery solo lead, the percussion that kicks in halfway through, and the eerie chant of "I'm going back / I'm going back / I'm going back / Back again" that closes out the song.

2. "Fix You" as performed by Exit 245 (James Madison University)
Exit 245 certainly adds energy to an otherwise sleepy song: their subtly changing syllables (doo — ahh — dah) and dynamics propel the song forward, while their choice to have most of the group singing along during the chorus gives it a powerful eeriness. And then there's that haunting final repeat of the bridge, with its stunning harmonies and oh-so-precisely staggered backing parts.

3. "Viva La Vida as performed by the Clef Hangers (University of North Carolina)
The jumpy string intro is what bothers me most about the original of this song, and the Clef Hangers have found a way to translate that without the annoyingness. This arrangement smoothes out the song's rough edges and swells into the choruses so triumphantly you can almost hear those Jerusalem bells ringing. And if that doesn't do it for you, the video can provide hours of entertainment as you try to decipher all the claptrap on their vests.

4. "Clocks" as performed by the Binghamtonics (Binghamton University)
This is a song that has always screamed for a female soloist. Plus, the cascading piano line sounds even more dizzying as the notes jump from one group member to another. Pet peeve alert: the 'Tonics aren't really doing a cappella any favors by having their members dress up as grapes (with balloon-emblazoned costumes) and other fruit.

5. "Yellow" as performed by the Accafellas (Michigan State University)
Sure, some of their choreography is a little goofy (especially the swimming part), but it's sure better than watching a group standing motionless. And it helps the Accafellas almost eradicate the memory of all those ABC commercials using this song. The vocals get a little sloppy in the bridge, but they pull it together again for the final wailing falsetto.

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Written by Express contributor Catherine Lewis

.: Originally published: 20 May 2009
.: Selected discography: Viva La Vida (Coldplay, 2008); Viva La Vida/Prospekt's March (Coldplay, 2008); X&Y (Coldplay, 2005); Live 2003 (Coldplay, 2003); A Rush of Blood to the Head (Coldplay, 2002); Parachutes (Coldplay, 2000).