I heard several people complain about Coldplay as rock band extraordinaires at the Grammys. I mean they were REALLY angry at the thought of Coldplay being mislabeled as a rock band. Apparently, piano playing leads don’t qualify as Rock. Who knew?
To make matters worse for Rock, you have The Fray, a talented band with a sophomore album on its way to similar stardom, and another lead singer playing piano. Rock snobs will not consider allowing these freaks into the genre. And God forbid you suggest that The Fray should have played Super Bowl halftime instead of Bruce Springsteen! That’s Rock heresy!
Like Coldplay, The Fray’s lead singer also plays piano, lending that soft, thoughtful, and emotional sound we’ve all come to recognize as a staple of contemporary music. It’s softcore emo, perhaps. Who knows? There is no real genre to describe bands like these. And they’re not the only two bands out there.
I heard an old friend’s story a couple months ago, about how his band was signed and ready to record their new album when everything fell apart. The Fray’s producer was in charge of fine tuning their sound, and he wanted them to lose most of the wild guitar riffs in favor of a more piano-centric sound… much like The Fray.
I was disappointed when I heard this. I thought perhaps the producer simply found a formula that works for today and is trying to fit everyone into that system. Maybe he heard something in them, though, that he felt would be more convincing in a softer expression. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I really never heard their music either.
Coldplay’s international success is second perhaps only to U2. The Fray doesn’t yet have their song quality consistency to the same level as U2 or Coldplay, but they have a promising sound, and delivered significant hits on their debut album. Both “Over My Head (Cable Car)” and “How to Save a Life” made a significant impact on pop culture in 2007-2008. Both songs made my all-time favorite song list, along with little known hit “Vienna” (..there’s really no way to reach me…). I’d match those two songs with any two top hits by Coldplay, though the rest of The Fray’s debut album was significantly weaker than any Coldplay has released.
I’m still listening to The Fray’s self-titled sophomore album. It has some catchy moments, but I haven’t yet found that song that is going to get me coming back again and again. To be fair, I’ve mostly listened to the new album as background music while I work, which doesn’t lend itself to the same level of inspection as when I hear a song loud and clear as I did when I first discovered The Fray (playing on someone’s MySpace profile).
I can understand the widespread appeal to bands like these. They aren’t so loud, angry, or obnoxious that fandom comes with an age-limit. Music lovers of any age can listen to most of their songs and find something appealing. They’re not exclusive in any sense. But they’re not Rock bands, and they’re not Alternative, whatever that really is. They need a new genre, and I’m open to suggestions.
What label do YOU give The Fray, Coldplay, and others with a lead piano?
- Music Review: ColdPlay’s Viva La Vida
- Music Review: Tiger Lou
- Music Review: NCIS The Official TV Soundtrack
- Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker – Welding the C:/
- Music Review: Volume One by She & Him
© 2009 – 2010, Daniel Dessinger. All rights reserved.