Coldplay’s new video looks like Chris Martin filmed his gap year

Many are criticising it for cultural appropriation

Just like paying rent or receiving a PPI call, a new Coldplay video is one of those miserable things that you know you must endure fairly regularly. You also know that whatever the content, people will talk about it. 

But the latest video, Hymn for the Weekend – released this morning – has kickstarted a debate about cultural appropriation. The song features honey-voiced, feminist icon Beyoncé and most of the criticism has been levelled at her: she’s wearing a sari, and critics are calling it cultural appropriation.

I studied the video to find out whether she had tarnished her glittering reputation. The truth, it turns out, was much more horrific.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the video looks like something a teenage Chris Martin filmed to document his gap year – but instead of skydiving, snogging an Aussie at a Full Moon Party in Thailand and stroking a sedated tiger in a Cambodian zoo it’s a mash-up of cliched Indian images, alternated with scenes featuring Beyoncé in traditional Desi outfits. He just needs a huge Berghaus rucksack, some fake Ray-Bans, and a picturing of him volunteering in a third world school for his Tinder profile. 

Chris Martin 1

Unlike the song – try to hum it three minutes after you finish listening, you won’t be able to – you cannot forget that the video is set in India. Not even for a second. The director Ben Mor delivers an assault of all things Indian throughout. Well not all things Indian; rather the sort of imagery spouted by the white guy with dreadlocks who was in your halls during your first year of university. I imagine that when Mor brainstormed the video, he just underlined “spirituality” and spent the days on set whispering “find yourself” into Chris Martin’s ear. Martin swans about like a badly-tailored messiah with a grin so smug that I fail to believe it wasn’t CGI.

Holy men? Check. Painted temples? Check. Beyoncé adorned in henna? Check. Peacocks roaming dilapidated temples? Check. Kids throwing powder paint as part of the Hindu festival of Holi? Check. Tuk Tuk? Check. Incredibly bright interior inside Tuk Tuk? Check.

Beyonce and Chris Martin

It’s like watching Slumdog Millionaire with the contrast set to maximum.

Sanskrit everywhere? Because it’s in India. Remember? Remember? Check. Kaleidoscopic backgrounds? Check. More brightly coloured powder paint being thrown? Check. Chris Martin and pals playing to a crowd of locals who are wondering what on earth they have done to deserve such cruelty? Check.

Yes, it’s in India, and yes, Coldplay are really spiritual, we get it. Just stop this now.

Powder paint being thrown everywhere despite the fact this festival only happens once a year? Check. Children doing backflips into the river? Check. Fireworks going off, despite it being daytime? Check. Eight-second cameo of Bollywood star Sonam Kapoor? Check. Coldplay each being chauffeured around on their own boat? Check. Feeling slightly uncomfortable when you see Beyoncé wearing a sari? Check.

Chris Martin 3

The criticisms are understandable. That Beyoncé wore a sari and adorned herself in henna is surprising: she is usually sensitive of these issues. The director’s decision to (almost) glamourise India’s social issues by creating a picturesque image of poverty is problematic; as is the fact that locals appear largely in the background. The video might mean well, but it plays close to a line of exploitation. 

The only thing of which I am certain is that the hoohah, and the Beyoncé guest spot, means I spent at least half an hour listening to one of Coldplay’s most boring songs to date, which is quite an achievement in a career splashed with so many bland and forgettable moments that I can’t even recall any to list here. I listened to it repeatedly and still can’t remember much about the song, beyond muted surprise that the lyrics mentioned “feeling drunk and high” (this is Chris Martin not Pete Doherty). You can imagine it as part of a montage on Saturday Kitchen. Ideally without the video.