The Story of Coldplay’s Debut Release, ‘Parachutes’
At the end of 2014, Chris Martin told Zane Lowe that Coldplay’s next album, A Head Full of Dreams, may very well be the British rockers’ seventh and final effort. Whether or not that turns out to be the case (Martin equivocated, “That’s not to say there won’t be another thing one day, but this is the completion of something.”), the news closely coincided with the 15th anniversary of the band’s very first offering, Parachutes, which arrived on July 10, 2000, in the U.K before landing in the U.S. the following November.
Not long after meeting in college, the quartet (Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman and Will Champion) inked a deal with Parlophone Records and released a trio of EPs: 1998’s Safety and 1999’s Brothers and Sisters and The Blue Room, the latter of which contained Parachutes’ "High Speed" and an alternate version of "Don't Panic."
The EPs saw the band trying slightly varying versions of the same hat. But with Parachutes, the bigger picture began to come into focus: Martin’s melancholic ruminations set to spare, atmospheric instrumentation with hints at the knowing grandeur that would eventually become a prerequisite on later Coldplay albums.
In some ways, Coldplay lucked into some good timing with Parachutes, as the album arrived around the same time as Radiohead’s Kid A. Martin and company’s intimate, brooding fare was viewed as a more digestible, accessible version of the Thom Yorke-led outfit's latest effort. Likewise, Martin and company owed a great deal to Travis and that Scottish band’s introspective brand of alt-folk heard on The Man Who a year earlier.
The glimmering, very likable combination of Martin’s piano and Buckland’s guitar landed the band a pair of radio-made singles in “Yellow” (which turned out to be about as literal as it gets, with Martin sourcing inspiration from a phone book) and the minimal “Trouble.” “Don’t Panic” became a sleeper hit a year after Parachutes’ release, even taking on a second life following its inclusion on Zach Braff’s Grammy-winning soundtrack for his 2004 film, Garden State. Non-singles like the nervy “Spies” and the quiet, restrained, if not dejected-sounding “Sparks” rounded out Parachutes as a solid collection and significant first outing.
While some shrugged off Parachutes (and Coldplay’s five proceeding LPs for that matter) for its in-betweenness -- pleasant enough but hardly groundbreaking -- the album was largely embraced and went on to become a commercial hit. It landed on the top of the U.K. charts and saw even more enduring success in the U.S. Likewise, the album went on to win the award for Best British Album at the Brits in 2001 and Best Alternative Album at the Grammys in 2002.
While “Yellow” may have served as an indicator of where Coldplay would go from their debut effort -- the U2-esque arena rock (2008’s Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends) with increasingly bloated musings (2005’s X&Y) and concepts (2011’s Mylo Xyloto) -- Parachutes was significant for Coldplay’s first delicate, wavering steps that would become much more self-assured as the band became more and more synonymous with their inclinations toward grandiose pop.
Parachutes also marked the beginning of Coldplay’s career that has been remarkable for maintaining its steady upward trajectory. The band’s debut LP enjoyed critical and commercial success for its crowd-pleasing likability. That has largely remained the case as Coldplay have transformed into a best-selling, chart-topping, well-oiled machine -- an expansion that has been paralleled in the songs themselves ever since Parachutes.