I’ve directed four music videos. This makes me an expert on music videos. To paraphrase Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hours Rule,” if you do something four times you are an expert. I asked comedian Patrick Monahan (the incredible @pattymo on Twitter) to join me in breaking down the video for “Adventure Of A Lifetime,” the first single from Coldplay’s A Head Full of Dreams. Pat is very good at Twitter. If you don’t follow him, go do that now.
You can watch the Coldplay video we’re going to discuss here. Keep it on in the background and glance at it once in awhile.
Making fun of Coldplay is easy to do. I’ve done it. I have also wept silently on a bus while listening to “The Scientist,” so we’ll call that a wash. I like Coldplay and enjoy eleven of their songs. “Clocks?” Are you kidding me? That shit is great. There are legendary bands that don’t have eleven good songs. The Stone Roses don’t have eleven good songs. The Cure don’t have eleven good songs (Don’t @ me.)
Coldplay hold the art of video making in high esteem, something most artists don’t do anymore. They hire cutting-edge directors to make visually striking companions to their songs. The band has made consistently interesting and highly watchable videos dating all the way back to 2000’s “Yellow.” “Yellow” came out 15 years ago! The slow creep of death marches on.
“Adventure of a Lifetime” hails from the “rockers makes a disco track” school (see: Kiss, Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Eagles, Maroon 5.) It’s the band’s attempt at a dance floor banger. To paraphrase Mr. Jones, a thinker on par with Malcolm Gladwell, I wish that Coldplay was someone just a little more funky. Enough about the song! We are here to talk about this video.
Daniel Ralston: Pat, I’d like to ask you something before we start the video. Do you think this preview image is a bad sign of things to come?
Patrick Monahan: I’d be lying if I said my first thought wasn’t “Is this some kind
of movie tie-in?” A Croods crossover, maybe.
DR: Do you agree that ape looks like a pickup artist?
PM: He’s definitely got a “vibe.” His face looks calculatedly unthreatening, yet his pose is very aggressive. So, yes, this monkey would not react well to being rebuffed.
DR: Ok, I’m hitting play.
PM: This video cost a lot of money. This landscape is insanely lush.
DR: This title card sets the fanciness bar very high.
PM: Even as someone who doesn’t know many music labels, Parlophone looms.
DR: It’s classy. Like we’re about to watch Baz Luhrmann’s Australia.
Also, that Parlophone trademark is a British Pound sign, I think.
PM: Must’ve gotten in early for that one.
DR: I’m not 100% sure about that being the Pound sign. I’ve never been to England. I’ll be well chuffed if I ever go, though.
PM: I’ve been there. It’s expensive. But you can get drunk in the same bar Dickens and Samuel Johnson did. That’s hard to come by.
DR: Sounds terrible.
(Spoiler ahead, readers. If you do not want to know the plot to this video, stop reading now. Also, if you feel that way, go sit in a trashcan.)
PM: Is the conceit of this video that Coldplay’s music is so transformative it teaches apes speech and rhythm?
DR: That’s the whole of it. That plot is a stretch for the term “film,” which is used here.
PM: It’s a stretch, yeah.
DR: Do you think this credit is a joke? Or did Coldplay spend, like, three weeks in motion capture suits?
PM: I have an extremely hard time believing Coldplay went full Serkis. Although imagine how mad they were when the video didn’t go viral. All that work.
DR: Motion Capture suits seems like something Chris Martin would love, but the rest of the guys would not be into at all. I know nothing about the other Coldplay members, but I assume they do not like fun and would prefer to be making a nice porridge or pot noodle.
PM: The CGI in this video is remarkably good.
DR: The look is definitely on par with a 2nd tier blockbuster. It looks as good as The Last Airbender. I asked myself, “How does a label still spend this much money in 2015?” Then the Beats Pill showed up 15 seconds in. Branding!
PM: Please include the relevant trademark symbols. Why not just have another ape find an iPhone 6S and fire up Apple Music?
DR: The 2001 homage in the finding of the Beats Pill is a little ambitious.
PM: This is a very arrogant video, even by music video standards.
I mean look at ape Chris Martin’s face. Synapses that have never fired before firing. All from listening to Coldplay. Quantum leaps in brain processing power. True awareness.
DR: I imagine the band sending a note to the FX people that read, “Can the apes appear to enjoy our music even more?”
PM: Clearly this is a hell of a song, and that Pill produces a hell of a sound.
PM: A thought occurs: are the apes aware of the camera crew? There are multiple instances of direct eye contact. They seem self-aware.
“Booty had me like”
DR: It definitely gets performative. The apes are feelin’ it. It’s worth noting that to make that shot of Ape Chris Martin feelin it, 50 animators probably had to work tirelessly for weeks. Maybe one of the animators’ marriages broke up over it. She was working crazy hours and tensions were high.
PM: Odds are, a marriage dissolved for someone involved with the making of this video. Maybe not because of the video, but it put a strain on things.
DR: Somewhere, someone hates this video so much.
PM: Someone met the person they’re having an affair with working long hours on this and her cuckolded husband is a huge Coldplay fan. Husband: “Every time I hear “Clocks” now I picture you and… and him.”
DR: “tfw your wife leaves you”
DR: The video is pretty meme-able? I wonder if that’s what the band and director were hoping for. The way “Hotline Bling” is made for gifs and screengrabs.
PM: This came out too fast to be reacting to a post-Hotline Bling world.
DR: I counter with this argument: “when she texts first”
PM: Ok, now you’re just doing memes that will never catch on.
DR: I am trying to justify this thing existing. I like that even in this CGI ape world they devote a lot of time to the other Coldplay apes just watching ape Chris Martin do stuff. That seems to mirror real life.
PM: And where are the other animals? Show me a sloth nodding its head! Maybe he didn’t get the brain juice, but he’s feeling it. This is kind of like We’re Back, where the dinosaurs become smart. That is a very particular reference.
DR: I am interested to hear this “brain juice” theory. I didn’t pick up on that upon first viewing.
PM: Well, it seems like only the Coldplay monkeys get the hyper-evolved brains, so they’re like Caesar from that Apes prequel. Only not worried about being slaves.
DR: Slavery does not seem to factor in here. I’m a little surprised Coldplay did not put in a slavery element. They are very politically conscious.
PM: The apes have evolved to the point that they can now play instruments. One of them is wearing a signature hat.
DR: The famous hat!
PM: Did whoever put the details in this think, “the guitarist will probably want to have a signature hat no one knows about.”
DR: I think Hat Guy was like “I gotta have my hat. That’s my thing. Everybody knows that.” Then the rest of the band has to meet without him to decide if it was worth it to spend an extra 600 bucks to CGI in a hat.
PM: I feel like, at BEST, the public knows that Coldplay has the guy who was married to Gwyneth and some other guys. Definitely no “Hat Guy.”
DR: The band tries to plan outfits for their big tours where that guy can definitely NOT wear a hat. But he always turns up in a hat.
PM: I think the hat began when the band had that phase where they were in military/marching band uniforms.
DR: The “2nd Rate Sgt. Pepper” -era.
PM: I think we’ve done a lot of hat material.
DR: I kinda just wanted to do this whole piece so we could talk about the hat.
DR: Pat, Please answer this multiple choice question:
How much do you like it when the Coldplay Apes (Coldpl-Apes??) dance in unison?
A. So much
B. Very Much
C. I also danced in unison
D. I got a Coldplay back tattoo the size of Ben Affleck’s dragon?
PM: B. Approaching C territory. I like how even with the magic of CGI they still are like, ZZ Top quality dancers. Or like the one guy in Van Halen who’s clearly struggling. It’s “I can’t believe they’re making me do this”-level shame. You can even see it in ape form.
DR: I have a new theory, Pat. I THINK THAT IS CHRIS MARTIN’S FACE, ABOVE! I think that’s the “starring Coldplay” part of the video. They definitely did a facial capture on him.
PM: I refuse to believe they mo-capped any of this nonsense. Chris Martin capering around a soundstage covered in ping-pong balls. Hat guy in a green hat with more ping-pong balls on it
DR: Ok, but…ENHANCE!
PM: “Make sure me peepers are the right color, yeah?”
DR: So now this Ape race has rhythm, some instruments, a Coldplay song and one Beats Pill with no charger.
PM: When the batteries run out it really turns into 2001. The apes get angry.
DR: The hat is going to get destroyed.
PM: Where did the Pill come from? Where did they come from? Is this Earth? If the goal of this video was to make me think, it’s working. If the goal was to make me enjoy the song, it is not.
DR: I would like to talk about the Paris dedication at the end of the video. Do we talk about that?
PM: I think it’s a nice sentiment.
PM: But, like, I dunno, man. What does this do for anyone? They were already making this if not done when the Paris attacks happened. The video dropped less than two weeks later.
DR: This seems like an instance where the desired message isn’t in step with the medium. The video is literally “CGI apes dance to a song on a Beats Pill.”
PM: It’s pure frivolity. Which, I guess you could argue, is nice because it’s not weighed down with heavy sentiment. But the branding element makes it rough.
DR: Like if there was a message of support for San Bernardino in a Best Buy commercial starring Jason Biggs.
PM: Right, or a card at the end of a Mike & Molly episode.
DR: The credits at the end list over 100 animators, producers, and crew people for this video! I am now just mad at how much this video must’ve cost. Actually, it’s great that all those people got paid to make a music video in 2015. This is all clearly rooted in my own professional jealousy. It has 17 million views in a few weeks!
PM: I still think if this were a movie, it would be called a bomb. Do music videos even help bands like Coldplay? They don’t need to raise Coldplay awareness. We are aware.
DR: It’s a weird thing. You kind of have to make them because a huge percentage of people only listen to music on YouTube. I read that in a People Magazine at the dentist.
PM: I guess that’s just so far removed from my reality I can’t even relate.
DR: I am guilty of listening to music on YouTube a lot. Also, I do still love music videos. That’s a big part of why I like Coldplay. They make good videos! I like the “Scientist” video so much. “Talk” is great. “Strawberry Swing” has a cool and innovative video.
PM: Is that last one fake? That’s not a real song.
DR: I told you in the intro, when it comes to Coldplay fandom I go to eleven. It’s one of their eleven good songs.