When Coldplay’s new album A Head Full of Dreams hits stores Dec. 4, the band’s place in the modern pop canon will not be in question. But there was a time when they were still new and unproven—and, according to TIME, “cute young things” who were striving to move past the image of being “Radiohead Lite.”
“[Parachutes, their first full-length album,] shared the warbling vocals and slow, stately beat of Radiohead’s more conservative efforts, and comparisons between the two bands ran amuck in the music press–as did disdain from other musicians, who saw the newcomers as rip-offs,” the magazine wrote in 2001. That was the case even though it was clear that the bands didn’t actually have much in common. Coldplay’s members were younger, their music was more conventional and their lyrics were sweeter. Alan McGee, a noted music manager, was quoted calling the band “music for bed wetters.”
The test would be whether Coldplay could compete with Radiohead at the Brit awards, and the band did so with flying colors, beating their more-respected peers in several categories.
The next year, when Coldplay’s second album A Rush of Blood to the Head dropped, they had clearly decided to stick with what worked. They were “plowing ahead with the bed-wetter thing and improving,” TIME noted. They still made “wuss rock” but it was “excellent wuss rock.”
Dozens of major music awards and millions of record sales later, it’s clear that these wusses are going strong.
Read the first TIME story about Coldplay, here in the TIME Vault: Cute Young Things