Backlash: Musicologist analyses Coldplay’s incident

Coldplay during a concert in Bucharest, Romania

Coldplay’s concert in Bucharest took an unexpected turn when the British band faced a strong backlash from their Romanian audience.

The chaos arose after lead singer Chris Martin invited a surprise guest, YouTuber Babasha, to perform on stage, singing manele – a highly controversial genre in Romania.

The manele debate

Dr Elena Sirghi, a musicologist specialising in ethnomusicology contextualised the outrage, on behalf of CSGOLuck, attributing it to a cultural clash. She emphasised that manele diverges drastically from the harmonies typically appreciated by Coldplay’s global fanbase.

“Manele feature exaggerated rhythms and vocals, heavily synthesised production, accompanied by controversial lyrics. The main themes contain messages promoting extreme materialism, sexism and alcoholism, typically laced with poor grammar and offensive language,” said Sirghi.

The decision to incorporate manele into their setlist was seen as a misguided attempt at local cultural integration for the musicologist: “This is admittedly an easy mistake to make for someone unfamiliar with the local culture. Musically and culturally, it is hard to imagine a Coldplay fan willingly listening to manele, which, had someone local advised them accurately, often spark visceral reactions.”

However, in this situation, the fans backfired intensely. The 55,000-capacity National Arena, initially filled with eager fans anticipating Coldplay’s debut in Romania, quickly inflamed as boos drowned out the music within minutes of Babasha’s appearance.

Tone-Deaf or Cultural Exploration?

The concert on the following day saw a divided audience, with some defending Coldplay’s attempt to embrace local culture while others condemned it as tone-deaf and disrespectful.

Martin’s attempt to address the controversy at the second show by repeating the manele performance and inviting offended fans to leave further fired up the reactions. While some defended the band’s attempt to integrate into the culture, many fans expressed disappointment and accused Coldplay of insensitivity towards Romanian culture.

The incident has raised discussions about the complexities of cultural integration in global performances and the risks of misjudging local sensibilities. As Coldplay continues its “Music of the Spheres” world tour, the Bucharest show serves as an example of the importance of acknowledging cultural differences respectfully and responsibly.

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Talyta Franca

Talyta Franca, Class 2026, Northwestern University in Qatar.

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