Tell us what you are looking for. I was filling out an online dating profile shortly after my spouse had left me.

This is what I came up with: “Baffling old woman with reasonable cans seeks more-or-less sober life form who genuinely dislikes Coldplay.”

“Fuck u, Coldplay is awesome.”

Things really hadn’t started out well.

As it turns out, a declared contempt for Coldplay can be cause for a great deal of rage. “Fuck u, Coldplay is awesome” was typical of the rejoinders to my profile. I now knew that the supermarkets had done their work.

If you have not before noticed, you certainly will now: the contemporary mid-range supermarket plays the music of Coldplay, or music much like Coldplay’s, almost constantly. At well-known, mid-range supermarkets, we can hear moderately sad songs of the type at all hours. Discount supermarkets play energetic pop. High-end gourmet supermarkets play jazz or children’s choirs murdering age-inappropriate popular songs at dawdling tempo and terrifying pitch. But the big brand stores elect to play music in this Coldplay key of tolerable desperation. They really do. Listen.

I know from my horrid work that it is consumer research that leads Western retailers to broadcast this refined white misery. Somewhere, a focus group has answered the question “What music makes you feel sad enough to want a chocolate but not to actually kill yourself?” with “Coldplay.” Marketing experts have learned that bands like Coldplay, REM and U2 make many of us crave a cure to an undefined pain. We’re just not any clearer about the nature of the remedy than we are of the ill.

When we hear this stuff in a supermarket, we are inclined to believe that the thing that it makes us crave is available on the shelves. I know that I have purchased napkin rings as the direct result of hearing U2’s With or Without You. Bono is a dick.

This is a very particular kind of music. It’s a slow, emotional drone that evokes a hint of our everyday pain. But it also fails to describe this pain so adequately that we might actually pause to investigate its source. Coldplay makes pain seem beautiful and manageable. Coldplay means we never stare pain in the face. We experience it briefly, then we are wont to shop our way out of it.

Pain-relief shopping is not always a terrible idea, by the by. If I’d had a little extra money during my break-up, I would have done well to throw it at my pain. I do not consider “retail therapy” a particularly immoral pursuit in a world so impossibly predicated on shite, and, certainly, it can be a remedy for distress, even if it is also the poison. Buy some stuff. It’s no big deal. Sometimes when I am anxious, I stare at online kitchenware stores for hours and bring myself to happiness with napkin rings.

But I was broke, job-free and temporarily unable to write any profitable sentence. I did not have the means to afford any mollifying tableware, so I wrote copy on the internet for no wages about how much I loathed Coldplay. Coldplay and the devious marketing strategies upon which their treacly whine was slathered.

I thought I was being rather funny. I kept adding to my profile on the theme of Coldplay-hate. In the section that asked, “What do you dream of?”, I said, “Coldplay dying in a freak aromatherapy spa accident”. This made me laugh but apparently failed to tickle a man in the 39-45 age range who asked, “Whats ur problem with coldplay ugly Dyke??”

Again, with the forcefully redundant capitalisation.

I tried to parse this difficult sentence. The proximity of Coldplay to a slur that was both sexist and homophobic and made by a straight man who liked Coldplay suggested either that it was (a) unfeminine not to enjoy this music, or (b) that the band was somehow very butch. Which is clearly untrue. Coldplay is as convincingly masculine as I was effortlessly stunning.

This message was one of many pro-Coldplay assaults whose basis I found difficult to identify and, therefore, fairly fascinating. The passionate love for Coldplay was both unfathomable and unexpected. In an effort to understand it, I kept adding to my profile vignettes about the grisly, alternative therapy-related murders of the band. I left the drummer for dead in a float tank and the bass player brutally finished off in a bee-sting therapy session gone awry. I did it because, of course, I hate Coldplay. Even more than I hate U2, who are so obviously naive it’s almost endearing–but, shit, Bono is a dick.

In any case, it wasn’t just because I hate Coldplay. I also wanted to see how much one’s taste could affect one’s emotional future.

People, including myself, can be very touchy when it comes to their favourite things. Taste is really quite important. The preferences and aversions detailed on these dating profiles meant much more to me, even a person quite aware that taste functioned to reveal nothing nobler about its bearer than social class, than they should.

For example, in performing a ‘female seeking female’ search, I saw a cruelly beautiful brunette of my approximate age. Goodness, she was gorgeous — she looked quite a bit like Ines, the saucy sleepwear designer. Her mildly censored naked profile picture showed the sort of unfeasible infinity figure otherwise seen only in the notebooks of masturbating sci-fi teen cartoonists very rarely here on earth in three dimensions. Hers was the kind of geometry that could start Lord Byron on a curvilinear tear. Poetry. It was a public service to show it. It should be a summary offence to conceal it. I reconsidered this whole yawning need for cock thing and prepared to message the author of the undulating vision.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but only if none of those words gather to form such sentences as: “I hate talking about issues, zzz, YOLO!” Or, “Nicolas Cage 4 LYF.” I like issues and I dislike being forced to think about Nicolas Cage — or, for that matter, the meaning of internet acronyms. Taste would not permit me to message the woman with the infinity figure and the careless abbreviations. Taste was some important bullshit.

Several people had messaged me on the matter of taste, though. Chiefly to tell me “You blow.” I was so captivated by how a mildly comic reference to a mediocre band could provoke so much real ire from so many middle-aged people. I mean, honestly, you pussies.

*This is an edited extract of Helen Razer’s new book, The Helen 100, which is published by Allen & Unwin and is available now for $29.99. The book is brilliant and filthy and you will not get anything done once you start it, because it’s perverse and addictive, the way the best things are. Helen will be at Readings Carlton on Monday, February 6, at Gleebooks Glebe in Sydney on February 8 and at Avid Reader West End in Brisbane on February 9 to talk about the book. You should go because the events will be full of degenerates who find this sort of filth hilarious, as you will. 

Peter Fray

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