Chris Martin: Rihanna ‘is the Frank Sinatra of our generation’


I’ve been rolling my eyes at Chris Martin for years, but I have to say, I actually liked him a lot after reading this Guardian interview. The Guardian interviewed Chris and the other Coldplay guys ahead of their performance at this year’s Glastonbury festival, which will probably (??) be their last Glastonbury as a band. Who knows? It was widely believed that their current album would be their last, but Chris walked that back a few months ago, so I have no idea. Maybe Coldplay will last forever! As for this interview, Chris just comes across as really nice. He talks about the process of songwriting, why he thinks Rihanna is like Frank Sinatra, and why he loves emojis. Seriously. Some highlights:

Martin’s life philosophy: “I don’t want to go through the whole of my life feeling sh-tty about myself. Because it’s not making anyone happy… my philosophy at the moment is that I’m great – and so is everybody else. You have to fit your own oxygen mask. That’s really my philosophy now: our band is the best band in the world. And so are all the other bands.”

He loves the Mike Posner “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” song: “I’m not [joking]! The Seeb remix of it. I want to write a song as good as that…That song, or One Dance, that new Drake song, they just get me. In my body … sometimes it’s that indefinable quality – it always fascinated me. This person loves tangerines, this person loves raspberries, and my son won’t even look at berries. Isn’t that amazing? And so I have to apply that to music, otherwise I would always hide in a hole, because of all the people that don’t like Coldplay.”

He loves emojis: “Someone said that if you send a text with emojis I can’t be friends with you, and I thought, there are some things that I can’t say without emojis. So I hope they don’t go away. Today I was texting someone and I thought, there’s only one emoji that can express what I’m feeling… what was it today? It was a princess and a heart. I was like, I couldn’t express that in words. So, basically, what I’m trying to say is that I need emojis in interviews, because there are some things I have no words for. How do I write a hook? I’ll tell you. With a musical note, a thumbs up, happy face, and then people clapping. That’s basically it.”

On Rihanna: “She is the Frank Sinatra of our generation. She can turn anything into gold with that voice. Here’s the thing: if you speak to a good singing teacher about great opera singers, they will talk about consistency of tone. Or there’s a book by Alfred Tomatis about why some people like certain people’s voices and other people hate them, like Bob Dylan or me or whoever, some people say, ‘Oh, I hate that voice’, so there’s a thing about people’s frequency responses – what they are pleased by. Rihanna has this thick tone, so it’s very hard to annoy anybody. It’s like a beautifully squeezed tube of toothpaste. When you think of Rihanna’s voice you think of this whole, rich thing, solid like a tree trunk, and. Drake is pretty similar. But Rihanna’s voice is just delicious for your ear. Sinatra had the same thing; anything he sang sounded pleasing to most people.”

[From The Guardian]

There’s been a lot of discussion about his comments about Rihanna and whether he’s full of it or whether he’s on to something. While I’ve never thought of Rihanna as technically one of the greatest singers – as in, she doesn’t have a technically amazing voice – there is something very pleasing about her voice. Chris is right that there’s something thick and delicious about Rihanna’s voice, although comparing her to Sinatra seems… I don’t know, a bridge too far? She doesn’t have the range.

Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet, WENN, Getty.

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71 Responses to “Chris Martin: Rihanna ‘is the Frank Sinatra of our generation’”

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  1. Jenna says:

    It’ll be interesting to see how many people comment purely on the headline. But, with actual context, he makes a lot of sense. She has got one of those great ‘hook’ voices, it’s very smooth and listenable. You usually get that with singers that aren’t traditionally great. Like a Beyonce or a Whitney would completely overpower a song they’d feature on, while Rihanna usually slides right in with ease.

    • JB says:

      She’s not traditionally great, because she doesn’t have the range. Although, I honestly feel like her voice is thicker than Beyonce’s voice for some reason.

      • Fee says:

        While I’ve never thought of Rihanna as technically one of the greatest singers – as in, she doesn’t have a technically amazing voice – there is something very pleasing about her voice….
        Its auto tuned, those songs where her voice sounds heavy, its played with. But which singer today doesn’t auto tune their vocals, there are few singers who carry a string voice, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Marian Carey,Adele n many more who don’t have super status to be known.
        When I went to a concert for a band I loved, the male singer live,was hoooorrible, rarely u hear their real voices.

    • detritus says:

      Yeah, I was ready to jump all over Martin.
      This… makes sense to me.
      I feel the exact same way about Rihanna and Drake. Their voices are almost hypnotic.
      Thick and rich.
      I don’t love every single thing they do – omg please stop wurk wurk wurk wurk wurk
      But on the whole I want to stop and listen.
      One of my favorite Rihanna songs is Te Amo. Almost no radio play, beautiful though.

      Anyhow this interview made me like Chris Martin a bit more. Also, I think he’s hitting on Rihanna a bit here. Which I cannot fault him one iota for.

    • Paige says:

      “She has got one of those great ‘hook’ voices, it’s very smooth and listenable”.

      Rihanna doesn’t have a good singing voice. She’s like Shakira and Britney Spears. A terrible singer who got lucky. Her song, “Work” is probably the worst song released this year.

      • Chaz says:

        @Paige I agree. Not a good comparison at all.

      • Melpomene says:

        I don’t know if the comparison to Shakira is fair. Maybe if you’re only referring to her career in English, and exclusively marketed for America. Before that she had a rich career in Spanish and while not sounding traditional, she showed quite a range and awesome style. When she entered the American market, she dyed her hair blonde, shed ever pound in her body, and started to sing in..well, some sort of English. (Also completely sexualized her image to hell and back).

    • Natalie says:

      lol@Beyonce being a great singer

  2. Julie says:

    I feel like Rihanna’s voice is thin.

    • Pinky says:

      One note (quite literally), and she doesn’t have the range. I guess I am not attuned to her frequency, because I turn off the music when I hear her voice. To each their own.


      • SnazzyisAlive says:

        Lol, me too

      • Kate says:

        Sinatra’s range was fairly limited too. People like to pretend he had a huge range, but when not recording in ideal conditions he very, very rarely strayed out of his comfort zone. He recorded about a gazillion songs, but in 99% of them he doesn’t stretch himself at all. All the claims that he could hit this note or that note come from a tiny handful of recordings. He could do it, just not often and almost never while performing.

        He was a great singer though, his range just wasn’t the reason for that. As Martin says, he had lovely tone, a good way of interpreting songs, and he was good on stage. The mob connections helped too.

      • Alex says:

        Rihanna could NEVER

        And neither could Chris Martin, for that matter.

    • Rev says:

      Kate, Frank was FAMOUS for hitting his notes during his performances. He was one of the best performers ever. It wasn’t until his final years that he starting losing it.

      No way can you compare him to this generation of Auto-Tune “singers”. Artists are pretty disposable these days. Let’s see if Rhiana is even remembered a few years from now.

  3. M says:

    Their Glastonbury set was outstanding, they paid tribute to Viola Beach (a very young British band killed in a horrific accident earlier this year) by playing along to a video of their song. He said “Lets write an alternative future for them, one where they headline Glastonbury”. He also bought his kids out to sing, Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees and Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis. They essentially delivered 2 hours of genuinely joyful entertainment. The message was one of love, acceptance and inclusion during a really terrible time for Britain (and beyond, of course).

  4. Nev says:

    Who would want to be compared to Sinatra in general? Wasn’t he a big abuser? Ugh.

    • SusanneToo says:

      From Rolling Stone- Baritone Frank Sinatra was indisputably the 20th century’s greatest singer of popular song.
      I think the comparison was musical, not personal.

  5. Almondjoy says:

    I wouldn’t go that far. Rih IS iconic though. I think she has a great voice and it’s very unique. She was amazing as guest coach on The Voice. She gave great advice and she has more range than people give her credit for.

    • HH says:

      All of this.

    • Naya says:

      Its definitely unique, I dont know about that great part though.

    • Nev says:


      Anti to me is album of the year. Amazing.

    • QQ says:

      YES! I would want HIS thin Reedy Voiced self to sit down on that BUT that said Riri’s Voice is quite delicious and sexy but definitely not a powerhouse of range, is the same thing with Drake, Comfort voices? ( FWIW Drake’s Vocal coach had an amazing interview with Jia tolentino where she speaks to that)

    • I Choose Me says:

      I wouldn’t go as far as great, more like good. But she really does have more range than people give her credit for and I find her voice very pleasing myself so basically I agree.

    • Carol says:

      Yep. I love Rihanna’s voice (and her fashion sense) but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was as great or even as good as Frank Sinatra’s.

  6. FingerBinger says:

    By default Rihanna can’t be the new Frank Sinatra. Sinatra could sing.

  7. Naya says:

    I have no idea what he is talking about as I find her voice nasally and incredibly annoying. There are songs I cant even listen to till the end because that pinched nose effect is so bad. I think her success has to do with how she styles her image and, her formula for simple and repetitive her ear worm choruses.

  8. InvaderTak says:

    From Michael Legge twitter (comedian not actor): Off to Glastonbury today? Don’t forget to bring heavy boots and an umbrella. In fact, anything you can throw at Coldplay.
    And: Phill Jupitus has tried it. And if Noel Fielding is telling the truth Coldplay’s manager sounds really sensitive.
    Drop dead Martin.

  9. Brea says:

    To me, Rihanna has a beautiful distinctive voice and can actually do vocal gymnastics when she commits to it. My issue with her is that she isn’t consistent and she doesn’t really rehearse that much, she seems to have a lazy attitude towards live performances. Beyonce’ has an incredible gift, but she also practices herself to death with singing and dancing and that’s why her live performances are excellent.

    • Kate says:

      See, I really enjoy Rihanna live precisely because she’s not particularly rehearsed. She takes songs off on interesting tangents because she’s feeling it, interacts with fans outside of the pre-determined ‘talk to fans’ moments, does some killer impromptu encores. It’s nice seeing a pop star just do what they feel on stage instead of watching a military operation go down. Beyoncé, Taylor etc. have touring down to a fine art, but it’s not the only way to perform and once you’ve seen a few of their shows you really notice how regimented and formulaic it is. Outside of MJ, pop concerts weren’t always that way, and a Rihanna is a breath of fresh air for me.

      • Brea says:

        I don’t know, there’s difference between slightly changing up the studio version to make the live more interesting and messing the whole song up. Her last performance of Love on the Brain was amazing and she changed a lot of the studio version. Maybe she has issue with singing and dancing at the same time, because she lacks vocal control when she dances imo.

    • frankie says:

      Many pop starts even the great one lke Adele would have issues with dancing and singing. Dancing and Singing is Beyonce thing

      • cherrypie says:

        @ Brea, vocal control being an issue and the fact that Rihanna couldnt dance her way out of a paper bag! lol. I am a Rihanna fan and I love ANTi but Rhi. Cannot. Dance.

  10. Squiggisbig says:

    Rihanna’s voice is special because it unique which is perfect for pop music. Also she may not be technically the best singer but I do think it is worth noting how much she has improved over the years.

  11. EM says:

    Rihanna’s voice? LOL

  12. rapomi says:

    I always got the impression that Chris Martin has a massive crush on Rihanna. I do too so I can’t blame him. He is way too beige for her though.

  13. Miss M says:


  14. allison says:

    I read once that Frank Sinatra had thee perfect voice, it was some famous music teacher…
    I tend to agree! Rihanna has an ok voice and would be characterized as most singers today as “entertainer”…she is no great vocalist.

  15. BritAfrica says:

    Seriously Chris, please stop drinking the koolaid….

  16. Nancy says:

    I envy her ability to live her life on her terms and give no apologies. While I can’t compare her to Sinatra, she is one of my favorites if not the favorite female performer with Adele right up there with her. She learned a lesson from that sicko Brown when she was young and has since proved that not even evil can stop her from doing what she loves to do and looking gorgeous while doing so. Step over wannabes, RiRi is da Queen.

  17. dandan83 says:

    with all due respect, how familiar with sinatra are most of you? while i grew up on him and enjoy him much, he didnt actually exhibit that much range. its sometimes believed he wouldnt have even had a singing career without mob ties. i think rihanna has more range, though id still take listening to sinatra over her 9 times outta 10.

    • FingerBinger says:

      Rihanna has more range than Sinatra? Singing “O na na na na” and “work work work work” is showing range? Really?

      • Naya says:

        You forgot “umbrella-eh-eh-eh” and “live your life oh-yay oh-yay oh-yay”. No vocal range in those nursery rhymes catchy as they may be.

  18. Mira says:

    I am a jazz fan and think most people here are exaggerating about Sinatra, his range wasn’t that astounding. Sinatra had a great tone and was an amazing storyteller and i think thats what he means. Someone like Ella Fittzgerald on the other hand was a technical genius. If he wanted to say Rihanna had the best voice of her generation, he would have compared her ( in jazz terms) to Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughn.

    By the way Martin and Tom Hiddleston look like they could be brothers.

  19. Mika says:

    I agree that Rihanna has a very likable, very distinct voice. She’s even got better with her live performances these days.

  20. Jayna says:

    If you listen and watch his Howard Stern interview from a few years ago when he had his piano and guitar with him, you can’t help but really like Chris. He is very likeable, humble, and I really got his charm after the interview.

  21. julied says:

    i think he just wants to do it with her if you know what i mean ! *3rd grade snorts*

    sorry i couldn’t resist…she’s just nasty and naughty and GETS DOWN …..waaaaay unlike goop….i can’t blame him!

  22. Lucy says:

    Methinks Mr Martin has a bit of a crush on Rih, not that anyone could blame him, though. I liked this interview a lot as well. But then again, I never had reasons to dislike him, so…

  23. kanyekardashian says:

    I’m proud to say I’ve never heard one Coldplay song and never will if I can help it. I wish I could say the same thing about Rihanna, but I have heard her “voice” (read: Autotune) and she is a horrible singer. All monotone, nothing special, like all the rest of the dance-pop acts today (Beyonce, Demi, Selena, Taylor, etc, etc, the list is endless). It makes me want to start my own radio station and feature nothing but the Lilith ladies of the late 90′s who all have distinctive, beautiful voices and even more important, sang live without lip-syncing, wrote their own lyrics, and played their own instruments. Music today is just utter garbage.

    • Nancy says:

      Ditto on Coldplay. In my eyes, Joni Mitchell is it. She outshines Swift on all levels and rarely played the guess who I’m singing about game. I will stand under Rihanna’s Umbrella, ella, ella, though, there’s just something about her that always pulls me in. Definitely a fan of hers…..but 100 on today’s music…mostly garbage.

  24. Kitten says:

    Nice try, Chris, but you’re not Rihanna’s type.

    • frankie says:

      Rihanna has a unique voice which has ability to blend in genre. She is not a greater “Sanger” but then again most great Singer are limited in their ability to blend. Rihanna has more range than people give her credit for and her voice works it just does. She not very polished which also part what makes her great. I actaully been listening to lot of Adele and Rihanna lately and i can tell Rihanna is up there with Adele not range wise but in different way which comes out as great as Adele

      • Kitten says:

        I personally like her voice and her music better than Adele’s.
        *dodges tomatoes*

        I understand people’s point about the nasal quality but I dunno…somehow it works.

  25. cee1 says:

    What is he on about? Her voice is literally the opposite of thick/rich. There are very few songs where she’s not nasally and high-pitched and when she goes for the high notes, her voice tends to break a lot. I remember that recent Billboard performance people were dying over. She had good MOMENTS but those good moments were forced, you could practically see and feel her chords being forced to produce the notes. Rihanna’s success to her voice is that it sounds good when propped by a lot of background instrumentation. It camouflages the weaknesses and highlights her unique tone.

    • Belle says:

      This. Her voice is thin not thick, her worst thin voice song is ‘stay’ tied with ‘higher’ due to crackiness/ breaks from thin voice & i like her voice (then again i tend to like all voices just stay in your lane). Like her thin voice raspy-ness works beautifully in Monster & california king bed.

  26. Jayna says:

    He and that blonde actress must be over. He was all loved up with her for a while with lots of pap shots, but there haven’t been any sightings in months.

  27. Jayna says:

    I tend to love singers with distinctive voices. They don’t have to have the greatest range. I’ve always loved Rihanna’s voice.

  28. Locke Lamora says:

    Chris was always nice. And funny and self deprecating. For the life of me I don’t understand why people hated him so much. Or Coldplay. Coldplay is like Adele – mediocre bland song for the masses, but it works. I never got the hate. Plus, I had a bit of a crush on him when I was a teen.

  29. Coco says:

    Everyone seen to have forgotten about Amy Winehouse and her amazing singing voice!

  30. Ali says:

    Her performance at the recent Billboard Awards was outstanding. She has been relying on her voice now more than ever. Her vocal skill has improved ten fold in the past 5 years. I think a lot of people still have her pigeon holed, understandably. Her voice sounds SO good now. YouTube Love on the Brain performance.

    • Franki says:

      I agree that people have her pigeon holed and that’s partly the problem.. The girl has a great voice

  31. Lala says:

    But you know what, I had to comment on this, because I heard her live 5,6 years ago, and I’ve been telling people ever since that I was really surprised by the strength of her voice. I thought it would be squeeke and high pitched and all over the place, it was quite the opposite!

  32. Naddie says:

    Yeah. Just like Britney was the new Madonna and Bruno Mars/Chris Brown/The Weeknd/Ne yo/ is the new MIchael Jackson.
    I disagree whenever someone says Rihanna can’t sing; she can sing for sure, but she’s no Adele or Whitney. Having said that, I always loved her songs and her most recents ones own my playlists.

  33. Carnivalbaby says:

    Ahaha! Rihanna has a great voice? Ahaha, she doesn’t even have a good voice…She sings…like Madonna sings. Great catchy tunes, interesting people to watch and they will get better at their chosen profession over time, because they work at it…but no…just stop it. Remember after Madonna did Evita how her voice improved…yeah, that’s Riri. Having said that. I love Rihanna. Love her even better when she is with Drake…Take Care is my fave. lol @Chris Martin, he must be buying from Rihanna stash….