Wither goest thou, Coldplay, into the pop night…?
Chris Martin & Co. shook up their sound on ‘Everyday Life’, with the English crooner wrapping his tones around elements pilfered from countries around the globe, resulting in perhaps their broadest creative statement to date. Yet fans didn’t respond – selling around a tenth of its 2015 predecessor ‘A Head Full Of Dreams’ in the United States, the results have prompted another u-turn.
Yep, ‘Music Of The Spheres’ finds Coldplay pivoting towards a more explicit pop incarnation. Perhaps a response to rock’s ongoing stasis as a commercial form, or perhaps a hidden desire to evolve into a kind of English version of Maroon 5 – whatever the reasons, the results are mixed.
Loosely a cosmic concept record, ‘Music Of The Spheres’ is never less than listenable, but rarely raises the pulse. ‘Higher Power’ is a neat 80s styled burner, albeit one with clear echoes of The Weeknd’s ‘Blinded By The Light’. ’Humankind’ is a lilting vocal of the kind only Chris Martin can provide, while ‘<3’ is a gospel drenched number whose harmonies point to the lingering influence of the experimentation that occupied ‘Everyday Life’.
‘My Universe’ – the collaboration with BTS – provides an apt example of both the strengths and flaws of the record. A neatly defined pop song with a carefully planned roll out, Chris Martin makes for an easy-going foil for the K-Pop icons. Yet there’s a sense that BTS don’t actually need to do this – a colossal phenomenon in their own right, they feel like the senior partners on the track.
Ending with the soothing climes of ‘Coloratura’, the 10 minute closer is emblematic of Coldplay’s continuing largesse. A song built for huge spaces, it can’t quite shrug off those U2 leanings (particularly the Brian Eno esque passages of near ambience). It’s nice, but it doesn’t fully engage; a gesture of continued ambition, rather than a pop epic.
Built around a loose-knit concept – and incorporating short bursts of sound to craft an aesthetic spine – ‘Music Of The Spheres’ seems to take Coldplay further away from their roots at a time when less and less contemporaries are able to hit those heights. To continue using those U2 comparisons, perhaps this is their 90s, a period of identity confusion and experimentation. If ‘Music Of The Spheres’ is Coldplay’s ‘POP’ however, we’re longing to find their ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’.
Words: Robin Murray
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