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Coldplay - Music of the Spheres Music Album Reviews

Coldplay - Music of the Spheres Music Album Reviews
Here he goes again, looking at the stars, seeing how they shine.

It’s been more than 20 years since “Yellow” introduced the world to Coldplay at their best: hopelessly romantic but not treacly, full of wonder but grounded in the present. The song’s cymbals crash and its lyrics pine for the stars, but it’s more than just some lovesick drivel. Chris Martin’s falsetto can sound mournful, as if the object of his affection has already moved on, while guitarist Jonny Buckland’s distorted chords are slightly sour, hinting at turmoil in the undertow. The “Yellow” video, which was filmed on the day of drummer Will Champion’s mother’s funeral, is similarly poignant. Martin saunters along a drizzly beach, enticing the sun to rise, putting a choirboy spin on the Verve’s misanthropic clip for “Bitter Sweet Symphony.” In the middle of the video, when he raises a sleeve to his left eye, it’s unclear if he’s wiping away an errant raindrop or a tear.

Since then, Coldplay have often invoked the cosmos—the stars, the moon, the planets in general—as they’ve reached for universal feelings while leapfrogging from theaters to arenas to stadiums all around Earth. They’ve also struggled to maintain the mix of paranoia and positivity that fueled their finest work; their last few records lunged from misery to ecstasy without examining what’s in between. These two trends—cosmophilia and a shift away from emotional nuance—hit a strange zenith with their ninth studio album, Music of the Spheres. There’s a loose sci-fi concept involving a distant solar system, and Martin has said he found inspiration in the Cantina Band from the original Star Wars. But the record is more akin to the franchise’s notorious prequels: overblown, cartoonish, seemingly made for 8-year-olds. Even Jar Jar Binks himself might look askance at Coldplay’s latest CGI abomination of a video, featuring dancing alien ducks among other extraterrestrials possibly kidnapped from an off-brand theme park.

Music of the Spheres is produced by Max Martin, who has essentially defined the parameters of pop music over the last quarter-century. After making his name as the go-to hitmaker of the ’90s teen-pop era, creating career-making classics with the likes of Britney and Backstreet, Max has since teamed up with established superstars like Taylor Swift and the Weeknd, helping them attain unfathomable levels of global popularity while maintaining the idiosyncrasies that made fans love them in the first place. For their part, Coldplay have never lacked in world-conquering ambition as they dutifully followed the tide of popular music away from traditional rock sounds across the last decade. So this full-album collaboration makes sense in a numbers-and-figures sort of way, especially following the band’s self-consciously modest 2019 record Everyday Life, their worst-selling LP to date.

The commercial strategy is already working. Spheres’ new single, “My Universe,” featuring K-pop kings BTS, who might be the only humans better at scaling the charts than Max right now, debuted at the very top of the Hot 100, scoring Coldplay their second-ever American No. 1. Their first was 2008’s “Viva La Vida,” a song that tactfully expanded what Coldplay could sound like after the creative dead-end of their third LP, 2005’s X&Y. Back then, Chris described Coldplay’s ethos thusly: “We can’t possibly get any bigger, let’s just get better.” The clamorous immensity of Spheres suggests the band’s philosophy has been inverted: Coldplay can’t top what they’ve already done artistically, but maybe they can score several billion more streams anyway.

For about half of the album’s songs, I would not be surprised if the creative process involved repeatedly smashing a red game show buzzer with the word “BIG” written on it. Along with the record’s hackneyed interstellar theme, Spheres’ enormity sadly chimes with what space exploration has become in real life: another meaningless hurdle for the richest of the rich to hop over, a VIP escape hatch. “Humankind” leans on a series of hollow millennial whoops, in between plasticine Springsteen chords; all gesture, no action. “Higher Power” attempts to repurpose the coked-out ’80s sounds of the Weeknd’s Max-produced “Blinding Lights” for a band that once made a pact to fire any member who got into cocaine. Featuring the din of a chanting crowd, synth-pop filler track “Infinity Sign” seems solely designed to play in the background of a FIFA video game’s menu screen.

But wait, it gets worse! “People of the Pride” is the roughest thing here, a midlife crisis jock jam where Buckland’s supposedly scuzzy guitar riff is filtered through what must be a plugin called “Dank Robot Fart.” In the song, Chris rails against a vague dictator figure who “takes his time” from a “homemade cuckoo clock” that he “makes us march around.” I think we can all agree authoritarian tyrants are bad, but so is this glorified Twitter rant.

Here is the part of the Coldplay review where we need to discuss Chris’ eternally frustrating words. To his credit, the singer has admitted he’s not a great lyricist, and that his songwriting boils down to “just a bunch of feelings.” Which would seem like a good match for the type of instant-pleasure pop Max is known for. But Max is also the progenitor of “melodic math,” a songwriting style where each line requires a certain number of syllables in order to maximize its melodic impact. Squeezing out the most efficient earworms possible sometimes means cleverness or novelty get steamrolled. Combined with Chris’ already-sketchy writing and the album’s ham-fisted instrumentation, this results in songs that don’t pinpoint a feeling but rather helplessly wave their arms in the direction of one.

“Let Somebody Go,” a duet with Selena Gomez, is an adult contemporary ballad seemingly swiped from Bryan Adams’ archives in which the pair aimlessly mope until deciding that “it hurts like so, to let somebody go.” Can’t argue with that. The crux of “Humankind” involves the revelation that humans can be... kind. Thanks to Max’s exacting formulas, a lot of these choruses will likely end up rattling around your head while you’re trying to go to sleep, but they’re so inane that you’re also likely to resent them for being there.

There are a couple of moments when these banalities briefly turn transcendent. “My Universe,” which follows a similar musical template as Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” bounds forward with the headiness of star-crossed infatuation. “You are my universe, and I just want to put you fi-i-irst,” Chris proclaims, adding some uncharacteristic finesse to the last word, like Mick Jagger might. Coupled with synths towering enough to be seen from the moon, an energetic turn from BTS, and an out-of-nowhere blog-house outro, the song breaks out of its market-tested shell and delivers a fleeting jolt of bliss.

The album’s best song, “Biutyful,” is also its most bittersweet. Guided by a simple acoustic guitar figure and an unfussy hip-hop beat, it is the rare Spheres track that is given any space to consider itself. Chris reacts with his most affecting vocal performance on the whole record, nostalgic and enchanting—which is especially impressive since he spends half the song pitched-up to sound like a squeaky alien. “Biutyful” is an ode to unconditional love, perhaps between parent and child, that doesn’t scream at you as much as it lets you linger inside of its dreamy gravity. “When you love me, love me, love me,” Chris sings, “I know I’ll be on top of the world, man.” It doesn’t look like much on paper, but the magic of this band at their most powerful has everything to do with their ability to turn something you’ve heard before—a phrase, a guitar echo—into something you want to hear over and over again.

There are too few of those bright spots, though. Instead, the record is more accurately represented by the video for “Higher Power,” where Chris walks toward the camera in a way that might bring your mind back to the first time you ever saw him. But he’s not on a beach, or even on this planet. He’s on a desolate orb called (checks notes) Kaotica, surrounded by a Blade Runner algorithm of a cityscape and dancing like the last wedding singer alive. There’s not much to see in his eyes except, maybe, desperation.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Coldplay - Music of the Spheres Music Album Reviews Coldplay - Music of the Spheres Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, October 21, 2021 Rating: 5

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