Music of the (Atmo)spheres
20 October 2021-
Global megaband Coldplay are back with a 9th album that many were waiting for just because it's Coldplay. Also because we were quite curious to see what a post-Covid Coldplay album would sound like...
We made the comparison before, but Coldplay and U2 appear to follow a somewhat parallel musical trajectory: both bands started out playing fairly niche material — indie pop in the case of Coldplay, raw and militant rock in the case of U2 — then gradually widened their scope as fame came their way, eventually creating what can only be described as “global” music. And by that we mean rather atmospheric sounds and melodies that are very near as universal as can be. For white, Anglo-Saxon, male performers over the age of 40 (60 in the case of U2).
The point is, Coldplay’s sound in the past decade or so has become synonymous with worldwide pop, in the sense that it espouses the general electro-pop musical genre that has been dominating the charts (apart from hip hop, that is), while the genre has very much espoused Coldplay as one of its key international ambassadors. As a result, each Coldplay release is anticipated the world over — and sells the world over. 2019’s Everyday Life may have been a tad of a disappointment, but first impressions from singles “Higher Power” and “My Universe” were quite positive for this upcoming 9th album. Especially the latter, which featured BTS and (likely) therefore shot to the top of the singles charts despite Drake, Justin Bieber and Lil Nas X gunning for the spot. That’s a sign.
The rest of the album (whose subtitle interestingly reads Vol I. From Earth with Love) is somewhat on par with these singles — and what we were effectively expecting from this new offering: global, extremely well crafted (not entirely surprising, given that superstar pop producer Max Martin is behind the wheels), atmospheric pop. With well timed features, including the aforementioned BTS, but also Selena Gomez and the highly talented We Are KING. And you tend to get the best of current pop, from the more electro (“Humankind”) to the more electric (“People of the Pride”) to the more acoustic (“Human Heart”, stylized as a heart emoji). You get the entire spectrum of what was visibly thought of as a cosmic collection of sounds & ambiances. A tall order.
Both the ‘cosmic’ and ‘collection’ aspect of this album are most evident with its closer, “Coloratura”, a 10-minute+ long affair that starts off with very light piano playing before growing on you with vocal harmonies, various instruments, effects and sections which inevitably remind the (classically-inclined) listener legendary works by the likes of Pink Floyd, The Who or Queen, i.e. England’s finest progressive and symphonic outfits. Although saying that “Coloratura” is the new “Money” would be pushing it, the fact remains that this song stands as the most ambitious work the band produced in years — if ever.
And, for that alone, we are thankful. The rest of the album is not bad either.