Monday, October 25, 2021

Escaping reality, Coldplay release their new album ‘Music of the spheres’ in an attempt to be free

Handling a more than tricky conceptual framework, 'Music Of The Spheres’ enters a retro-futuristic universe to discover ‘what it means to be human’.

Making reference to the concept of ‘musica universalis’ (universal music), Coldplay’s ninth studio album, entitled ‘Music Of The Spheres’, follows the release of their 2019 album ‘Everyday Life’, exploring further the concept of humanism. Co-produced by Swedish superproducer Max Martin, ‘Music Of The Spheres’ is a 12-track LP, which at its core is a collection of love songs. Combining synths, a spacey soundworld and floaty tunes.

 Coldplay have created a body of work that surely any band would be proud of.  


Musical collaboration is at the heart of this album, with contributions from widely acclaimed BTS and We Are King, and talented figures Selena Gomez and Jacob CollierColdplay aim to embrace culture from across the world and remove barriers. With new-age eighties-pop, unique transition tracks, slow ballads, hard rock, anthemic collaborations, and even a space symphony, the album perfectly captures the essence of music – connectivity. Whatever your musical taste, there is something for everyone!  

Instrumental interludes set the scene, providing important breaks between an eclectic array of cross-genre music that otherwise wouldn’t seemingly flow together.  


The title track ‘Music Of The Spheres' is an instrumental prelude that sets the scene admirably for the rest of the album. A similar ambiance to ‘Midnight’ from their sixth studio album ‘Ghost Stories’, this instrumental opening blends unexpectedly hard-hitting bass with rising synths, to excite the listener in preparation for a thrilling journey through space.  


The prelude launches us into the upbeat anthemic ‘Higher Power’, a track representative of new age, eighties-style pop, which incorporates synths, background vocals, and even a snare with an offbeat kick drum. Perfectly capturing the spirit of the album and its overarching theme of connectivity, its catchiness, specifically during the chorus, is undeniable. Appealing to the masses through memorable lyrics lends itself to commercial success.  


‘Humankind’ is another uplifting track with a similar eighties-style feel that nods to their Viva La Vida Era, and more specifically ‘Lovers In Japan’. Lyrics carefully tread the line between optimistic and cringey - “we’re only human, capable of kindness, so they call us humankind”, but fit the overall meaning of the song well. Featured on this track, “Today I had the strangest feeling that I belong” is one of the more unique and heart-warming messages from the album. Ending on pulsing, stabbing synths, this song is feel-good and upbeat, providing a sense of nostalgia for many of their fans.  


Largely a cappella, it is difficult to look beyond the influence of musical prodigy Jacob Collier in ‘Human Heart’. Due to its simplicity, it is the harmonies alone that have led to the birth of this musical masterpiece, which sees a triumphant collaborative effort with US R&B duo We Are King and Jacob Collier. Containing similar lyrical content to ‘Everyday Life’, the tempo is perfectly selected to draw you in for the entire journey and provide space between lines to allow for the appreciation of the intentionally intricate voicings and harmonic beauty prevalent within so much of the piece.   


Presenting a new direction for Coldplay, ‘People Of The Pride’ is a stark contrast to the previous song. Sharpening the mood, this new-age rock song highlights human politics, and was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and Gay Pride marches which occurred last year ("sewing up of rags into revolution flags" and "to be free to fall in love with who we want"). Coldplay use new distorted telephone vocals for the first time, producing a demonic-sounding voice, representing an oppressive figure. The bridge section nods to X&Y’s ‘White Shadows’ at the very end, “swimming in a sea of faces”. A culmination of Coldplay’s career so far, rendered in aggressive feel and heavy, rock swing, it fits Coldplay well. There will most certainly be a thirst for more tracks like this in the future.  


Setting extremely high goals of human conduct and forgiveness, Biutyful’ encapsulates the very fabric of human credulity – the concept of unconditional love. Despite the strangely high, distorted vocals, the ballad’s simplistic acoustic guitar backing adds warmth to the tone, and an unobtrusive hip-hop beat pairs well with the memorable lilting melody. With a peculiar style, interesting sixties-era introduction and colourful accents, this song will certainly stick in your head.  


‘My Universe’ highlights the album’s concept excellently - that music has no barriers, becoming a tool for universal connectedness, perfectly capturing the spirit of the album. Perhaps the most anticipated collaboration to date, this well-produced, beautifully blended track, is already a huge victory. Since its release, this feel good, upbeat track has topped The Billboard Hot 100 Chart, proving that any collaboration with K-pop sensation BTS will be an instant success. Already proving to be a favourite for many fans, due to its catchy hook, constant driving rhythm, and excellent harmonies and ad libs, each BTS member compliments Chris Martin’s vocals perfectly. With deep, meaningful lyrics in both English and Korean, even the rap section has good rhythmic flow and memorable lyrics.  


Aptly titled ‘Coloratura’, defined as an elaborate ornamentation of a melody, this piece is littered with virtuosic melodies. Virtuosic harp cascades colour the scene of synths, while guitar solos overpower the track momentarily. Distorted synths provide some element of discomfort, only allowing the return to feel even more relaxing and beautiful than before. This song moves through both the Mixolydian and Lydian mode, fashioning intriguing transitions. Occasionally slipping into the whole tone scale (often described as ‘the dream sequence’) by way of a flattened seventh, emphasises the state of someone being in a dream. Dream-like states are cultivated throughout this track using flutes, glockenspiel and percussive elements. 

The diverse array of musical genres doesn’t stop there, as the piece moves into a 5/4 swing section out of the blue, which provides a little extra space, and then they even add an extra beat at the end of each phrase! Exploring further the classical theme (a space symphony), the introductory passage is particularly fitting, sounding similar to an orchestra tuning before a concert. Coldplay allowed their compositional flow-state to continue, seamlessly blending different musical styles, and allowing ‘Coloratura’ to come to a peaceful, natural musical conclusion with simplistic piano and acoustic guitar. Expertly produced, ‘Coloratura’ has brought together the Coldplay community that is diverse, much like the whole album. A true masterpiece, ‘Coloratura’ is an outstanding 10-minute musical wonder that rounds off the album superbly. With a change of mood and orchestration echoing that of Pink Floyd, this is arguably Coldplay at their best.  


‘Music Of The Spheres’ showcases Coldplay’s capability and diversity which is often underappreciated and unacknowledged. With Coldplay set to release just three more studio albums, will there be a ‘Music Of The Spheres Vol.2’, following the same theme? Well, we will have to wait and see.  


Flora Davison   
Image: ‘Music Of The Spheres’ Official Album Cover  (PRESS) 

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