“Look at the stars / Look how they shine for you,” instructed Chris Martin on Coldplay’s classic 2000 single ‘Yellow’. On the band’s ninth album ‘Music Of The Spheres’, the four-piece are taking his two-decade-old advice. The title and concept that encompasses the record comes from the ancient philosophical notion that the movement of celestial bodies is a form of music, setting in motion a metaphorical journey to outer space.
Instead of hunkering down in glitchy sci-fi sounds and noodling electronics, Coldplay (with the help of Swedish hitmaker Max Martin on co-production) do what they do best. The album is full of soaring pop melodies that take you high enough to enter orbit and touching sentiments that makes the universe around you glow ever brighter.
“We were trying to zoom out a little bit [and] use the universe and the cosmos as a metaphor for the difficulties and wonderfulness of life on Earth,” drummer Will Champion told Entertainment Weekly in a recent interview. One metaphor that seems integral to the album’s message popped up online months ago – “Everyone is an alien somewhere” read one corner of the handwritten album announcement the band posted on Instagram in July.
“Today I had the strangest feeling that I belong,” Martin exclaims on the galactic stomp of ‘Humankind’. It’s a song that rushes with so much brightness and euphoria it will likely have the unifying effect he sings of when the band perform it on their eco-friendly tour next year. Despite the album’s space setting, the lyrics deal firmly with humanity – no ET analogies here. They’re sometimes a bit on the nose, but still deal us reminders of the positive sides of our species: “Capable of kindness, so they call us humankind.”
‘My Universe’, the rousing collaboration with Korean wonders BTS, continues that buoyant streak. It’s an optimistic ode to the indefatigable power of love, even when the world tries to halt it with hateful or closed-minded barriers. Like that Instagram announcement and the kinship of ‘Humankind’, the glittering song also subtly reminds us we are one. “We are made of each other, baby,” BTS singer Jungkook declares as the track enters its final cosmic throes.
The world-conquering pop group aren’t the only big names to team up with Coldplay on ‘Music Of The Spheres’. Selena Gomez duets with Martin on the sombre, sorrowful ‘Let Somebody Go’, her soft vocals adding an extra dynamic to the heartbroken ballad. “Now turn off all the stars cos this I know,” Coldplay’s frontman sings. “That it hurts like so to let somebody go.” The Texan pop star replies with her own beautiful perspective on love lost: “When I called the mathematicians and asked them to explain / They said, ‘Love is only equal to the pain’.”
Two more Grammy-endorsed collaborators appear on ‘Human Heart’ – sister duo We Are KING and British jazz musician Jacob Collier. The track explores male and female perspectives of human emotion, Martin and We Are KING’s Amber and Paris Strother sharing their own experiences with each other. “Boys don’t cry,” he begins. “Boys keep it all inside / I tried to hide it underneath / Still my heart starts to beat.” His vocals are layered and slathered in heavenly reverb, making it sound like he’s singing from a galaxy closer to the pearly gates.
“Only got a human heart / I wish it didn’t run away / I wish it didn’t fall apart,” the group sings together, another nod to the idea that, despite our differences, we can all relate to our fellow humans on a base level.
While ‘Music Of The Spheres’ feels like quintessential Coldplay, there are some more surprising moments buried in its tracklist. ‘People Of The Pride’ rides on a buzzy riff that could easily fit on a Muse record, while ‘Infinity Sign’ takes the form of an instrumental cut that merges dazzling electronics with the distant echo of a crowd chanting “Olé olé olé olé, olé, olé”. It’s as if you’re overhearing the din of a football match on a neighbouring planet.
Like a sparkling night sky sewn with stars, ‘Music Of The Spheres’ is a celestial beauty that’s capable of inspiring great awe and emotion – not least on its grandiose, poignant closer ‘Coloratura’. The 10-minute sprawler ties up all the album’s messages in one sweep, expanding Martin’s lyrics to pull from Galileo, space missions, interstellar objects and planets, and old Latin phrases. It’s a much simpler sentiment that beautifully carries the record off into the otherworldly distance, though. “Poets prophesy up in the blue,” go the final lines of the record. “Together – that’s how we’ll make it through.”
Release date: October 15, 2021