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Coldplay goes cosmic in new album ‘Music of the Spheres’

<h6>Sydney Peng / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Sydney Peng / The Daily Princetonian

With its colorful cover art and magical orchestral interludes, Coldplay’s ninth studio album “Music of the Spheres” greatly piqued my interest when it was first announced. Between the early announcements of the explosive single “My Universe” featuring K-pop sensation BTS and the album’s use of emojis as song titles, it had been established for a while that this album would be Coldplay’s take on grandiose themes like space and humanity. Now that it’s finally arrived this month, let’s take a closer look at each track:

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“Higher Power”

This song is a transcendent take on love, discussing the singer’s relationship with someone who has a “higher power” that makes the singer feel elevated and energetic. It’s an upbeat, catchy, 80’s-esque track that reminds me of “Take on Me” by A-Ha.

I thought the lyricism could have been better, but in the context of this song, lyricism takes a backseat to explosive vocals and a roaring synth instrumental.

“Humankind”

If “Higher Power” sets us up to sway and dance, “Humankind” is what gets us to jump. With fast-paced acoustic guitar, synth, and drums, it’s another exciting electronic track whose instrumental wouldn’t feel out of place in an A-Ha album. 

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Again, the mediocre lyricism is masked by the loud, catchy melody and energetic production, done by Max Martin. Like a tired concert-goer, once I finished listening to “Humankind,” I was excited to hear something different for the next track — and to my luck, Coldplay delivered.

“Alien Choir” (stylised as the sparkling emoji)

Surprisingly, the previous track, despite its high energy throughout, dies down towards the end of the song and provides a seamless transition into the musical interlude “Alien Choir,” which has a similar feel to “Music of the Spheres” in that it feels calming and celestial, like the tides of a beach on an alien planet. It plays the role of a palate cleanser after the jumpiness of “Higher Power” and “Humankind,” making way for the gloom of the next track. 

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“Let Somebody Go,” ft. Selena Gomez

One of my personal favorites from “Music of the Spheres,” I thought the lyricism of “Let Somebody Go” was a great improvement from previous tracks, now that there was no titanic melody or instrumental to mask bad writing (my favorite line is “You gave everything this golden glow / Now turn off all the stars ‘cause this I know / It hurts like so / To let somebody go”). It’s a heartbreaking ballad about having to move on from someone who was once your everything.

Selena Gomez was great in this song; her voice has a silky smooth, mournful feel, which perfectly complements the track. That, combined with Chris Martin’s unique ability to belt in a soft, depressing song without the vocals feeling out of place, makes the song especially moving.

The instrumental wasn’t minimalistic — as with many piano ballads — but it wasn’t so large that it overpowered the more important melody. Overall, this was one of the strongest songs on the album!

“Human Heart” (stylized as ♡), ft. Jacob Collier and We Are KING

The one truly minimalistic song on Music of the Spheres, “Human Heart” is just as heart-wrenching as “Let Somebody Go.” It discusses toxic masculinity and misogyny, tying the two together to say that no matter what gender you are, your heart is just as prone to breaking as everyone else’s.

I instantly recognized Collier’s harmonic style in the choral vocals of the first verse, a sound almost reminiscent of the afterlife. The soulfully tragic sound of this track feels so transcendent that it could almost be an extension of “Alien Choir.” While I didn’t think they added much melodically, We are KING added soft, feminine vocals for the section about female stereotypes, making the track bloom even more.

I’m a sucker for music like this, and even though it doesn’t seem like the masses agree — on Apple Music, “Human Heart” is on the lower end in terms of streams — I’d be excited to hear more collaborations between Coldplay and Jacob Collier. 

“People of the Pride”

I was unprepared for the Fall Out Boy-esque, bass-heavy “People of the Pride” because it was such a tonal shift from “Human Heart,” and there was no interlude to signal that shift.

The grandiose majesty of the opening reminded me of a Marvel theme song, and the chorus would fit well in the background of a “Wonder Woman” movie trailer. I was impressed with the lyricism of this song as well — it’s a politically charged anthem calling for the rallying of the masses against the billionaires that control our society. But while it’s inspiring, this idea has been rather overused in rock songs like this one, which takes away from the “cool factor” of it all.  

“Biutyful”

The vocals in “Biutyful” are strange — they’re abnormally pitched up, giving Martin’s vocals a “chipmunk” effect; while the vocals revert back to Martin’s real voice towards the middle, hearing that effect in the beginning of the song was jarring. 

It’s an upbeat, though not necessarily high-energy, R&B-type track where the singer croons to their lover about their beauty and the beauty of the world around them. The intentional misspelling of the word “beautiful” gives the music an innocent touch, complementing the childlike wonder in its lyrics. Perhaps it’s this element of the song, combined with its uniqueness compared to the tracks thus far, that caused “Biutyful” to be one of the top-played tracks of “Music of the Spheres” on Apple Music. 

“My Universe,” ft. BTS

From a numbers point of view, working with BTS was a good idea for Coldplay — this song debuted at the top of the Billboard charts, Coldplay’s second #1 since “Viva La Vida.” The song also works well in the context of K-pop, since the upbeat mood of the song is similar to that of BTS’s recent hits, including “Dynamite.”

Since both groups’ styles meshed well, the vocals came out phenomenally, though at times it felt more like a BTS song featuring Coldplay than the other way around. I do think that the boy band was a good addition to a song that would have otherwise been rather bland compared to the other high-energy songs on the album. 

“Coloratura”

This strange track does a good job of wrapping up the album’s cosmic themes, taking ten minutes to play around with a variety of interesting instruments, from creepy music box to dreamy synth to roaring electric guitar. Lyrically, it does justice to the theme of loving someone more than the universe itself, but melodically, it wasn’t all that memorable.

As a whole, I found “Music of the Spheres” pretty enjoyable. Though not all of its songs were hits — such a feat is nearly impossible anyways — it excelled in a range of sounds, from the soft and minimalistic to the upbeat and intense. Coldplay also excelled at organizing the songs in an engaging, cohesive way. 

While I don’t think “Music of the Spheres” measures up to Coldplay’s much earlier albums, like “Mylo Xyloto” and “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends,” I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard “Biutyful” or “Let Somebody Go” on the radio in a few weeks’ time. 

Claire Shin is a Contributing Writer for The Prospect at the Prince. She can be reached at claireshin@princeton.edu, on Instagram at @claireshin86, or on TikTok also at @claireshin86.

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