Coldplay’s ‘Music of the Spheres’ is catchy, sometimes long-winded synth-pop feat

Coldplay's new album cover
Parlophone Records Limited/Courtesy

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

Very rarely does a band become even slightly as ubiquitous as Coldplay. Their art-rock stylings, archetypal soundscapes and instantly recognizable vocals from lead singer Chris Martin led the group to produce a near-unimaginable number of hit songs. From “Yellow” and “The Scientist” to “Viva la Vida,” “A Sky Full of Stars” and beyond, Coldplay took the world by storm with their 2000 debut album Parachutes and continued their unparalleled musical successes over two decades later.

On their most recent record Music of the Spheres, the band ventures deeper into the realms of synth-pop and dance than ever before, blending such musical mindsets with their scaled-back, songwriter roots. With the helping hand of Swedish producer Max Martin — attributed with past hits such as Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” and NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me” — the album holds its fair share of late ’90s, early ’00s pop influences yet refrains from nostalgia-milking. Made up almost entirely of catchy, high-tempo songs, however, the album feels a bit drawn out at times and is in dire need of atmospheric changes, or a trimming down of the less successful tracks at the very least.

The LP kicks off with a futuristic, ambient interlude featuring a robotic voice and an encompassing layer of synths, greeting listeners with an emblematic first taste of the album’s unique, intergalactic ethos. Following the interlude is “Higher Power,” an upbeat, incredibly poppy song guided by a crystal-clear vocal performance from Martin. Backed by a simplistic drum beat and enticing background vocals are the lyrics, “Oh yeah, you’ve got a higher power/ Got me singin’ every second, dancin’ every hour.” The song is an unquestionably easy listen — almost impossible not to bob your head to — and makes for a perfect opening to the joyful record.

Another shining star of the album is “Let Somebody Go,” a somewhat unexpected collaboration with pop-royalty Selena Gomez. Starting as a piano-led ballad, the song slowly builds into a full production of delayed electric guitars, intricate drum patterns and harmonies galore, with Gomez and Martin singing “When I called the mathematicians and/ I asked them to explain/ They said love is only equal to the pain.” Practically unaltered and deliberately placed at the track’s forefront, Gomez’s outstanding vocals are put onto full display, making for an emotional yet thoroughly enjoyable listen.

“Biutyful,” a feel-good, fast-paced love song, is by far the stand out of the record. Not afraid to walk within the realm of the experimental, the entire first verse consists of pitched-up vocals from Martin and is altogether an extremely heartfelt love song. With a compelling acoustic guitar track reminiscent to that of an early 2000s boy band and lyrics such as, “I hope that you get everything you want in this beautiful life/ Watermelon moon, so happy you’re alive,” it’s hard to not at least crack a smile throughout the especially joyful song.

While altogether impressive, there remain a few songs on the album that don’t live up to the aforementioned earworms. Some tracks on the record come off as disingenuous, particularly on the song “People of the Pride,” the straightest “gay anthem” ever written. Although well-intentioned, the cringe-worthy pandering toward the LGBTQ+ community makes the track feel uncomfortable — especially when one is reminded that the man delivering the lyrics, “We’ll all be free to fall in love/ With who we want and say/ Yeah, yeah, yeah/ People of the pride,” is straight. Similarly disappointing, the album’s closer “Coloratura,” wouldn’t have been hurt by some editing. A 10 minute and 19-second outro, the track is full of beautiful sounds and lyricism, just not enough to justify taking up nearly a quarter of the record’s playtime.

Music of the Spheres is an altogether impressive work and is clearly distinctive from the rest of Coldplay’s repertoire. Filled to the brim with catchy melodies and danceable instrumentals, the LP is — for the first time on a Coldplay record in a long while — fun, and is certainly worthy of a listen from fans and casual listeners alike. Although the record is at times a bit ingenuine and in need of some trimming, its highs far outweigh its lows, placing the album among some of the best work the band has produced to date.

Ian Fredrickson covers music. Contact him at [email protected].