By Madison Palmieri ’22
Although Fall 2019 was only two years ago, it seems like it was a lifetime ago. It should come as no surprise, then, that fans of Coldplay have been anxiously waiting for the beloved British rock band to announce their ninth studio album since the November 2019 release of their eighth record, Everyday Life.
To fans’ delight, the band began teasing cryptic images and symbols on Instagram in late April, with a link taking viewers to an enigmatic site called “alienradio.fm.” Soon after, Coldplay shared that they would be releasing a new song titled “Higher Power” on May 7. With uplifting lyrics and a sound reflective of the group’s 2011 album Mylo Xyloto, it was an instant hit. Some superfans even dubbed the undeniably catchy tune “the song of the summer.”
On July 20, Coldplay announced that their ninth studio album, titled Music of the Spheres, would arrive on Oct. 15. Over the course of the next several months, they released two more singles from the much-anticipated record, “Coloratura” and “My Universe.” The former is a dreamy, strings-heavy escapade into outer space; the latter is a feel-good pop bop that features K-Pop superstars BTS.
From these first peeks at Music of the Spheres, it appeared that the album would display the zest for life found on Coldplay’s 2015 record A Head Full of Dreams as well as their attention to the interconnectedness of all life on Earth as expressed on Everyday Life—and, as the dancing aliens in the official music video for “Higher Power” suggested, address the interconnectedness of the entire universe.
These speculations proved to be correct. The first track, “Music of the Spheres,” features a cryptic message and space-wave sound. Notably, bits of its melody are reminiscent of that of “O,” a song from the band’s 2014 album, Ghost Stories. With a length of just under one minute, this instrumental is the perfect prelude to track two, “Higher Power,” and the album as a whole.
The third song is the upbeat, drum-heavy “Humankind.” Opening with distorted vocals intended to mimic alien language, the track explores an extraterrestrial attempt to contact the earth, concluding that “we’re capable of kindness/So they call us humankind.”
“Alien Choir” is another instrument-driven track. Backed by a haunting chorus of “ahs,” it creates a mysterious, slightly eerie atmosphere similar to the opening of “Cemeteries of London” from Coldplay’s smash-hit 2008 record Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends.
The fifth song on Music of the Spheres features Selena Gomez in an unexpected but well-matched duet with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. The pair tells the story of a lost love, incorporating the album’s celestial motif throughout with references to the moon and the stars. Notably, the melody of the chorus is reminiscent of that of “Now My Feet Won’t Touch the Ground” from Coldplay’s 2008 EP Prospekt’s March.
“Human Heart” is one of the album’s standout tracks. Featuring We Are KING and Jacob Collier, the song explores the stereotypes associated with masculine and feminine displays of emotion, concluding that we’ve all “only got a human heart.” Sung in the style of a church hymn, “Human Heart” is quietly powerful, gently asserting that our complex feelings, and even our humanity at large, defy social constructs and stereotypes.
The seventh song on Music of the Spheres is the album’s most political track. Indeed, with heavy guitar riffs and references to “a man who swears he’s God/Unbelievers will be shot” and “a turnin’ of the tide/We’re no longer gonna fight for/Some old crook and all his crimes,” “People of the Pride” recalls the revolutionary energy of earlier Coldplay tracks like “Violet Hill” and later efforts like those of Everyday Life. Although it is not quite clear whether the band is criticizing one particular political phenomenon or modern sociopolitical strife as a whole, the line “We’ll all be free to fall in love/With who we want” is a clear reference to the LGBTQ+ rights movement.
“Biutyful,” like “Humankind,” makes use of distorted vocals to imitate an extraterrestrial perspective. Upbeat yet tranquil, it seemingly details the friendship between a human and an alien. At 22 seconds, “Music of the Spheres II” is Music of the Spheres’ shortest and perhaps most mysterious track. Indeed, listeners only begin to recognize the cheers of a crowd mixed with cryptic language as the track smoothly transitions into “My Universe,” suggesting its use as a prelude to the BTS feature.
“Infinity Sign” opens with a dizzying xylophone-like sound. Curiously, vocals do not appear until halfway through the song, and only manifest in the background of the track. Although the words uttered are not immediately clear, according to Genius, they are the repetition and echo of the phrase “Spritius sanctum,” which is Latin for “Holy Spirit.”
Overall, Music of the Spheres explores themes familiar to Coldplay’s discography, such as an appreciation for life and unity across differences of nation and culture, but takes these motifs in a new, intriguing direction with the album’s celestial, extraterrestrial theme. The band’s long-standing attendance to political issues is apparent, as well.
Sonically, Music of the Spheres represents a union of the old and new. Familiar melodic bits combine with innovative use of voice distortion technology and instrumental composition to evolve the band’s sound.
Over the course of their twenty-year career, Coldplay has continued to reinvent themselves and has also continued to meet with commercial and critical acclaim. Music of the Spheres will likely be no exception, but rather further indicate that the band will continue to be successful with whatever future musical visions they bring to life.