If someone asked me what I think Music of the Spheres is about, I would truly have no answer. I can’t find any throughlines, thematic moments, or motifs.
I suppose Coldplay is just years past their strongest work. “Viva La Vida” came out in 2008; “Fix You” in 2005, and the much-lauded “Yellow” was released in 2000. Now, more than 20 years since the pop-rockers first jumped onto the scene comes their 9th record, a strange, odd, eclectic genre-mash of electronically-fueled music that just feels lacking.
Several moments throughout the record feel fast and easy. Similar to an artist like Adele, Coldplay has a very particular style and song structure—particularly in their choruses—that they have employed often throughout their discography. Songs like “Humankind,” moments within “Higher Power,” moments within “My Universe,” and, to an extent, moments within “Biutyful” all feel very much comfortably Coldplay.
This is neither a good or bad thing. It would be nice to see a more complete evolution; a conscious full step into a different direction. Rather, Music of the Spheres is a strange, weird mix of hyper-modern stylings with random sprinklings here and there of classic Coldplay, which makes for a really, to put it kindly, different kind of listen.
The decision to add in brief “palet-cleansers” in the form of these short, largely instrumental breaks between almost every track was definitely a unique call. I respect and understand the thought behind the concept of a bunch of mini-intermissions, but in this instance, those brief breaks end up causing damage to the pacing of the record. It’s just slightly too broken, too choppy, and too disconnected.
The kindest thing I can say about this record is that it keeps you on your toes. The first two tracks—“Music of the Spheres” and “Higher Power”—seem to set a certain kind of stage; a purposeful attempt at synth-fueled, subtle, almost lo-fi transcendence.
This lo-fi aura seems confirmed as you go through past humankind and into the disjointed mess of the duet “Let Somebody Go.”
And then you get to “People of the Pride.”
From the first second of this song, it is clearly establishing a whole new moment for the album, taking us in a whole different direction. From that dramatic horn-based intro into that grungy-ish guitar that sounds an awful lot like Muse, “People of the Pride” is this gritty, anthemic, intense track. It’s the best track on the record, which is a shame because it does not belong on this album. It represents such a departure that it is almost shocking, breaking you out of the lo-fi mood Coldplay seemed to be trying to create.
“Biutyful” is the clear low point for this record. That affected voice, while I’ve heard similar things done before—AJR on OK Orchestra—is just really hard to take seriously. I get the intention behind it, but that decision does so much to pull me out of the song, to pull me away from any real message or enjoyment.
“My Universe”—Coldplay’s collaboration with BTS—is another track that has moments of iconic, classic Coldplay, resplendent (and predictable) in the chorus. Perhaps it’s because I don’t particularly care for BTS, but I find this song to be boring and repetitive. It seems as though it’s trying too hard to be big and transcendent; to be this floating enormous, almost theatrical number.
And then there is “Coloratura,” the 10-minute long, largely instrumental finale for this strange, strange record.
The piano intro here, which bleeds into a harp, starts the track off right. Simple, building slowly, emotional and melody-focused, all sans words. This track, these 10 minutes of Chris Martin’s low murmurs over the piano which slowly builds into sonic environments, is what the entire album seems to be striving to be. Every other track falls short, feels empty. This song, in its shameless length and consistent randomness, does what I think this record wanted to accomplish: represent a person actively losing themself in music. This is where song transitions and evolutions and transcendence feel right.
But largely, Music Of The Spheres is pretty disappointing, though not entirely surprising. The collaborations feel forced and out of place, the intention seems disjointed, the record feels random and inconsistent. It seems like less of a record than it does a few mini-EPs cobbled together. Yes, there are some moments that are better than others, and some that are even close to good, but as an album, as a cohesive body of work, Music of the Spheres falls short.