Coldplay's New Sound: Mylo Xyloto
Coldplay’s fifth album, Mylo Xyloto came out October 24th. The record is currently number one on iTunes and is expected to sell 450,000 copies by the end of this week. Overall, critics are disappointed with Coldplay’s latest.
On “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay, sings, “I’d rather be a comma than a full stop.” Mylo Xyloto punctuates that. While the album fails to stop critics before they disapprove, it makes them rethink how to define a successful album. Perhaps a praiseworthy album is one that achieves the same, adored sound that band is associated with. Coldplay thinks differently. They are more comfortable experimenting with new sound rather than staying safe. Chris Martin said to the New York Times, “Even though the album is an endangered species, can we try and make a coherent and good one, even if it’s like making a horse and cart at a Nascar conference?”
Martin says he was listening to Bruce Springsteen’s work from the eighties and the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, appreciating those concept albums for their respective generations. Mylo Xyloto is Coldplay’s first try at a concept album characteristic of our modern age. Coldplay is creating a piece that solely defines this generation. A bold move, the band is implying that the current pop scene is nothing new, just a hodgepodge of imitators. Instead of simply copying their rock predecessors, Coldplay is re crafting new sounds to influence future generations' mainstream sound.
Incorporating a techno sound, much of the record is electronic overlapping with Coldplay’s signature acoustics. An excellent example of this is “Major Minus,” a track that mixes the contrasting sounds with good balance. The band fails to achieve this same balance on “Hurts Like Heaven,” a techno heavy track that suppresses the talent of the musicians with a mechanical overtone. Another bold choice, since Coldplay may be one of the last true rock bands, is the decision to partner with solo artist Rihanna on “Princess of China.” While fans may find Coldplay to be better than ‘top 40’ pop divas, they should applaud the extent to which Coldplay has tried to appropriate itself in the times.
On Coldplay’s Viva La Vida tour, each show closed with an outburst of paper butterflies from the ceiling, showering over the whole crowd. What ensued was a universal celebration. Moreover, many of Coldplay’s vintage hits, including “Fix You,” and “Yellow,” depict lights in the sky unifying all down below. “Lights will guide you home” and “Look at the stars, look how they shine for you,” are lyrical evidence. Mylo Xyloto continues that tradition of contagious merriment, but this time the inspiration is not from above. This party starts with people banding together. On the album, lyrics like “all the kids they dance, all the kids all night” act as temptations to join the celebration. Coldplay is starting a party; they hope the world will accept their invitation. The group “will run wild, oh,” and they will themselves be “glowing in the dark.” Shedding old musical influences, or the ‘stars’ that once invigorated them, the band is articulating how their latest record can inspire on its own.
Mylo Xyloto paints the picture of a love story’s survival amid an anti-utopian society colored with messy relationships. Structurally, the record justifies its purpose of combining soft rock with pop while telling a story. The tale unveils itself in three acts, mediated by instrumental interludes. Furthermore, the love story mirrors the band’s declaration by moving away from soft rock. The lovers paint a “concrete canvas” and are a “bright red rose come bursting the concrete.” Coldplay brings their fresh paint to an urban canvas.
This record (and article) could seem over dramatic in statement making; yet Chris Martin has a reputation of empathy. It seems the band is attempting to disregard the musical accomplishments of today, a fairly unsympathetic notion. In the face of that juxtaposition, the song “Charlie Brown” should be offered. In it, Charlie “saw the lights go down at the end of the scene” and saw them “smash his heart into smithereens.” Maybe the times broke Coldplay’s heart and brought them to a breaking point in their music. However, rather than “letting it break their heart,” they are creating “a cartoon heart,” like Charlie Brown’s and choosing to exist in a world with which they are at odds.