Coldplay’s fascination with outer space has shown up repeatedly through the years, going all the way back to its 2000 breakout hit “Yellow,” still arguably the British band’s most popular song. But while its newly released ninth studio album, Music Of The Spheres, fully embraces the cosmos, the result isn’t nearly as groovy or striking as that might suggest.
In April, Coldplay started promoting the interstellar themes in amusing ways to build hype. The trippy video of the first single, “Higher Power,” was shown to a French astronaut aboard the International Space Station before the song was released in May. Lead singer Chris Martin said the tracks were partly inspired by wondering what musicians across the universe are like. (This, after watching a fictional Star Wars band performance. Hey, you take inspiration where you can get it.) Sadly, the answer to “What magical sounds might interstellar musicians craft?” turns out to be “A slightly distorted version of Coldplay.”
It’s not all bad, but even the stronger moments feel like lazy B-sides from a better, more inventive album. “Higher Power” has catchy synth chords, and “Humankind” is full of ’80s nostalgia—they’re flashy, but it’s nothing Coldplay hasn’t done before. Both are highly reminiscent of music from A Head Full Of Dreams.
The more melodious songs are the band’s collaborations: with BTS on “My Universe” and with Selena Gomez for ballad “Let Somebody Go.” The first is strengthened by BTS’s star power and talent, and while Gomez is a soothing companion to Martin’s mournful voice, the lyrics are wearyingly basic. (There’s also the tuneful “Biutyful,” though it’s butchered spelling is the most notable thing about it.)
Five of the 12 songs on Music Of The Sphere don’t have proper titles; they are instead baffling emoji, from a heart to an infinity sign to a planet. As it turns out, those are meant to be meditative galactic rhythms, though in execution, they could just as easily be found on the Calm app.
It’s a dispiritingly lackluster offering. There is one lengthy exception to the “more of the same, but worse” vibe that dominates the record: The 10-minute-long “Coloratura” retains Coldplay’s rock-pop origins, but intriguingly ventures into realms outside the band’s comfort zone. Martin says it best in “Higher Power”: “I’m like a broken record / I’m like a broken record /And I’m not playing right.”