Coldplay’s first two albums played constantly in my dad’s car when I was a kid. I learned every corner of the simple, lovesick anthems that made up “Parachutes” and “A Rush of Blood to the Head,” and they filled me with wonder and warmth. As I matured, so did Coldplay, with the growing pains of the bloated but earnest “X&Y” and the passionate and entrancing atmosphere of “Viva La Vida or “Death and All His Friends.”
Although the post-Britpop soft rockers have never been a favorite among the “music writer” crowd, since their 2000 debut, they’ve managed to turn in record after record of raw honesty, moving vulnerability and a controlled level of self-seriousness. Such a consistent adherence to familiarity balanced with an under-appreciated drive for experimentation has elevated Coldplay to become the biggest band of the 21st century, selling out stadiums around the world to millions of fans who share my deep personal connection to their music.
For a while, Chris Martin and company seemed to operate in a sort of blindness to their global success. Sure, “Mylo Xyloto” and “Ghost Stories” are far more pop-oriented than their earlier works, but Coldplay were always a pop group at heart. These albums are the result of a band discovering and playing with new sonic vehicles for their art. They tastefully called upon collaborators such as Rihanna and Avicii to fill in gaps in their own musical shortcomings in order to achieve their musical and thematic goals, rather than to score radio hits.
Since “Ghost Stories,” however, the worldwide phenomenon of Coldplay’s success may have exhausted the group’s creativity. They put up a valiant fight, but with 2015’s “A Head Full of Dreams” and one infuriating Chainsmokers collaboration, the band finally sounded like sell-outs.
Worldwide fame caused Coldplay’s precipitous decline, but on the group’s eighth studio album “Everyday Life,” they’ve figured out how to use the worldly experience their fame has provided them as the catalyst for a creative resurrection. Sitting on the Amman Citadel in Jordan’s capital, where Coldplay performed the album in full on its release date, Martin explained that “if you’ve had the privilege of traveling around the world a lot, you know that ultimately we’re all from the same place.”
The humble front man has always written songs about the universal feelings of love and heartbreak and healing — sometimes with an annoying inoffensiveness — but such lyrics came from an internal vulnerability rather than an external observation of shared experiences. Now with a global perspective, Chris Martin has found the confirmation he needed to write about far more complex yet just as universal issues, and he frequently does so with elegance on “Everyday Life.”
“Daddy” is a quintessential example of this. Martin’s pleas have the rudimentary innocence of a child who just wants his dad to come home, singing “look, Dad, we got the same hair / And Daddy, it’s my birthday / And all I wanna say / Is you’re so far away.” Not only does Chris speak from his own experience of having to spend so much time away from his son as he tours the world, but, as he explains, “it also was about learning about the criminal justice system and the problem of mass incarceration … thinking about all those dads who are taken away from their kids and kids removed from their dads.”
Meanwhile, on “Guns,” the band dutifully takes a back seat as Martin shreds his acoustic and attacks racial violence and America’s attachment to the second amendment, chanting “only save your lookalikes and fuck the other ones / It’s the opinion of this board that we need more guns.” Other themes throughout the album include police brutality and the Syrian refugee crisis, and Martin handles these with similar grace.
Behind the lyrics, the band makes a lot of interesting and risky choices that end up paying off. “Arabesque” is one such thrilling experiment. At five minutes and 40 seconds, this epic cry for empathy in a world of hate features a blaring horn section and a furious saxophone solo over an acoustic guitar, all building up to Martin’s distant shouts of “same fucking blood!” Meanwhile, the muted lullaby piano, quiet heartbeat, and distant synths on “Daddy” are beautifully subtle choices that elevate it from a generic piano ballad to Coldplay’s saddest and arguably most moving song ever.
There are plenty of other captivating moments throughout “Everyday Life,” including the doo-wop acapella of “Cry Cry Cry,” the thrashing climax of “Trouble In Town,” the flourishing strings of the title track, and the dancing acoustics and dreamy falsetto of “Èkó.” All of these are immaculately produced and exhibit a masterful subtlety — a category in which Coldplay has often struggled.
With an album full of risks, it shouldn’t be surprising that some decisions fall flat. The gospel interlude “BrokEn” is respectable on its own, but in the context of the record it feels like a jarring break in momentum wedged between “Trouble In Down” and “Daddy,” two dark piano-driven tracks. Later, the tiring lead single “Orphans” is oddly cheerful for a song about the Syrian refugee crisis and the Damascus bombing of 2008, and “بنی آدم (Children of Adam)” is puzzlingly formless, with its pleasant piano solo interrupted by an atmospheric jam that goes nowhere.
These missteps result in a double album with a beautifully sequenced first half, titled “Sunrise,” and a frustratingly directionless second half, titled “Sunset.” Still, “Everyday Life”’s shortcomings are mostly structural in nature, and the record’s highs are too compelling and numerous for the mistakes to cause any serious harm.
Get The Dirt
Subscribe to our weekly email about what's trending at Duke
Though it’s fun to explore the many new sounds and ideas the band plays with throughout “Everyday Life,” perhaps the strongest evidence that their new global perspective has Coldplay back in touch with their creativity is the record’s most traditionally “Coldplay” song. “Church”’s oceanic synths and chiming guitars, along with Chris singing “oh, when you’re riding a wave / ‘Cause when I’m hurt / Then I’ll go to your church,” feature Coldplay excelling at what they’ve always done best: finding spiritual catharsis in the everyday feelings and experiences that we all share.