Chris Martin

Review

Singer Chris Martin of the music group Coldplay performs on the “Today” show on Friday in New York. (Photo courtesy of NBC)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

When Coldplay released its debut album, Parachutes, with its layers of beautiful, melancholic arrangements contrasting with the light-hearted lyrics of frontman Chris Martin, the band impressed audiences worldwide and started a movement that still resonates today. Alongside Radiohead, Coldplay has solidified itself atop the Britpop pedestal, each release a progressive climb towards pop icon status.

Mylo Xyloto continues in the Coldplay tradition — multiple crescendos, intricate arrangements and reflective social commentary — but with a more electronic, new wave direction.

Similar to its predecessor Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, Mylo Xyloto shows the group branching out into different realms of music: “Hurts Like Heaven” is reminiscent of The Cure with its soaring, moody vocals and synthy passages. “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” and its arena rock guitars are complemented by a thumping bass drum. The subtle harmonies are enthralling, veiled by lightly strummed acoustic guitar that adds to the song’s powerful sound.

“Princess of China” and its fuzzy synths, electronic hand claps and vocal contribution from Rihanna, showcases the band’s admiration for hip-hop. Martin comes off as confident in territory that is familiar to the hip-hop diva, resulting in a strangely intriguing union between the two.

The album bridges the gap between Coldplay’s poppy, piano-driven past and its electronic future: There is an almost flawless balancing of the two worlds, indicating the band’s desire to intermingle sounds and ideas that might have been difficult earlier in their career. The band easily experiments, taking elements from its past that propelled it into the mainstream, while successfully adding a component of unfamiliarity.

Though, it can be displeasing at times. “Up In Flames” leans too far into the electronic realm, and unlike most songs on the album, there is no captivating build. “Us Against the World” can also be redundant: it would have been perfect on Viva La Vida, but its significance on Mylo Xyloto is out of place. This is where Coldplay experiences trouble — rather than sticking to its guns, it either leans too far to the left or right. The struggle between the complacency of its old, definitive sound and fascination with its newfound sound is apparent in these songs, taking away from the album’s overall fluidity.

Mylo Xyloto indicates a turning point for Coldplay. Yes, the piano and acoustic guitar still remain a part of the band’s music, but it is the exploration of new territory and how it will manipulate it that will prove why Coldplay is a noteworthy band.

Printed on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 as: Britpop mainstays go electronic

Beyoncé, “Best Thing I Never Had”

When the pop diva dropped her debut single, “Run the World (Girls),” from her forthcoming album, 4, it raised a curious eyebrow. For an artist who made a name for herself as a musical trendsetter for the past decade, why was she slumming behind a trend-following, Rihanna-esque dance beat? Whether it was pandering or careful plotting to make this new single sound brilliant by comparison, “Best Thing I Never Had” is closer to classic Beyoncé. A soaring kiss-off to a former love (“When I think of the time that I almost loved you/You showed your ass and I saw the real you”), it better showcases her incredible voice and exudes equal parts strength and vulnerability. 

Best Thing I Never Had by Beyoncé


 

 Spoek Mathambo, “Control” 

This South African rapper and disk jockey has accomplished a seemingly impossible task. He made Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” sound even grimmer than the leaders of somber ambience did. A transformative cover, this remixed and remodeled version of the song is the kind of catchy, affecting dance that M.I.A. used to make before being consumed by misinformed agitprop. Over a pulsating, almost tribal beat, Mathambo’s deep vocals reverberate like a foreboding presence. If the Rapture had occurred, this dark number would have played across the landscape for those left behind.

SPOEK MATHAMBO - CONTROL by Spoek Mathambo


Coldplay, “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” 

The English pop-rock group has been as divisive over the years as lead singer Chris Martin’s wife, Gwyneth Paltrow. Are they secretly brilliant or just plain insufferable? It depends on what they’re aiming for; usually somewhere between plaintive (their early 2000s work) and sky-high transcendence (which they’ve leaned toward since X&Y). Martin told the Guardian last November their new album is inspired by New York graffiti, and this first taste is in the same vein as their last album, Viva La Vida. It’s slightly rougher around the edges, but still pretty; like a pair of pre-tarnished jeans. How this synth-tinged track is anything like grungy, grimy street art is unclear, but it could easily sell iPods. 

Coldplay - Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall by MMMusic


Beirut, “East Harlem”

First penned by the Balkan-infused indie set’s frontman Zach Condon when he was 17, this proper studio recording is a plinking, wistful stroll that has an odd commercial appeal. The shift from their usual, somewhat alienating Bulgarian countryside vibe to a cleaner sound isn’t surprising considering the group’s recent collaborations with Blondie. Horns blare between upbeat ukulele strumming and yearning lyrics for a faraway love (“She’s waiting for the night to fall/Let it fall, I’ll never make it in time”). When the song swells to its climax, it’s like Condon is smiling through his own tears. It’s one of the cheeriest songs about missing your love.  

Beirut - East Harlem by Revolver USA