Music of the Spheres is the ninth studio album by British rock band Coldplay, released on 15 October 2021 by Parlophone in the United Kingdom and Atlantic Records in the United States. The album was produced by Max Martin, who is a new producer to the band's discography. It features guest appearances from Selena Gomez, We Are King, Jacob Collier and BTS. It also features contributions from electronic producer Jon Hopkins.
An space-themed concept album, Music of the Spheres is set in a fictional planetary system called The Spheres, which contains nine planets, three natural satellites, a star and a nebula, each of which corresponds to a certain song. According to lead singer Chris Martin, its concept and themes were inspired by the Star Wars film franchise, which made him wonder what other artists could be like across the universe.
The album received generally mixed reviews from critics, who praised its pop composition, but criticized its concept and superficial feeling.
The idea for a space-themed record had been envisioned by the band since 2010, when lead vocalist Chris Martin proposed a project of building "a solar system", as stated in a blog published by the band, named "Roadie #42". At the time Everyday Life was released, in November 2019, one of the hints was hidden within the bifold of the booklet of the physical vinyl and digibook editions of the album, in which a black and white billboard in a field advertises "Music of the Spheres". In the bottom left corner, smaller writing says "Coldplay coming soon". This, combined with the band's history of teasers for future material, fueled speculation about Music of the Sphere's themes and release date. Other hints to future material were purportedly hidden within song lyrics and music videos from the Everyday Life era.
Style and concept
Lead singer Chris Martin stated that the theme for the album was inspired by "wonder what musicians would be like across the universe" after watching the fictional Mos Eisley cantina band perform in Star Wars and making speculations in relation to outer space sounds.
The album is set in a fictional planetary system called The Spheres, which consists of nine planets, three natural satellites, one star and a nearby nebula. Each track on the album represents a celestial body from The Spheres. Following the album's track listing, they are: Neon Moon I ("Music of the Spheres"), Kaotica ("Higher Power"), Echo ("Humankind"), Kubik ("Alien Choir"), Calypso ("Let Somebody Go"), Supersolis ("Human Heart"), Ultra ("People of the Pride"), Floris ("Biutyful"), Neon Moon II ("Music of the Spheres II"), Epiphane ("My Universe"), Infinity Station ("Infinity Sign"), and Coloratura ("Coloratura"). Supersolis is the star at the centre of the system, and Coloratura is the Nebula. Each celestial body in The Spheres has its own language: EL 1 for Neon Moon I, Kaotican for Kaotica, Mirror Text for Echo, Qblok for Kubik, Aquamarine for Calypso, Supersolar for Supersolis, Voltik for Ultra, Bloom for Floris, EL 2 for Neon Moon II, Spheric for Epiphane, Infinitum for Infinity Station, and Coloraturan for Coloratura. An unnamed natural satellite orbits Echo, while both Neon Moons orbit Epiphane. A lost planet called Aurora is also part of the system, although it remains unknown whether a hidden song will represent it.
Martin uses the planets as a canvas to explore the human experience: "It's really another record about life as a human person, but given this freedom that comes when you pretend it's about other creatures in other places."
“Look at the stars / Look how they shine for you,” instructed Chris Martin on Coldplay’s classic 2000 single ‘Yellow’. On the band’s ninth album ‘Music Of The Spheres’, the four-piece are taking his two-decade-old advice. The title and concept that encompasses the record comes from the ancient philosophical notion that the movement of celestial bodies is a form of music, setting in motion a metaphorical journey to outer space.
Instead of hunkering down in glitchy sci-fi sounds and noodling electronics, Coldplay (with the help of Swedish hitmaker Max Martin on co-production) do what they do best. The album is full of soaring pop melodies that take you high enough to enter orbit and touching sentiments that makes the universe around you glow ever brighter.
“We were trying to zoom out a little bit [and] use the universe and the cosmos as a metaphor for the difficulties and wonderfulness of life on Earth,” drummer Will Champion told Entertainment Weekly in a recent interview. One metaphor that seems integral to the album’s message popped up online months ago – “Everyone is an alien somewhere” read one corner of the handwritten album announcement the band posted on Instagram in July.
“Today I had the strangest feeling that I belong,” Martin exclaims on the galactic stomp of ‘Humankind’. It’s a song that rushes with so much brightness and euphoria it will likely have the unifying effect he sings of when the band perform it on their eco-friendly tour next year. Despite the album’s space setting, the lyrics deal firmly with humanity – no ET analogies here. They’re sometimes a bit on the nose, but still deal us reminders of the positive sides of our species: “Capable of kindness, so they call us humankind.”
‘My Universe’, the rousing collaboration with Korean wonders BTS, continues that buoyant streak. It’s an optimistic ode to the indefatigable power of love, even when the world tries to halt it with hateful or closed-minded barriers. Like that Instagram announcement and the kinship of ‘Humankind’, the glittering song also subtly reminds us we are one. “We are made of each other, baby,” BTS singer Jungkook declares as the track enters its final cosmic throes.
The world-conquering pop group aren’t the only big names to team up with Coldplay on ‘Music Of The Spheres’. Selena Gomez duets with Martin on the sombre, sorrowful ‘Let Somebody Go’, her soft vocals adding an extra dynamic to the heartbroken ballad. “Now turn off all the stars cos this I know,” Coldplay’s frontman sings. “That it hurts like so to let somebody go.” The Texan pop star replies with her own beautiful perspective on love lost: “When I called the mathematicians and asked them to explain / They said, ‘Love is only equal to the pain’.”
Two more Grammy-endorsed collaborators appear on ‘Human Heart’ – sister duo We Are KING and British jazz musician Jacob Collier. The track explores male and female perspectives of human emotion, Martin and We Are KING’s Amber and Paris Strother sharing their own experiences with each other. “Boys don’t cry,” he begins. “Boys keep it all inside / I tried to hide it underneath / Still my heart starts to beat.” His vocals are layered and slathered in heavenly reverb, making it sound like he’s singing from a galaxy closer to the pearly gates.
“Only got a human heart / I wish it didn’t run away / I wish it didn’t fall apart,” the group sings together, another nod to the idea that, despite our differences, we can all relate to our fellow humans on a base level.
While ‘Music Of The Spheres’ feels like quintessential Coldplay, there are some more surprising moments buried in its tracklist. ‘People Of The Pride’ rides on a buzzy riff that could easily fit on a Muse record, while ‘Infinity Sign’ takes the form of an instrumental cut that merges dazzling electronics with the distant echo of a crowd chanting “Olé olé olé olé, olé, olé”. It’s as if you’re overhearing the din of a football match on a neighbouring planet.
Like a sparkling night sky sewn with stars, ‘Music Of The Spheres’ is a celestial beauty that’s capable of inspiring great awe and emotion – not least on its grandiose, poignant closer ‘Coloratura’. The 10-minute sprawler ties up all the album’s messages in one sweep, expanding Martin’s lyrics to pull from Galileo, space missions, interstellar objects and planets, and old Latin phrases. It’s a much simpler sentiment that beautifully carries the record off into the otherworldly distance, though. “Poets prophesy up in the blue,” go the final lines of the record. “Together – that’s how we’ll make it through.”