Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto Album Review: A Taste of Paradise?

By Ama Debrah

From their otherworldly name to larger-than-life-sounds, it’s clear that Coldplay’s fifth studio album, Mylo Xyloto, is meant to be a game changer; and not just for Coldplay’s own musical repertoire, but also for every other alt rock album to come after it. Over three years after their triple platinum Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, which was the best selling album of 2008 and cemented their presence as one of the “biggest rock groups in history,” Coldplay hopes to recapture the hearts of their fans with the latest installment of their ever-evolving musical style. Discarding their revolutionary-era French peasant vibe from Viva la Vida for art inspired by “old-school American graffiti,” Coldplay attempts to create a new sound that differs from their previous work. By making up two new words for their album title Mylo Xyloto, lead singer Chris Martin says that Coldplay is attempting “to have a completely fresh start from [their] history and from anyone else’s recording history.” Although the words were created to go along with the dystopian concept behind the album, he does acknowledge that this may seem extremely “pretentious” and “ridiculous.” The band hopes that nonsensical phrase will become accepted like other popular made-up words, such as Pepsi or Google.

The album’s first single, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” reflects the conscious movement away from soft piano ballads to guitar-heavy stadium anthems, a transition that was already present in Viva la Vida with “Lovers in Japan” and “Lost!” This shift is even more apparent in the second single, “Paradise,” which, in my opinion, is really the centerpiece of the album. Although the violin solo in the beginning is a little reminiscent of “Viva la Vida,” the biggest hit off their previous album of that name, that’s where the comparisons end. “Paradise” captures everything that Mylo Xyloto is trying to accomplish: a big sound, a consistent and catchy piano melody, and incredible vocals provided by Martin. “Paradise” makes up for the loss of emotional depth in “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” making it easily the best song on the album.

Brits inspired by American-style graffiti

The most recent single, “Charlie Brown,” toys with another recurring theme of the album: nostalgia for an innocence lost. The song begins with an almost haunting chorus that sounds like the laughter of small children, while Martin sings of a wild youth that seems more reminiscent of The Outsiders novel than Coldplay’s usual lyrical repertoire. Another highlight, “Major Minus,” is actually inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and was described by Martin on National Public Radio as the “bad guy” of the record. What will probably end up being the biggest hit off Mylo Xyloto is “Princess of China,” a collaboration with pop-princess Rihanna. Even though many – myself included – were wary about the repercussions of combining musical artists from two very different genres, (see Keane’s “Stop for a Minute” featuring K’naan), “Princess of China” is actually one of the stronger singles off the album. While the song leaves something to be desired lyrically, (“I could’ve been a Princess, you’d be a king/ Could’ve had a castle and wore a ring”), the track somehow merges Rihanna and Martin’s vocals together in a rock masterpiece.

The album ends on a similar note as Viva la Vida with “Up With the Birds,” which slows the record down with a soft piano and guitar melody. Despite the musical evolution of Coldplay, what I had been craving from this album (and what I also felt was missing from Viva la Vida) was a slow, powerful ballad, like X&Y had with “Fix You” and A Rush of Blood to the Head had with “The Scientist.” Although it is unrealistic and damaging for fans to expect bands to produce the same kinds of songs from album to album, my main problem with Mylo Xyloto is that there seems to be an emotional disconnect with the music. Although the melodies are brilliant, nothing really sticks out in the way that made songs like “Yellow” and “Clocks” such successes. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that Mylo Xyloto is one of the best albums of the year and is sure to satisfy the musical cravings of old and new fans alike.

The pop-up book included with the vinyl… word.

Ama Debrah is a sophomore at Barnard College and Food Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Photos courtesy of The Chuckness, Idolator, and Ruckus Media Group.
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