Everyday Life


 

I love Coldplay. Everyone knows that. But the Coldplay I knew and the Coldplay that created this album are two starkly different Coldplays. Lots of people would argue that there’s already been multiple Coldplays–the one they fell in love with during the Parachutes/A Rush of Blood to the Head era, and then the one that sucked from X&Y onwards. I’ve loved Coldplay since I’ve known who they were after rediscovering Viva La Vida in 2010, and I’ve loved every different type.

This version of Coldplay is just as lovable.

I do really want to stress that this is the first Coldplay album that feels like a different Coldplay. This album is a major departure from their old sound, yes, AND it’s a major departure from their old lyrics. Well, not too much a departure. The shift to the overtly political lyrics that Everyday Life brings was first telegraphed with Violet Hill off of Viva La Vida; it was an attack on the propaganda machine and warlust on the right side of the political spectrum that was mostly hidden with the bitter love-song chorus of “if you love me, won’t you let me know”. Then Coldplay stayed out of politics in their music (but very much not so in action, Chris Martin is a very good Samaritan) until A Head Full of Dreams, and they didn’t even do much political here: they just sampled Barack Obama singing Amazing Grace.

So the band went explicitly political with their next release: the Kaleidoscope EP. Buried with behind the extremely vapid track of Something Just Like This was the touchingly empathetic track A L I E N S that gave a voice to “illegal aliens” that just want to get home again, they don’t want to “take over” other countries and steal every “native’s” job. Yet the xenophobia and hatred in the comments on the music video for the song was heartbreaking. And, at that moment, Coldplay decided to go all-in, and started producing Everyday Life.

Past Coldplay hits have all been about individuals. The lyrics are like fortunes–vague enough that anyone can relate to, and specific enough for the individual hearing the words to think they were written for them. Funnily enough, the seemingly-specific political issues that Coldplay brings up in the album Everyday Life share that same quality since anyone who is empathetic to the issues sung about can think of an analogue in their country/neighborhood. And that is what makes the lyrics of Everyday Life beautiful. Anyone can relate. Let’s listen together to the dual album which begins with the Sunrise half.

Sunrise is classic Coldplay–the band loves instrumental intros that sound out of a church. What makes this one different is that the rest of the dang album could be played in a church and not be out of place. Including the first “real” song on the album: Church. The first time I heard Church, I was blown away. Coldplay always has beautiful melodies, but they rarely play them on traditionally beautiful instruments. The swelling strings, vocal samples, and simple percussion that back Chris Martin’s terribly-metaphorical love song just combine altogether into something nearly-perfect. It’s a lot like Ink, my favorite track off of Ghost Stories. Except it’s got the Arabic and other foreign samples that elevate it further. Super good start to the album.

And then the album gets heavy with Trouble in Town. The first half of the track is sung from the perspective of those abused by law enforcement. It’s a quiet track that Martin adds urgency to with his broken-voiced singing. And then the second half starts as the music crescendos to an angry outburst. In structure, the track beautifully captures how a citizen’s riot starts. And then it gets very overt about how they start by playing a minute-long clip of a police officer abusing his power over a citizen. There’s three songs where Coldplay drops the f-bomb, and this disturbing tirade from the police officer is one of them. It’s a brilliant track.

Broken (spelled with an “E” on its back) is a short Gospel track that has all the trappings of Gospel–simple piano, plenty of backup singers yelling back the lyrics, and finger snaps. It’s well-done as a Gospel track. Thematically, it’s the first time in the album Coldplay invokes the Lord, and the band does it a lot. And it provides a conundrum to the religious far-right that listen to this album. How can they support and act on all this hatred of those who love God like them? Coldplay isn’t invoking God’s name to win over listeners like Kanye West. They’re doing it to appeal to the conscience. Some might say it’s to show those religious far-right folks as hypocrites, but Coldplay never directly says that God would not be proud of their actions; they simply celebrate the Lord. It’s a brilliant way of avoiding getting called hypocrites themselves for judging the individuals “called out” by the lyrics, but only those that perceive it as a personal attack should feel attacked by it. There’s no harm in singing “Oh Lord, come and shine a light on me”.

Daddy is the saddest track Coldplay’s put out. And considering its company, that’s hard to do. Lyrically, it’s about a child missing their absentee father (absentee because they’re a bad dad, or because they’ve been unjustly arrested, or for whatever reason you want to interpret from the stark music video). Musically, it’s simple. There’s little going on. Just a piano, and sometimes you can make out a faint, deep percussion. But the way Martin progresses in sound as he sings “so far away” in the chorus is… sublime. And the last chorus is haunting as the strings pile up towards one final hope that won’t be answered. Great track.

WOTW/POTP stands for Wonder of the World/Power of the People. It’s a short 2 minute track where Martin plays an acoustic guitar and mumbles. It reminds me of my least favorite tracks off of Mylo Xyloto. It’s weird, out-of-place, and filler. But it sets up the rocking anthem of Arabesque which was the first single off the album. I’ve already posted my thoughts on Arabesque, but hearing it loud on my stereo was an experience. I feel like Martin shouldn’t have made his swearing so filtered, but other than that, no complaints. Great track.

When I Need a Friend closes out the Sunrise half of the album. This is a “traditional” Christian hymn in sound rather than Gospel like Broken. The whole choir is singing together about how violence should end. It’s to God, but his name is never invoked. The song and album half ends with another sample. It’s the speech of a man at the center of the Honduran film Everything is Incredible; his dream was to build a helicopter, and he had worked for over 50 years piecing it together with parts picked up on the street. The speech itself ends with the lines “The problem is that everything is amazing, and people don’t accept it”. Fitting.

After six or seven or eight tracks that’s just a bell ringing for three seconds at a time, the Sunset half of the album begins with Guns. It’s just Chris Martin playing some urgent acoustic guitar while singing about how those in power have decided that everyone needs more guns, and Martin questions their and his sanity. It’s for sure a pro-gun control song that also sneaks in further criticism of those in power who “burn down the forest” and save only the lookalikes. It also has Martin dropping another f-bomb. God bless. Short and sweet anti-gun track that clearly and effectively communicates its message, though not as well as The 1975’s I Like America and America Likes Me.

Orphans is the best track on the album. It’s also the most specific in lyrical content in that it namedrops people and places that got bombed in the Middle East. That’s all I need to say. Èkó is a city in Nigeria. The track named after it feels like another song from the perspective of a child. There’s something beautifully naive about this track. The lyrics sound like they’re torn from a picture book and sung like a children’s song, and the feelings invoked are innocently hopeful. It just feels like something out of a coming-of-age movie just before the bombs fall, which is why it’s strange that it comes after Orphans in the track listing. Very pretty track.

Cry Cry Cry features musician boy genius Jacob Collier to provide his very weird vocals in harmony with Chris Martin’s straight-laced voice. I personally don’t think the mix works as well as the band would want. And the piano backing the voices doesn’t do much to beautify the harmony. It’s the spiritual sequel to Church in how it’s not about God, rather a person, but from the perspective of the one who is going to comfort the one who needs it. Cute, but probably my least favorite of the “real” tracks on the album.

Old Friends is probably the most easily relatable of all the tracks on the album. Everyone has an old friend or two that they think of but simply can’t reconnect to for one reason or another. It’s a short two and a half minute track that may take people back years in thought. Even though there’s so much acoustic guitar and piano on this album, this track stands out through its swells and harmonies. And something about the way Martin sings “Time just deepens/sweetens and mends” and “we all melt/into the picture” feels really familiar, but I just can’t place it. It’s a musical old friend that I can’t re-find. Beautiful track.

بنی آدم (Children of Adam) is a lot like Kaleidoscope off A Head Full of Dreams. Only, this time, instead of stopping at one poem, the band lets three poems play. One in Arabic that calls out those who fail to empathize with those in real pain (i.e., those in the Middle East), one in English praying for peace, love, and perfection through God, and a sample of a gospel track from Nigeria saying that God made everything. The ones in other languages sound way prettier because you can’t understand them. It’s a track Coldplay would put together, that’s for sure.

Champion of the World is the best track on the album that wasn’t a single. It’s classic Coldplay in sound in how it builds to an immaculate chorus and just keeps going higher. Lyrically, it’s similar to another Coldplay track, Miracles. It’s about persevering in the face of pain with no hope of something better but your own belief. The track is dedicated to Scott Hutchinson, the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit. Hutchinson took his own life in 2018, and one particular track from the band left such a large impact on Martin that he credited Hutchinson as a co-writer of this track. I can’t say anymore about this track. It’s perfect.

The album ends with the track for which the album is named after, which is a usual Coldplay move. Everyday Life is a very pretty piano ballad where Martin tries to get inside the headspace of a conflicted person who struggles at seeing an individual or group of people as anything but the enemy. But the chorus of his mind reminds him that everyone hurts, everyone cries, and, ultimately, the figure in the song throws their arms out wide and welcomes those he sees with a Hallelujah. It’s the journey in thought that Coldplay hopes everyone listening to the album goes through. And for that, the track is beautiful. A great end to a great album.

Or, it would be the end, if the Japanese version of the CD didn’t have Flags as the closer instead. And this is a bonus track worth listening to. It’s a lot like Champion of the World in sound and content, which is a great track to double up on. The lines “You’ll let telephone in by a region/Is there any advice that you could give?” is such a perfect callback to the old hit Talk where brothers are speaking over the phone, and one is asking for advice a lot like this. And the track ends by saying “I just love you for yourself”, which is the life-affirmation that is missing from the normal cut of the album. It really, really, really should have been on the album.

Everyday Life is an album that I’ve liked more and more the more I’ve listened to it. I first thought that there were too many low-key, lame piano/acoustic tracks that were pretty but also pretty interchangeable. But on these repeated listens, more and more layers of depth reveal themselves in each “simple” track, and the album truly comes together as a joy. It’s an incredibly important album in content, and is delivered so beautifully that I just pray that people listen to it and are moved by it. And I really, truly pray that their preaching hits more than just the choir.

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