In the olden days, the members of Coldplay were primarily concerned with keeping pace with U2. But times change, and Chris Martin and Co. recently claimed that they’re now trying to compete with pop acts from across the genre spectrum—think Justin Bieber, Kanye West and Adele. With global hegemony in mind, Coldplay have once again recruited Brian Eno, who helps them veer further away from their maudlin, piano-led comfort zone.
In one sense, it works—Mylo Xyloto finds the band at their most strident and celebratory—but every detail of the album is so sanded down it feels as though the melodies were put through rigorous focus-group testing in advance of the final mix. All the artistic progress made on their last album, the quirky and even adventurous Viva la Vida, has been undone, thanks to an overdose of weeping electronic strings, a pointless Rihanna cameo (on the forgettable “Princess of China”) and a festival-pleasing “ohh-ohh” hook that’s shoehorned onto the end of every boisterous chorus. Unfortunately, these lovingly crafted earworms won’t stand the test of time. There’s a reason Coldplay’s back-end ballads are the ones that still sound fresh after so many years—they’re the ones that emerged most organically from Martin’s eternally bleeding heart.
And sadly, heart is precisely what Mylo Xyloto lacks.
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The moody, piano-led ballad, which reaches Coldplay’s signature orchestral-rock aplomb by its midway point, was not only the first song the group had ever written specifically for a movie but its first new song since the release of 2011′s Mylo Xyloto. “Atlas” made it to the No. 1 position on 43 countries’ respective iTunes chart. In the U.S., it made it to No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked in the Top 20 of Billboard‘s Rock Songs and Alternative Songs charts.
Martin is reportedly a fan of the Hunger Games series of books and based the song on the drama within the movie. “We are thrilled with how well they have connected to the themes and ideas within the film,” the movie’s director, Francis Lawrence, commented in September. “Their unwavering passion and excitement for the project elevated the collaboration even further.”
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack, which features new tracks from Christina Aguilera, Sia and Lorde, among others, comes out November 19th. The movie hits theaters November 22nd.