The first half would be enough to have it among my favourite Coldplay ballads, while the second half currently has me so obsessed it feels like it’s quite simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard in my life. In its entirety, the just released 10-minute long Coloratura ironically plays out as a concise summation of 20+ years of everything that made Coldplay, Coldplay. It’s a staggering achievement.
The closing track from the band’s upcoming ninth studio album Music Of The Spheres (scheduled for October 15), Coloratura is less of a single and more of a low-key promotional release. Sure, as “low-key” as a band with 42,000,000 monthly Spotify streams sending out into the world their longest ever song can be, but low-key none-the-less.
The initial reactions to this celestial-themed epic is to draw positive, even rapturous, comparisons to Dark Side Of The Moon-era Pink Floyd and while that’s undoubtedly true, I’m also hearing a distinct late 70s Genesis vibe.
It’s too easy to think that Genesis abandoned their long-form ambitions the moment Peter Gabriel left, but Phil Collins-fronted tracks like the 7-and-a-half-minute Mad Man Moon and the 5-and-a-half-minute Blood On The Rooftops (both from 1976) are immediately what I thought of when I first heard Coloratura.
That is to say, these are works of immense scope and beauty that while long, are full of pop hooks and sensibilities that aren’t smothered by their creators’ shooting-for-the-stars ambition.
Speaking of which, Music Of The Spheres is openly inspired by things like Chris Martin rewatching Star Wars, not to mention his open desire – be it mock or serious – to one day perform on the Moon. I love this. I’ve always embraced Coldplay’s U2-like aspirations to be the biggest band in the world, or in this case, the Universe.
In other hands it would be cloying arrogance, naivety, or both, but somehow Coldplay’s loftiest of career goals have always seemed to about the collective, as in us, or at least those of us who consider ourselves diehard fans. Maybe it’s because even this deep into a career that still has them as arguably the biggest band of the 21st Century, Chris Martin, Will Champion, Johnny Buckland and Guy Berryman still carry themselves like guys you could approach at a pub and shout a beer.
Even if that shout has you secretly presuming you ultimately won’t have to pay. Regardless, these are four gents who wear their superstardom – not to mention their immense wealth (estimated at almost half a billion US dollars between them) – remarkably lightly.
Which is no mean feat when you’re capable of music as euphoric and as stadium-ready as Coloratura. That said, I’m writing this cautious of any hyperbole that will date like the unwelcome fashion return of exposed male ankles. Anyone who writes about music has raved about new songs in the past and then slightly cringed six months down the line when what seemed 10 out of 10 is in reality closer to an eight. But given Coloratura feels like a solid 12, I’m comfortable in the praise.
As for the what the song is actually about, in a way it’s everything and nothing. Or rather, the same piece of music that name-checks Galileo, Neptune, Betelgeuse, Calisto and Calliope is also about the simple, profound love between two people. It’s a love that even against the backdrop of myths, legends, scientific pioneers and interplanetary voyages, is still the most important thing:
In this crazy world it’s true / I just want you
Regarding the title, Coloratura is a fictitious Coldplay-invented planet, as well as being an operatic term that the Oxford Dictionary describes as being the, “elaborate ornamentation of a vocal melody”. “Elaborate” is an understatement. As mentioned, the first half of Coloratura is all about setting the scene for the climax of the song’s back five-minutes.
Or more specifically, the first half ends at the 4:51 mark where a Vangelis-like soundscape takes hold. This is in turn replaced by the aural equivalent of the gentlest of shooting stars at 5:40; a melancholic, xylophone-based tip-toe of a dance. Then at 6:05 there’s one of those Coldplay instrumentals that’s so good you wish it would repeat for a few more bars as the 5:4 time combination of acoustic guitar and piano with increasing word-less background vocals is over too soon.
All is forgiven though when at 6:38 Johnny Buckland finally gets to let loose with a guitar solo that plays out as equal parts release and regret; there’s a sadness to Coloratura that’s between the ultimately hopeful lines. Perhaps it’s the sense that this love song for the ages is set in a future where maybe the human race didn’t quite save Planet Earth and had to go in search of new worlds. Or maybe it’s because when music is as grand and realised as this, the listener having an emotional response is merely an inevitable byproduct.
Irrespective, no sooner has Johnny’s Edge-esque chiming subsided then it’s time for the vocals of the song’s first half to return at 7:10, only this time with more intensity, more harmonies, some minor variations of the original verse melody and for the first time, the “oh-oh-ohs” every Coldplay fan was waiting for. And from there, Coloratura winds down in hymn-like style, bookending how it began all those minutes ago.
It’s a stunning song. It’s a career defining song. It just may be the single greatest song Coldplay have ever recorded.
Here it is: