If you’re not a Coldplay fan, maybe read one of my other posts instead of this one. I’m about to talk about Coldplay a LOT.
In the age of the single, few pop albums are greater than the sum of their tracks. In my humble opinion, though, Coldplay bucks this trend, offering radio-friendly singles alongside brilliantly-crafted deep cuts that add up to wholly cohesive and engaging albums. This is especially true of their two most recent albums, which represent a marked departure from their previous offerings in terms of musical and lyrical complexity. As such, those are the two top contenders for My Favorite Coldplay Album, and I’ll be sussing out the winner in this here blog post. (Grammys are nice, but this honor is pretty prestigious too. Just saying.)
In one corner, we have 2008 release Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (VLVODAAHF, if you will), winner of a Grammy for Best Rock Album and the best-selling album of 2008. In the other, we have Mylo Xyloto, released in October 2011, which has hit #1 on the charts in 30 countries and racked up a few Grammy nods to boot. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Let’s get right into the head-to-head.
More gripping overture: Mylo Xyloto. Both albums introduce their respective musical tapestries with lovely instrumental overtures. Mylo Xyloto devotes 42 seconds to its rock-out intro, while Viva la Vida’s is two and a half minutes long and gently eases the listener in. This disparity is indicative of each album’s pace–MX rocks a little harder overall with songs that make you dance, while VLVODAAHF is in no rush and unfolds in a more deliberate fashion. This gives the advantage to MX, as it jumps right into the action without delay.
Stronger thematic consistency and flow: Viva la Vida. The cohesion of an album depends on the connection between songs: transitions between them, thematic ties, recurring aural motifs, etc. Mylo Xyloto is a little disjointed and suffers in this category. For instance, track 9 (“UFO”) is a stripped-down and intimate semi-acoustic offering, while track 10 (“Princess of China” feat. Rihanna) is electronic and synth-heavy. By contrast, VLVODAAHF is meant to be heard in its entirety, with a haunting tone that inhabits each track and glues the songs together in a gooey glob of ethereal perfection.
Catchier singles: Mylo Xyloto by a landslide. This category pits VLVODAAHF’s “Viva la Vida” and “Violet Hill” against Mylo Xyloto’s “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” and “Paradise.” (Plus, “Princess of China” feat. Rihanna is slated to be released as a single on Valentine’s day 2012.) There’s no contest here for me. I never loved “Viva la Vida” as a single–the emotional connection just isn’t there for me–and even though “Violet Hill” is a great song, it works better with the rest of the album around it. Meanwhile, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” and “Paradise” are both extremely engaging and emotionally charged. “Paradise” in particular rings true with the current economic climate and its effects on the outlook of the global workforce: When she was just a girl // She expected the world // But it flew away from her reach // So she ran away in her sleep // And dreamed of paradise…
Greater emotional involvement: Viva la Vida. Viva la Vida’s mournful vocals and piano spin a dreamworld that addresses war, death, and desire, singing right to your soul. Mylo Xyloto is billed as one long love story with a happy ending, but somehow it doesn’t connect on every level the way VLV does for me. Maybe you’ll disagree, which is your right. I can’t decide this one for you. But when Chris Martin murmurs the following lyrics on the closing VLV track, “Death and All His Friends,” I always stop what I’m doing to really listen: And, in the end // We lie awake and we dream of making our escape… and it gets me every time.