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Monday, December 05, 2022

"Everyday Life" serves as a revitalization for Coldplay, pulling on Middle Eastern roots to deliver a new sound. 

About a year on, an album we didn’t know we needed: Everyday Life by Coldplay

While most of the world focused on the unveiling of the Tesla Cybertruck last November and lost it when the “armor glass” on the truck smashed — much to Elon Musk’s embarrassment — another unveiling was taking place in Amman, Jordan. Diametrically opposite to the chaos that the Cybertruck caused, this unveiling was peaceful and serene. It was hosted by none other than Coldplay, who released their most recent album Everyday Life via two live performances during the Jordanian sunrise and sunset that were streamed in their entirety on YouTube. The performances were meant to correspond to the two halves of the album titled “Sunrise” and “Sunset” and the location was a nod to the Middle Eastern influences of the album. Being a biased Coldplay fan, I found the performance to be quite godly, especially when meshed in with the beauty of Amman and indeed, the sunrise and the sunset, but unfortunately, I could not get anybody to appreciate the brilliance of the performance — and indeed, the album — at the time. 

However, a bit more than one year on and following a Grammy nomination that came as a pleasant surprise — although Grammys are no real indicator of quality — no one can stop me, as I further make a case for the beauty of this album, Coldplay’s eighth in an illustrious career spanning about two decades. It is worth looking through each and every track in this album. The songs can end up having very distinct sounds, yet share a lot in character and essence and have strong Middle Eastern and African influences, as can be seen on the album cover and other places as well.

Everyday Life is a double album, with two sections as mentioned above. The first half of the album constitutes “Sunrise” , with an eponymous instrumental interlude kicking things off and truly setting the tone for the first section of the album. This is followed by “Church”, the first proper song of the album based on a parallel comparison between a place of worship and a beautiful woman’s heartwarming presence, featuring backing vocals in Arabic by Norah Shaqur, the first of many nods to Arab culture.

 What follows this track is arguably the most powerful song on the album and my personal favorite, “Trouble in Town”. This song has its own music video, a visual depiction of the lyrics taking some inspiration from George Orwell’s Animal Farm — with specific reference to the line “some animals are more equal than others” — and is based on the deep rooted issue of police brutality along racial lines — perhaps the most prophetic track in the whole album, as 2020 has been a year of racial reckoning. 

Arguably the most chilling aspect of “Trouble in Town” is that it features a real clip from a stop and frisk by infamous Philly cop Philip Nace in 2013, which is interspersed with an intense crescendo of music that makes you sit up and feel strongly. 

A powerful track like “Trouble in Town” is followed by a short track, “BrokEn”, styled as such in a  tribute to Brian Eno, who Coldplay had worked with previously on successful projects like “Viva la Vida” and whose taste in gospel music inspired them to record such a track. This track is simple and naturally features a gospel choir, essentially standing as a prayer and providing much needed relaxation after the vexation that comes from “Trouble in Town”.

This reprieve does not last long though, as the next song is arguably the strongest candidate for tear-jerker in the album: “Daddy”. The premise of the song is simple and execution is effective, as it serves as an account of a child who misses their father, perhaps one who has abandoned them. According to Chris Martin, this song also refers to the American prison industrial complex and how it separates children from their fathers, thus proving to be another extremely relevant song at a time when criminal justice reform is being discussed so extensively. The song is also given an animated music video to add to the feels.

The next song “WOTW/POTP” — which stands for “Wonder of the World, Power of the People” — is a short song aimed at self affirmation, which also serves as an interlude to the penultimate song in the “Sunrise” section of the album, “Arabesque”. 

“Arabesque” — one of the lead singles for the album — proves to be yet another unique sounding song in the album, featuring French vocals from popular Belgian singer Stromae and horn sections by Nigerian musician Femi Kuti and his band. The song is a great mix of western and eastern music, which fits the overall message of the song — trying to establish that people, whether from the East or the West, are people at the end of the day. The song also features a sound bite by legendary musician Fela Kuti — father of Femi — and a great deal of passion. Indeed, it is the first Coldplay studio release to feature any profanity — which can be heard in the outro when Chris shouts “same fucking blood” to great effect. 

The first half of the album is wrapped up by “When I Need a Friend”, which sounds like a hymn and calls out to spirituality. It also features lines from a documentary “Everything is Incredible” spoken by Agustin, a Honduran fisherman who was paralyzed by Polio but determined to build his own helicopter over the last 50 years, despite not seeing himself ever flying in it. The outro mirrors the hopeful sentiment that the song carries into the second half of the album. 

“Sunset” signifies a switch in energy and is started off by a playful and powerful satirical track “Guns”, a politically charged song that calls out misplaced societal priorities, the fixation on guns and the issue of gun violence, pushing the overarching message of the album — peace — in an unconventional manner, one that I personally enjoy.

“Guns” is followed by the other lead single of the album, “Orphans”. Perhaps one of the few radio friendly songs on the album, its cheerful tone — and music video — masks the deeper lyrics. The lyrics tell the stories of Rosaleen and her Baba (father), two characters with distinct stories who were killed by the bombing of Damascus in 2018, with the bridge suggesting that they were reunited in heaven, bringing out the gut-wrenching reality of war and violence. 

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“Orphans” is quickly followed by “Èko”, a song taking inspiration from African sounds and whose lyrics can be seen as an ode to Africa and the title as a reference to the city of Lagos, Nigeria and then “Cry Cry Cry”, a simple bluesy song centered around supportive and loving relationships, which was also given its own music video

Next up is “Old Friends”, a song that serves as a short two-minute ode to friends we might have lost along the way, for whatever reason. From Chris Martin’s perspective, it was a reference to a friend he lost to Leukemia. 

This was followed by perhaps the most unique track in the album: “ بنى اَدم” — the Arabic script read from right to left and romanized as “Bani Adam” — which is a musical rendition of a Farsi poem written by Iranian poet Saadi Shirazi that speaks for humanity and togetherness. This poem was also once referenced by Barack Obama and can also be found inscribed on the United Nations building in New York.

The penultimate song of the “Sunset” section — and indeed, the album — followed next in the form of “Champion of the World”. In an eclectic collection of songs, this serves as one of the only other more radio-friendly tracks in my opinion. Featuring an intro in Igbo — yet another nod to Africa — this song is one for those who don’t feel like they belong. The music video’s narrative is centered around a bullied kid — often juxtaposed with Chris — who found solace in a world of imagination. As someone who spends a lot of time immersed in thought and imagination, this song certainly resonates with me.

This album comes to a poignant conclusion with the title song “Everyday Life”. The song shares the main chord progression with the first proper song on the album “Church” and wraps everything together, speaking about the all too real struggles we face in our everyday lives — including so many of the things sung about in the album — and how everyone is in this together because this is all human. The music video starts off alluding to the Xhosa concept of Ubuntu, a philosophy of humanity, of “I am because we are” that signifies how our lives are so intertwined. Indeed, it motivated me to write an opinion piece in March, just as everything fell apart.

In a year that has seen us go through just about everything imaginable — and with no idea about what is in store next — this album provides a dose of warmth that is so desperately needed. Perhaps it is not at the same level of human ingenuity as a Cybertruck but when the world falls apart, I can only turn to Everyday Life and its exquisite variety of sounds and the connecting thread of love, humanity and hope and powerful refutation of hate, to find some much needed solace. 

About one year on, this album can no longer be cast aside in favor of shiny new trucks as some afterthought. Everyday Life has grown larger than life. It is prophetic and perhaps precisely what we need to progress towards healing the open wounds that 2020 has inflicted on us.  

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Anupras Mohapatra

Anupras Mohapatra is a former opinion editor for The Daily Cardinal and currently serves on the Editorial Board. He is a senior double majoring in Computer Science and Journalism. 


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