As the wise Neil Sedaka tells us, breakin’ up is hard to do. A rift in personal affairs is hard whether you’re Taylor Swift with her bitter break-up ballads, Ben Gibbard with his remorseful post-divorce solo album, or newly added to the list, Chris Martin with Coldplay’s release of their new album Ghost Stories. With “A Sky Full of Stars” as the most joyous of the tracks featured in Ghost Stories, the album is consistently haunted by a looming shadow of melancholy over lost love. That being said, none of this is a complaint.
Stylistically, Coldplay is as mesmerizing as ever. The way Martin’s voice echoes through the music with a cool and slightly synthesized sound makes listening to Ghost Stories perhaps the wrong word to describe the act. Swimming may be more appropriate in this case. Coldplay has made a distinct style shift since Xyloto towards a more soft-rock genre. As the album progresses, I cannot help but feel like I am suspended in outer-space, floating and swimming through nothing.
Personally, I revel in the cool, spacey feeling that Ghost Stories offers. However, with this feeling comes no “wow” factor. There is nothing shocking or ground-breaking on this album. As a fellow Badger Senator claimed in his review of Coldplay’s single “Magic”, Chris Martin once stated that he believed the alternative-rock group might have peaked with the 2008 release of “Viva La Vida”. While Coldplay’s more recent releases certainly have never disappointed me, Martin’s statement has held true more or less. The grandeur of such a masterpiece like “Viva La Vida” is difficult – if not impossible – to match or surpass. Ghost Stories does manage to be somewhat dynamic. Coldplay shows off a range from hauntingly sad love ballads such as “True Love” with smooth synths and heavy strings to the upbeat dance-track “A Sky Full of Stars”. However, this range doesn’t quite compensate for the lack of growth demonstrated in Ghost Stories.
Coldplay has proven their musical talent time and time again, the group is in a position to take risks and be innovative with the music they release. However, Ghost Stories strictly plays it safe, keeping in tune with the slowed-down spacey tones to make for a beautiful, yet uninteresting EP. That being said, I enjoy each and every haunted track. However, it’s easy to envision them as the background music to a heartbreaking love scene in a romantic film rather than the epic stand-alone majesty that is “Viva La Vida” or “Princess of China”. On the other hand, artists create their masterpieces from their life, and it’s obvious that Chris Martin’s personal heartbreak sets the underlying tones of the entire album. And as great musical artists of the past have shown, everyone needs to write a few good breakup songs every once in a while. Martin’s version of a breakup album thankfully happens to be hauntingly beautiful and well crafted.
Written By: Hanna Sutton