A review of Coldplay's new single, "Midnight," and why it doesn't stack up

Review: Coldplay’s New Single “Midnight”

February 26, 2014 / by / 29 Comments

If, in some foul twist of fate, Thom Yorke c. 2008 knocked up Imogen Heap c. 2005, the monster that would emerge from Imogen’s unsullied womb would write a song like Coldplay’s new single, “Midnight.” 1

I’ll back up for a second. I should level with you — I’m not a diehard Coldplay fan. Sure, I like some of their songs. Viva La Vida is iconic and Paradise’s music video features an Elephant Man, which is pretty cool. 2 But you won’t find me in the first row of a Coldplay concert, wearing a Livestrong bracelet and a Union Jack backpack, enjoying every other token of the early 2000s I can get my hands on. I think Coldplay is a good band with some good songs, and that’s about it.  So if you live and die for Coldplay, then you might not like what I’m about to say.

Coldplay’s new song isn’t good. It doesn’t offer anything new or unique, it doesn’t have that Top 40 catchiness that some of their other songs have, and it doesn’t have much dynamic range or direction. The instrumentation leads the song into a repetitive meander through a narrow spectrum of electronic sounds accompanied by stagnant vocals. I’m all about poetic lyrics to break up the predictable love song monotony, but these lyrics are what I would expect if William Carlos Williams was forced at gunpoint to write the lyrics for a JC Penney’s holiday jingle. This song strikes me as the musical depiction of the world of Limbo in Inception — Coldplay has delved so deep in their attempts to be artistic that they don’t even have a grasp on reality anymore.

About two-thirds of the way through the song, the lads of Coldplay go into this electronic dance break, for lack of a better word. It’s not really a dance break, because only someone under the influence of multiple hallucinogenic drugs would see this song fit for dancing, but it’s reminiscent of a dance break you’d get in an Avicii interlude. It was during this weird and unfitting section that I realized exactly what this song is.

Do you know the Battle of Cannae? Bear with me for a moment here. It was during the Second Punic War, and the Romans were so frightened of the invader Hannibal’s forces that, instead of sending one consul with four legions, they sent two consuls with eight legions. One consul supported an offensive strategy, while the other consul preferred a defensive strategy, so in the end, they each insisted on implementing their own strategy and they lost to an inferior army because they couldn’t get their forces to move together. This song sounds like it had a similar storyline; Coldplay couldn’t decide whether they wanted a song that was profound and cavernous or a song that would appeal to EDM fans, so they tried to do both, and like the Romans, failed at both. 3

The music video is similarly difficult to follow. The theme of the video appears to be “members of Coldplay play a slow, pensive game of Hide & Seek with a fox in a forest.” The whole video uses this peculiar filter that only sort of makes you think of drone strikes, making the members of Coldplay resemble a nicely-dressed Dr. Manhattan (without the looming blue dong). There’s something important about this little fox; they might be attempting to interact with it. 4 But Boggis, Bunce, Bean and Chris Martin don’t ever track down their foxy friend, making you wonder: What is the fucking point of this video anyway?5 

Maybe this song is just too deep and involved for my feeble brain. More likely, though, Coldplay just made a confusing song — which is fine. I don’t think anybody’s going to doubt Coldplay’s success as a band; they’ve probably secured a place as one of the most beloved bands of the 2000s. In fact, I applaud Coldplay’s efforts to take their music to new horizons, and not just continue cranking out the same shit for decades. I only hope that Coldplay continues producing good, interesting music for years to come and that this song isn’t the beginning of a rebranding attempt, because the world simply doesn’t need more songs like this one.