SPIN's Dan Reilly this week has compared Coldplay's new single to Bon Iver in his log-cabins-and-vocoders phase, which isn't too far off the mark.
But from a dance-centric point of view, what's most striking is that 'Midnight', with its atmospheric synthesizers, Göttsching-like guitar pings, and abdomen-massaging bass, is just one four-to-the-floor kick drum away from being an Innervisions track, essentially. (Apparently, it was produced by Jon Hopkins, who previously provided "Colours and Additional Production" on the group's Viva La Vida.) Just listen to the Howling's "Shortline (Frank Wiedemann Remix)" or Ry and Frank Wiedemann's "Howling (Âme Remix)" and you'll see what I'm talking about.
SPIN continue: That's hardly a bad thing, especially given that Coldplay's last foray into electronic dance music was "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall," their cornball collab with Swedish House Mafia. "Midnight," in contrast, sounds more like the Field remixing Godley & Crème's "Cry," and who can be mad at that? It definitely beats the hell out of all the other sad-sack electronic pop and deboned R&B that seems to have become the sound of 2014. But when Coldplay starts to sound like contemporary underground dance music, it also underscores how uncomfortably close so much contemporary underground dance music has come to sounding like Coldplay, a band whose very name has long been synonymous with all that is safe and blandly sentimentalist in contemporary pop.
Would it be too much to hope that this (temporary?) tack into Balearic waters might trigger some kind of opposing reaction from the underground — a move away from milky mannerism and back towards risk, danger, grit, etc.? Because here's the thing: Coldplay has just proven that they do this particular thing better than anyone else. They've made the moon-eyed indie-dance set sound like amateurs. Meanwhile, the inevitable stream of unauthorized remixes has already begun to flow, including a just-as-inevitable "chillstep" version on SoundCloud, which I refuse to link out of principle.
And there is this review from SheKnows, which comes from a die-hard Radiohead fan. That's all you need to know...
They wrote: It's been three years since the release of Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto, and now they're back with new music. Is "Midnight" everything we were hoping for? Not exactly.
For about the first 10 years of Coldplay's existence as a band, I did a lot of scoffing. They tried too hard to sound like some sort of weird collaboration of Radiohead and U2 — two bands that, in my opinion, deserve to be left alone. I was not a fan. And then Tumblr happened. Just like it managed to convince millions of girls that it's OK not to have a thigh gap and turned infinite internet users into Whovians, Tumblr made me reconsider Coldplay. All those pictures of the night sky with quotes from "Fix You" were just too hard to resist. Then their collaboration with Rihanna happened and so much of 2011's Mylo Xyloto made their past 15 years as a band seem suddenly worthwhile. Their brand of sythie-pop-rock was... OK.
But now they've gone and done "Midnight."
There's nothing particularly wrong with the tune's ambient backing and muted choir of Chris Martin vocals. The song will no doubt soundtrack plenty of upcoming movie moments and is an instant late-night romantic drive classic. It's mellow and airy, easy to blend into the background or become that perfect mid-concert slowdown.
If Coldplay spent more than 15 minutes on the lyrics for "Midnight," I'd be surprised. But even the minimal word usage is mostly OK. Its repeated sentiment of "In the darkness before the dawn/leave a light, a light on" seems like the echoes of a billion lonely, cynical souls. It is most definitely a sentiment that will soon find itself scrawled across a quarter of all Tumblr posts. That's good, right? But it's not quite enough to overshadow the song's one major flaw.
The problem: It would fit nearly splendidly onto Radiohead's 2000 album Kid A.
I always suspected that Martin was dying to latch on fully to the Radiohead sound, but Mylo Xyloto threw me for a loop and I instantly forgave him. I reasoned that he wasn't trying to be Radiohead but that they just had a similar taste in music. I was certain Coldplay was still just trying to find its spot in the musical world, but that they'd found it in 2011.
In reality, it looks like he just needed 14 years to feel ballsy enough to go ahead and make the lunge for what he's always wanted: Thom Yorke-style idolization. But he doesn't have it and he never will. No one does Radiohead better than Radiohead. Mostly, though, because no one could ever be our noodle-y, twitching leader other than Yorke.
Will "Midnight" be the worst song on the radio? Hell, no. It would be downright hateful to suggest that Martin et al should be mixed in with some of the sludge that takes up the airwaves. Honestly, I think "Midnight" will do plenty of rotations in my life. Then, again: I still listen to Kid A fairly regularly, too.