Review Summary: globalist gentro-pop
Hidden in this bizarre release would be a great riddle if Coldplay were even remotely trying to remain anonymous. Fronting this charity-release under a shameless new moniker “Los Unidades,” Chris Martin and co. have blended their sound with that of a more “world” appeal, appropriately appropriating latin music as well as that of African, Arab, and otherwise to give credence to their renewed worldwide focus. The whole release is similar to what artists like Sting and Peter Gabriel have tried to pull in the past, extending their signature pop appeal to more unknown and exotic artists for both charitable and artistic reasons—well, at least in Coldplay’s case that latter cause might be refutable.
The music itself is enjoyable for sure, especially on lead single “E-Lo,” which uncoincidentally is the most Coldplay sounding thing on the whole release. Based around dumb but infectiously warm-hearted sounds, the song leans on it’s global influences pretty explicitly, both in it’s talented background singers and in Martin’s admirable but hilarious attempts to weave a hispanic accent in with his British one. Later tracks “Timbuktu” and “Voodoo” unfortunately find the band delivering generic choruses against mismatched rap verses and latin beats in a far less convincing light. Neither of these tracks are particularly bad, just awkward and assembled instead of truly flowing from one sound to the next.
The main highlight for the album is the one that strays the farthest from Coldplay’s signature sound. This just plain strange opener “Rise Up” features the vocals of Nelson Mandela manipulated against a thumping beat and jaunty horns to create a full, fun, and surprisingly effective anthem. Is it weird hearing the world-renowned hero’s voice alongside pleasant guitar picking and poppy “ooh-oohs”? Yes. But that doesn’t make the tune any less of an unexpected banger.
But even considering this tune, the weirdest thing about the release is the method of the release itself. A name change seems like a cool way to reinvent yourself, but I’m definitely not convinced that Coldplay have given up “Coldplay” for good. It seems to be an elaboration for the difference of sound, but right after their consistent switching from sound to sound over their decades-long career, I doubt anyone would be that taken aback. Even still, if the primary reason for this EP is indeed charity, and the goal is to get as much money in the fight to “end global poverty” (a battle even Coldplay can't win) as possible, wouldn’t this sudden rebranding hurt the sales of what a charity “Coldplay” release could achieve? It’s not hard to see the entire project as some kind of band-wide mid-life-crisis rather than being for purely selfless reasons. Certainly no one could really say they're exploiting the latin and world influences they find here, but at the same time there’s no doubt that some of these other voices have been sanded down purely for white pop accessibility.
But at the end of the day this is all purely conjecture, and what we do have here is a solid pop EP. It’s got a couple good tracks and a couple not-so-good tracks. And despite everything I, and the world, will surely be tuning in for Global Citizen EP 2
when it inevitably comes around, no matter what was going through the band’s head when they decided to become Los Unidades.