Coldplay Reimagine Themselves as Los Unidades on ‘Global Citizen EP1’

Word has been out that Chris Martin was curating a record for Global Citizen, a movement with the ambitious goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. In keeping with the organization’s international scope, he has enlisted huge names from various corners of the world, and also recruited lesser-known emerging talents from numerous countries. The last few days have seen much speculation as the release, “Global Citizen EP1,” is credited to an unknown entity by the name of Los Unidades, whom Coldplay’s record label Parlophone just announced signing. A tweeted image by the label revealed none other than the members of Coldplay along with a string of digits and numbers, which, when unscrambled, reads “Coldplay 2018.” Whether this is an actual reinvention or a mere publicity stunt is still unclear, but the new EP is quite obviously an extensively collaborative and internationally oriented Coldplay release.

The opening track, “Rise Up,” is the contribution of Norwegian producer/songwriter Stargate. It begins with the muffled audio of a horn section engaged in a festive little riff. A sampled bit of a speech by Nelson Mandela is added to the mix, and his calls to “Rise Up” are in higher fidelity, as if working to lift the music out of its obscurity. Sure enough, a beat drops on cue, and the horns erupt into full stereo. When the bassline enters, the track takes on a whole dimension, and continues its course as percussive accents make their way in, one by one. Hearing the building blocks assembled in real time to Mandela’s rhythmic pronouncements, one witnesses the rallying and coordination of forces firsthand — an appropriate beginning for a record curated for a charity.   

Next up is the single “E-lo,” credited to “Los Unidades & Pharrell Williams.” From the very onset, Chris Martin’s unmistakable voice is front and center. Moreover, the word is out that all four members of Coldplay are listed in the songs credits on TIDAL. Could Coldplay have actually just changed their name to “Los Unidades?” It’s possible — after all, Martin did name his eldest son “Apple.” “E-Lo” derives much of its power from the percussion and certain featured guest. The click and clanks that pile up in oblique, interlocking patterns add a certain physicality to the music that is infectious. It sounds like there are several female vocalists singing in different languages at different stretches,making some of the most memorable contributions, although none of them are named. Pharrell, on the other hand, is listed as a feature, even though all he seems to do is echoes a few of Martin’s lines — and in such a silly way that the best explanation would be his having a bit of a laugh. On the other hand, he made his name as a producer, so perhaps it threw in some pointers. Maybe he shook one of the numerous percussive instruments.    

“Timbuktu” is a fun, lighthearted song, with a chorus about considering a whimsical trip to the titular destination. The music is appropriately cheery, with some synth bass that gets seriously funky. There’s an abundance of colorful vocal variety on display, with UK rapper Stormzy dropping a verse, and singer Jess Kent contributing backing vocals that actually add volumes, unlike Pharrell’s. The way that various voices blend together in the chorus is particularly impactful. The final track, “Voodoo,” officially listed as a collaborative effort between “Los Unidades” and Stargate, ends with a bang, bringing on the most collective star power yet. It starts as a duet, with Martin and guest singer Tiwa Savage in fetching harmonies. David Guetta is also in the scene, and he puts his signature stamp on the track, bringing it into full fist-bumping territory. Nigerian rapper Wizkid is on hypeman duty, and Venezuelan singer Danny Ocean adds some Latin flavor. While all this crammed together makes for a hyperactive, restless riot of a track, Martin’s exceptionally catchy chorus manages to glue it all together.

With an international roster, multilingual vocals, and music that draws heavily from African styles, “Global Citizen” lives up to its title. With the rise of nationalist movements around the world in the last couple years, “global,” like “globalist,” has become a somewhat provocative term. One can only imagine the type of fantastical theories that a record like this would inspire in someone like Alex Jones. Most people, however, will likely be inspired in the way intended. The positive, collaborative spirit of the record is well-fitting for the charitable cause toward which it is geared. There are moments when the music seems a little forced and comes across as rather goofy, for instance when Martin slightly affects accents on certain words, to fit in, or when a guest pops in for an appearance so brief that it seems done just so another nationality can be boasted. On the other hand, Chris Martin has never exactly been the type to overthink things. Remember his 2007 collaboration with Kanye West? These songs are just about what one would expect from such an undertaking. And surely, millions of Coldplay fans wouldn’t have it any other way. The record is short and sweet, the songs are catchy, and the good will is contagious.    

Global Citizen EP1” is available Nov. 30 on Apple Music.