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Track Review

British rock band Coldplay doesn’t need much of an introduction. After all, the band lead by frontman Chris Martin has been around for more than 20 years. In fact, Coldplay’s debut, Parachutes, is nearing its 25th anniversary. But these guys aren’t resting on their laurels. Instead, Martin and his bandmates are gearing up for the forthcoming release of their eighth studio album, Everyday Life.

However, we’re not concentrating on the entire album here. Instead, we’re focusing on one of two new singles, “Orphans.” If you’re listening casually, “Orphans” sounds at first like a cheery, uplifting song. But listen more closely, and you’ll hear that the band is focusing on a much more serious issue as Coldplay looks at the lives of two people killed in a missile attack on Syria.

Home Isn’t Just A House …

“Orphans” jumps right into the story at the core of the song, introducing us to a young woman named “Rosaleem of the Damascene.” Martin says of her, “She had eyes like the moon/Would have been on the silver screen/But for the missile monsoon.”

And her father? Well, “Baba he would go where the flowers grow/Almond and peach trees in bloom/And he would know just when and what to sow/So golden and opportune.” Then we hear this sad epilogue: “With bombs going boom ba-boom-boom,” telling us that Baba also lost his life.

As for the survivors, the song’s titular “orphans,” they’re pretty matter of fact about being left behind: “I guess we'll be raised on our own then.” But their loss poignantly highlights what really matters in life: being with friends and family we love, right up ’til the end: “I want to be with you 'til the world ends/I want to be with you 'til the whole world ends.”

But perhaps the most prominent lyric is its repeated chorus, where we hear about these survivor’s longings in the wake of loss and, apparently, displacement from their home: “I want to know when I can go/Back and get drunk with my friends/I want to know when I can go/Back and be young again.”

There’s a longing for a return to innocence here, to be sure. To simpler, more peaceful times. But that longing is also couched, perhaps, in a desire to kill the pain and harsh memories with alcohol, too. And the problem with that reference to alcohol in the chorus is that the line is heard repeatedly and is the one that stands out most clearly here. If you’re only half listening, that’s the line you’re going to pick up on: “I want to know when I can go/Back and get drunk with my friends.”

… Home Is a Place, and Home Is People

In a BBC Radio 1 interview, Chris Martin shared details about Coldplay’s upcoming album, Everyday Life. He says the album is a compilation of personal experiences paired with moments of empathy and observation.

And the song “Orphans” really delivers that message. It’s both hopeful and remorseful. And that’s the point, Martin would say. Because life is a mixture of pain and joy—and both will always exist. And all of us have to learn how to deal with the tension between the two. Which perhaps explains how such a sad song can sound so light and free.

It’s a profound, paradoxical message. And it’s one that resonates through the song’s joy-filled performance video, which reinforces the importance of trying to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes when we hear stories of suffering and loss from distant corners of the world.

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Reached No. 23 on Billboard’s rock singles chart.

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October 24, 2019

On Video

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