Ghost Stories

News

Ghost Stories is the sixth studio album by Coldplay. Co-produced by the band with Paul Epworth along with returning Mylo Xyloto producers Daniel Green and Rik Simpson, it was released by Parlophone on 16 May 2014. The album was released by Atlantic Records in North America on 19 May 2014. It is the first album by the band in North America under Atlantic, after Coldplay were transferred from Capitol Records in 2013, following the purchase of EMI and its assets by the Universal Music Group in 2012.

The album was recorded by the band throughout 2013 and 2014 at the band’s purpose-built home studios in London, England, and in Los Angeles. It features guest producers Avicii, Timbaland and Madeon, and the band’s frequent collaborator Jon Hopkins. It was heavily promoted by the band and Parlophone in the lead-up to its release, with an accompanying prime time TV special, a visual album, and a special six-date promotional tour of the album, as well as various appearances on television and radio. The album was further promoted by five singles: “Magic”, the lead single, released in March; “Midnight”, released in April; “A Sky Full of Stars”, released in May; “True Love”, released in August; and “Ink”, released in October. It was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 57th Grammy Awards.


Contents

  • 13 References

Background


In 2011, Coldplay released their fifth studio album, Mylo Xyloto. Originally conceived by the band as a “stripped-down, more acoustic collection”,[1] it became one of Coldplay’s most experimental and pop-oriented records to date, being described as “luxuriously colourful”[2] where “the choruses are bigger, the textures grander and the optimism more optimistic.”[3] Produced by Markus Dravs, Brian Eno, Rik Simpson and Dan Green, the album peaked at number one on 18 national album charts and was certified Platinum in 16 different countries. Mylo Xyloto had also sold 8 million copies within the first year of release.[4] Coldplay’s 2011 |single, “Paradise”, became the band’s second UK number-one single after 2008’s “Viva la Vida”. Coldplay’s subsequent world tour in promotion of Mylo Xyloto visited North America, Europe, Australasia and Africa, raising $99.7 million in revenue.[5]

Going into the creative process for their sixth studio album, the band wanted to return to the “stripped-down, more acoustic collection” they had stated their fifth album would be, returning to the original idea of an acoustic-oriented album, with less of the production and sound that made Mylo Xyloto. Drummer Will Champion spoke to Jo Whiley of BBC Radio 2 fame, saying in response to a question about the album being more stripped-back: “Yeah, that might be nice, actually. There’s only so far you can go without becoming pompous and a bit overblown, so we’ll tread that line very carefully. Reset. Recalibrate.”[6]

Concept


Ghost Stories is a spiritually driven album that revolves around two major themes mentioned by lead singer Chris Martin. The album explores the idea of past actions, and the effects they can have on your future and one’s capacity for Unconditional Love. To him, Ghost Stories represents “a journey learning about Unconditional Love” (as said in the televised Making of Ghost Stories with Fearne Cotton).

The idea of Ghost Stories, for me, was “how do you let the things that happen to you in the past – your ghosts – how do you let them affect your present and your future?” Because there was a time when I was feeling like they were going to drag me down and ruin my life, and the lives of those around me. I was very lucky to meet a very good sufi teacher who started to introduce the idea of “if you sit with your experiences and the things you’ve been through, they alchemize.” At the time he said that, I didn’t really know what that meant, but I trusted that it would work, and the more that I was learning about that, the more music just started flowing through.


—Chris Martin to Zane Lowe

Recording


The creative process and recording sessions for the band’s sixth studio album took place between 2013 and early 2014, at their purpose-built studios The Bakery and The Beehive in North London, England, then in Los Angeles for the final process. The creation of the album actually started at Guy Berryman’s house in London in early 2013 where he had settled a little studio where everyone gathered to jam and try some new music during a break after the band’s big tour for Mylo Xyloto. The band took a different approach for their sixth studio album in contrast to their previous studio albums.[7] Lead singer Chris Martin invited the band to contribute original songwriting material for the album, as opposed to building songs off Martin’s ideas as they had done during previous recording sessions. For example, “Magic” was built off a bass riff originally conceived by bassist Guy Berryman in the studio.[8]

For a long, long time I’ve been begging the band, “Please could someone else start a song”! I’ve been given that gift from the universe, or from God or whatever you want to believe in that ideas for songs get sent through wherever they get sent from, and then I take them to the rest of the band and then we layer it up and that’s how we do it. I was so grateful. It made me so happy and that was kind of a sample of the album as a whole, “We’ll help each other out here”. There were lots of songs but that was the first point where I thought, “Everyone is invested in this, everyone knows what we’re trying to do; go a bit more personal”.


—Chris Martin

Packaging

An example of Mila Fürstová’s work, which are inspired by mythology, a central theme also depicted in the artwork for Ghost Stories. (Pictured: “Other Skies I” by Fürstová, 2011)

The album artwork for Ghost Stories was etched by British-based Czech etching artist Mila Fürstová.[9] The medieval art-driven artwork, measuring 100 by 100 cm, features a pair of angel wings imposed onto a painting of an ocean under a sky at night. The angel wings themselves feature cryptic imagery of medieval-style drawings of fairly contemporary objects and concepts. The images include a couple in love, a man facing a mirror, a flight of white doves, a circular maze, a girl by candlelight, a window looking out onto an incoming tornado and a garden plant with a ladder, amongst other imagery depicted in the artwork. A larger, digital version of the artwork is available on Coldplay’s official website, with the ability to zoom into the artwork with a screen magnifier.[10]

Fürstová had etched the artworks for all of the releases in the Ghost Stories album cycle, including the artwork for singles “Magic” and “Midnight”, which all use the same motif of a scenario taking place in a larger body. Fürstová, whose work has been described as “dazzling images are both contemporary and personal, searching in the surreality of dreams, tales and fables that can map the framework of our consciousness”,[11] and has won numerous awards, including the Royal College of Art Society Award in 2001 and becoming the youngest academician at the Royal West of England Academy in 2009,[12] was invited by Coldplay to etch artworks for their new album in January 2013. She described the collaboration between her and the band as “a most inspiring journey and a truly humbling experience to cooperate with such talented people”.[13]

There are plans for an exhibition of Fürstová’s Ghost Stories artworks in the Autumn of 2014 in central London. 25 original etchings and 100 high-quality digital prints of the artwork, all hand-signed by Fürstová, are also set to go on sale on 19 May 2014, the same day Ghost Stories releases in the United Kingdom and the United States.[14]

Promotion

Coldplay performing at the televised 2014 iTunes Festival at SXSW where four Ghost Stories tracks were premiered live.

Coldplay performed on the opening night of the televised 2014 iTunes Festival at SXSW on 11 March 2014 at the Moody Theater in Austin, Texas. In addition to performing “Magic” and “Midnight”, the band performed “Always in My Head” and “Another’s Arms”; the first live performances of the four songs.[15] The band also performed “Magic” in a pre-recorded segment of Sport Relief 2014, which aired on BBC One on 21 March 2014.[16]

In April 2014, Coldplay announced an international scavenger hunt for sheets containing lyrics to the nine songs on the album. The notes, handwritten by Martin, were placed in ghost story books in libraries around the world, with the band tweeting clues leading to their locations. One of the hidden envelopes also contained a special Golden Ticket, allowing its finder and their guest to go to London for the Coldplay concert at the Royal Albert Hall in July.[17][18]
The lyric sheets were found in libraries in Mexico City, Singapore, Helsinki, Barcelona, Dartford, New York City, Tauranga, Dublin and Johannesburg.[19]

A TV special titled Coldplay: Ghost Stories was filmed March 21–23, 2014[20] by the Grammy-nominated director Paul Dugdale (Adele, The Rolling Stones) on a custom-built stage in a Sony Pictures movie soundstage in Los Angeles.[21] Coldplay performed material from the album in its entirety for the first time. The show, which included cinematic vignettes and 360-degree projections, was attended by an audience of 800 fans and press, and was broadcast in prime time in several countries in May and June 2014.[22][23][24] The special was then sold on dvd and blue ray in November 2014. Additional footage was shot at Paradise Cove in Malibu, California and at Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine, California for the film.[25]
Chris Martin said, “The Ghost Stories show at Sony Studios was a very special moment for our band … This film is basically our original vision for the Ghost Stories album.” [26]
Coldplay was also the musical act for the 3 May airing of NBC late-night sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live and performed “Magic” and “A Sky Full of Stars”. It was the band’s fifth appearance on the show.[27]

On 12 May 2014, seven days before its release date, the album became available to stream in full via iTunes, accompanied by an animated video revolving around Fürstová’s album artwork,[28] but the band refused to allow Spotify, Beats Music, Deezer, and Rdio to stream the album until 22 September 2014, which they had previously done on their last album, Mylo Xyloto.[29][30][31]

Tour

From April to July, Coldplay embarked on a six-date promotional tour in support of the album. The band has performed at E-Werk in Cologne, Germany on 25 April and performed at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, New York on 5 May, prior to the release of Ghost Stories. The band continued the tour after the release of the album at the Royce Hall in Los Angeles, California on 19 May, the Casino de Paris in Paris, France on 28 May, the Tokyo Dome City Hall in Tokyo, Japan on 12 June, the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, Australia on 19 June and closing the tour at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 2 July 2014.[32]

Date

Singles

A music video for “Midnight”, the fifth track on the album, was released as a teaser for the band’s sixth studio album on 25 February 2014. Ghost Stories was officially unveiled by Coldplay and Parlophone a week later on 3 March 2014, along with its artwork and track listing.[34]

“Magic” was released by Parlophone on 3 March 2014 as the lead single promoting Ghost Stories. The featured track, “Magic”, was also made available to download through Ghost Stories on iTunes and Amazon.com the same day, with pre-orders of the album including the track as an “instant-grat” download.[35][36] Following the release of the single and track, it charted on 25 national record charts, so far peaking within the top ten in 18 countries.

A second single promoting the album, “Midnight”, was released by Parlophone on 17 April 2014[37] as a one-sided 7-inch vinyl for Record Store Day in a number of 3000 copies.[38] “A Sky Full of Stars” was released digitally as the second official single on 2 May 2014. Within 24 hours from its iTunes release, the track had sold 121,690 units worldwide,[39] peaking at number one in 86 countries on the iTunes Store Charts.[40] The song reached number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, making it their third top 10 hit and first since “Viva la Vida” in 2008.[41] It also became their first number-one single on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart.

On 4 August 2014, the band announced that “True Love” would be released as the third single from the album.[42] The True Love music video, released August 22, 2014, was directed by Jonas Åkerlund and stars Chris Martin and Jessica Lucas.[43]

“Ink” was released as the fourth [44] Single to Italian contemporary hit radio stations on 13 October 2014[45] and to US modern rock radio stations on 18 November 2014 as the album’s third radio single in the country, and the fifth overall from Ghost Stories.[46] The Ink music video Is an interactive video,written, directed and animated by an LA based agency, Blind. Blind worked with company, Interlude, to make more than 300 possible journeys throughout the music video.[44]

The music video for “All Your Friends” was released on 7 November 2014 for the commemoration of the first World War.[47] Although the track is not available in the standard edition of Ghost Stories, it is available in A Sky Full of Stars EP worldwide–except for the U.S. There, it is in the deluxe version of Ghost Stories sold by Target.

An official video for “Ghost Story” was released on 9 March 2015.[48] The video (in black and white) shows the band performing the song during their Ghost Stories tour. The song is available in the A Sky Full of Stars EP and, only in the USA, in the [[Target Deluxe edition of the album.


Critical reception

Ghost Stories received mixed reviews. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 61, based on 31 reviews, which indicates “generally favorable reviews”.[49] Jason Lipshutz of Billboard wrote the magazine’s track-by-track review of the album, praising it as the band’s “most listenable album in years” and describing it as “an evocative concoction of sullen phrases, sparse arrangements and powerful themes.”[50] Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly commented that Ghost Stories “will likely be remembered as a transitional album” and noted that “while being solid, it feels like a prequel to something better”.[51] Larry Fitzmaurice of Pitchfork Media wrote that the album is a “subdued work that finds Chris Martin and his band crisply moping through mid-tempo soundscapes and fuzzy electronic touches that have the visceral impact of a down comforter tumbling down a flight of stairs.”[52] Nick Hasted of The Independent wrote that Martin “accepts his loss too meekly to approach the anguish of a great break-up album”, but concluded that the band’s “step away from grand platitudes is still one in the right direction”.[53]

Jerry Shriver of USA Today felt that “within the realm of memorable breakup albums”, Ghost Stories lacked “the confessional gut-punch of Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, the acrimony of Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights and the irresistible sonic appeal of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours“, ultimately describing it as “not even a particularly memorable Coldplay album”.[54] While noting that Ghost Stories “should be applauded for scaling back the gaudy excesses of their previous albums”, Consequence of Sound’s Josh Terry opined that its songs “suffer from a lack of direction” and “could use the vitality that launched them to the top in the first place”.[55] Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “The nine songs on Ghost Stories hum gently, cultivating an effective sense of intimacy. As always, there’s a lot going on in the music, sculpted by the band along with various collaborators.” He added, “Coldplay’s new album, ‘Ghost Stories,’ finds the British band setting aside its trademark grandiosity.”[56]

Chart performance


The album debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, selling 168,000 copies in its opening week—the second largest sales of 2014.[57] By July 2014, it had already become the best-selling album of the first half of 2014 with 375,000 copies sold in the UK.[58]

In the US, the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 383,000 copies sold for the week, then the biggest debut week sales of 2014.[59] As of January 2015, the album has sold 794,000 copies in the US.[60]

In Canada, the album debuted at number one on the Canadian Albums Chart with 49,000 copies sold in its first week.[61] It became 2014’s fifth best-selling album, having sold 117,000 copies throughout the year.[62]

Worldwide, Ghost Stories sold over 3.7 million copies in 2014.[63]

Track listing