I recently reviewed the song “My Universe” by Coldplay and BTS and whilst I knew that a music video was incoming, I wasn’t actually planning to review it. I was expecting a pretty standard video that would be good but wouldn’t have too much to talk about. What I definitely wasn’t expecting was a four and half minute mini sci-fi movie that easily stands as an equal with contemporary science fiction projects. Spellbinding and highly entertaining, “My Universe” is one of the best music videos of recent times. Keep in mind that I’m not going to be discussing the song itself in great detail as I have already done so in a review which you can check out here.
The video itself is just under five minutes long and that is more than enough time for director Dave Meyers to tell an epic story of rebellion and the power of music. The concept was visualised by both Meyers- who has directed tons of music videos in the past including “Shivers” by Ed Sheeran, “Positions” by Ariana Grande and “All I Know” by Pink- and Coldplay front man Chris Martin. The two envisioned a futuristic world where music is forbidden and this is where the video is set. The video opens with the text above. This relates to Coldplay’s upcoming album title- Music of the Spheres– but also, within a few sentences, sets up an interesting sci-fi world that begs to be explored deeper. As the text states, the story of the video follows three different bands who are lightyears away from one another on three different planets. These bands rebel against the music ban and work together with radio DJ LaFrique (played by Joe Diao), who “holoband” broadcasts “My Universe” out across the spheres to unite the galaxy. BTS and Coldplay work with alien band Supernova 7 to break the music ban- set by the villainous Silencers- despite being separated with BTS on a planet called Calypso, Coldplay on a planet called Floris and Supernova 7 on a planet called Super Solis. Even just saying stating these facts makes it hard for me to remember that this is a music video, not a sci-fi series. It’s such a simple yet engaging premise, particularly for music lovers. A world without music would be a literal hell for so many people (myself included) so setting up a story that centres on a galactic wide music ban and a rebellion of underdogs trying to make a change is not only an engaging story prospect, it’s a clever one that appeals to a wide audience. What is brilliant about this video and story is the world building, with backstories for the worlds and characters. All of the aliens that we see in the Supernova 7 band have names, traits, personalities and a passion for music. Check out the concept art and images of the Supernova 7 members below- along with character descriptions.
All Images and Descriptions Courtesy of Aaron Sims Creative.
Designer of the music video and lead production designer and world builder François Audouy (an incredibly talented production designer and world building veteran who has worked on the likes of Ford vs Ferrari, Logan and the upcoming Ghostbusters movie) created a rich and vibrant intergalactic world that feels cinematic in scale. Audouy worked with concept design-focused visual effects studio Aaron Sims Creative (who have worked on all sorts of big name projects such as Stranger Things, Wonder Woman, War for the Planet of the Apes, Ready Player One and Venom to name a small few) to bring this world and story to life. As the bands start broadcasting their galaxy wide performance via DJ LaFrique, we see each group show up as holograms in the other bands performances. As the song comes to a climax, DJ LaFrique receives a message warning her of approaching Silencers. As the opening text states, these Silencers are chasing down the renegades musicians. The Silencers are actually a call back to the 2011 Coldplay album Mylo Xyloto, a rock opera concept album which tells a story set in a world called Silencia. In Silencia, Silencers are soldiers whose job it is to enforce the silence and ensure that the world is rid of sound and colour. Some of the alien characters names in the Supernova 7 band are also taken directly from the Mylo Xyloto era. Chris Martin and Coldplays knack for interesting, dystopian sci-fi storytelling certainly shines through in “My Universe”, much like it did on Mylo Xyloto. Joining forces with such a talented team made it so this story could be told with the budget and the platform that it truly deserved. Talking of the team, let’s have a look at some of the people who worked on the MV.
I’ve already mentioned director Dave Meyers, production designer François Audouy and visual effects and concept art studio Aaron Sims Creative but I have to bring them up again for their incredible work helping to bring this idea to life within a music video format. Of course, there is also Coldplay and BTS who do an incredible job with the video, particularly Chris Martin thanks to his involvement with the visualisation of the concept. There’s also cinematographer Scott Cunningham- another music video veteran who worked on classics such as “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar and “Senorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello- whose work is phenomenal, literally taking the viewers out of this world with his shots. The below tweet by Audouy perfectly encapsulates the general feeling towards the entirety of the team who worked on this cinematic music video. I wish I could name each and every one of you for helping to create such a fantastic mini sci-fi story.
Every element of the music video has fantastic production values and wonderful designs, showing just how much thought and effort was put into the general concept. François Audouy had an in-depth look at some of the concepts and design on his website but the page has since either been deleted or crashed which is such a shame as it had some brilliantly interesting behind the scenes info but if you’re interested, you can find a lot of the images and art that was shared online. All three planets that the separate bands perform on have their own look and theme. BTS’s planet Calypso is set on an industrial style shipping port planet and the group perform on a ruined helipad/docking bay. It was shot on a green screen in Seoul- South Korea- but the CGI is hugely impressive, transporting the viewer directly to another world. There is certainly a dystopian theme to planet Calypso and this is also emphasised by the outfits that BTS wear as well as their environment. Their looks are very much futuristic and industrial in style with lots of layering, simple cuts and boots, kind of like the rebels from the Star Wars movies. Even the colour schemes are similar, utilising natural earthen tones like oranges, browns and greys but spinning them with a modern twist. They definitely feel like the young, rebellious heroes of the MV. Coldplay’s fictional planet Floris was shot in Barcelona at an abandoned municipal swimming pool complex and decorated with tons of colourful graffiti, giving off more of an urban vibe than the ruins of Calypso. Coldplay themselves feel less dystopian and more metropolitan with their colourful and casual styles and the graffiti laden environment. Supernova 7’s planet of Super Solis is given more character and personality from its inhabitants more so than the environment itself, with the seven members of the band bringing a vibrant touch to the proceedings. Even DJ LaFriques small spaceship is bursting with personality- with a giant love heart on the front of the ship being a major centrepiece. Her character design is also great, reflecting g her rebellious and musical nature. The Silencers- the aforementioned big bads of the MV-have a specific design that Audouy states took some subconscious inspiration from the shape of the COVID-19 particle. Twitter user @sugatradamus posted what Audouy said in regards to this on his website below.
I feel like this is very much reflected in the moment in the MV when Silencers descends on the three different planets simultaneously. As the darkness spreads over each band, their holographs start to cut out and disappear as they become all the more isolated. It feels quite familiar to the whole pandemic situation, as we were separated from our loved ones thanks to an ominous threat. But more on that symbolism later. All of these designs make the world bright, alive and bubbling with energy despite the short run time of the video. Check out more of the concept art and designs below.
DJ LaFrique’s Ship Set and Concept Art
Coldplay: Planet Floris
BTS: Planet Calypso
As is the case with most music videos, there is some acting and performance to be had and everyone does fantastically well. Chris Martin acts as the anchor bringing together these three bands to rebel against the music ban, exuding the essence of a rebel leader in the process. BTS play their parts well too, especially considering that the entirety of their roles in the video was via green screen. Jin is probably the stand out in terms of acting- he did study it after all- even though he doesn’t get a huge amount of screen time. His reactions are flawless- especially when the Silencers descend- and he feels very much a part of the world that he inhabits. Previously mentioned Joe Diao plays the renegade disc jockey DJ LaFrique excellently, managing to portray the desperate rebellion within the characters actions perfectly despite not uttering a word. There’s also a cute moment where Hoseok a.k.a jhope flirts and sings to Angel Moon (played by María José), one of the alien ladies from the Supernova 7 band. Jungkook also makes some steamy eye contact with one of the other characters called Eko (played by Lizeth San Martin), a grunge humanoid alien who plays the electronic keyboard and is partial to piercings, tattoos and metal jewellery. No wonder Jungkook- with his eyebrow piercing and sleeve tattoo- had a thing for her. There are quite a few of these cool little character interactions sprinkled into the video, such as Chris and Taehyung- known by stage name V- dancing the alongside the Supernova 7 band, Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman shredding the guitar side by side with Supernova 7 frontman Kasio Mars (played by Larry Balboa) and lead guitarist for Coldplay Jonny Buckland playing alongside the adorable duck like alien duo Loop and Switch. My favourite moment has to be when V hurls a stone at a Silencer drone, cracking the camera and then when robotic drummer Dorean Delorean (that name is amazing. He is also puppeteered by actor Daniel Delgado) does the same later on to really hit home the theme of not backing down whilst showing their rebellious attitudes. Also, the fluffy chameleon eyed alien playing the maracas is called Blaze (and is played by Rober Gómez) and I immediately love him with all of my heart. It is these little moments that add extra life into this world via the characters, giving them an authentic nature and making them feel like proper characters in a short amount of time.
I may just be reading into things that aren’t actually there here but I felt like there was a lot of symbolism to be had in the “My Universe” video. I already mentioned the representation of COVID-19 via the Silencers and the characters defiantly fighting back against them. The characters celebrating together whilst not actually being physically together- and spreading the joy of music throughout the galaxy as they do so- definitely furthers this idea. It also felt like there was a lot of symbolism in regards to the theme of a galactic music ban, perhaps relating to the hate and prejudice that still exists in the world today. The only way to fight back against it is to come together, no matter who we are and where we come from, even if that means doing so whilst being physically apart in this difficult time. The lyrics of the song already establish this message of love transcending boundaries of race, gender etc. but the video emphasises it all the more so. The hatred and the silence cannot take over if we take a stand, show our togetherness and blast our music for the entire galaxy to hear. It is certainly a much needed message in this day and age.
The “My Universe” music video is not only a visual spectacle, it tells a fantastic story in a short amount of time whilst also portraying the importance of standing up and fighting back against the prejudices that we face in the world. It also feels like a song to tackle the pandemic, showing the characters coming together whilst still being apart to rebel against an unknown threat. I honestly was more entertained by the “My Universe” music video then various shows and movies I have watched as of late. It made me long for more in this spectacular sci-fi world. Even if we don’t get to go back there again, at least Coldplay, BTS and the entire team who worked on the project can rest assured knowing that they have created an iconic music video that will be remembered for all of the right reasons.