British pop rock legends Coldplay recently teamed up with Korean boy band BTS for the song “My Universe”, a smooth pop/alternative rock ballad that not only works as a brilliant song in its own right, but is also a fantastic example of how to make a collaboration between two of the biggest bands in the world work perfectly. “My Universe”- which is a single from Coldplay’s upcoming Music Of The Spheres album releasing on October 15th– is a major artist collaboration that will be remembered for all of the right reasons.
The song itself manages to have the tell-tale signs of both traditional Coldplay and BTS songs, which is an impressive feat in itself seeing as Coldplay are a British band made up of middle aged men that have been around for twenty five years and BTS are a Korean group of young men who started off as teenagers and have been around for eight years or so. The song has that soft, alternate rock atmosphere that Coldplay do so well but there is a certain something about the tune that also makes it inherently BTS too (and I don’t just mean the Korean language segments when I say that). The rappers and main song writers of BTS- RM, Suga and jhope- had a hand in writing the song along with the four Coldplay members Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion and Guy Berryman ( Phil Harvey is the fifth member of Coldplay but he is their creative director rather than a songwriter) and this involvement is what gives the song that BTS sound alongside the Coldplay tone. Their lyrics and composition mesh together brilliantly, creating a song that perfectly represents both groups in terms of sound and themes.
The lyrics of “My Universe” are simple, sweet and straightforward as the words wax lyrical about someone being the centre of their universe and being made complete by them. This can be taken in a romantic way but the lyrics can easily refer to any kind of love for another, be it a partner, a family member etc. This could also be perceived as a song for both the BTS and Coldplay fan-bases, especially during this difficult time when we aren’t able to see our favourite bands in concert. The Korean lyrics work excellently with the English ones too, both in regards to how they fit into the flow of the song and how their translations relate to the English lyrics. As I mentioned, the song was co-written by some of the BTS members themselves alongside Coldplay and I feel that their input with the Korean lyrics shows a mutual respect between the two bands, with both English and Korean being utilised thoroughly throughout. The use of Korean is a great way for Coldplay to show their camaraderie with BTS as well as their respect for their music and lyrical prowess.
In terms of vocals, everyone does excellently and their voices combine perfectly for the alternative pop rock themes of the song. There are eight people here who all get at least a moment to sing and/or rap (Coldplay members Will, Guy and Jonny don’t take on anything more than the chorus) and so it would be forgivable if the lines weren’t distributed as well as they could be. However, the handing out of lines and parts is so well done that everyone is almost on equal footing with only a few exceptions. Chris Martin takes the lead vocally, opening and closing the song with his recognisable vocals that set the scene for the rest of the tune, cementing it with that Coldplay seal of approval. Martin’s voice works exceedingly well with all of the BTS members but the standout duo has to be Chris and Jungkook, whose voices blend seamlessly and beautifully. Suga and j-hope get their moment to rap, taking on the Korean lyrics with their flows and incorporating it effortlessly. There are some background vocals alongside Suga’s rap and whilst I can’t be sure, it sounds like the Coldplay members singing this part and taking on some of the Korean lyrics alongside Suga. If this is the case, this is a hugely admirable feat from Coldplay. BTS seem to be expected to sing in English more and more these days so hearing them collaborate with a British band who willingly make the effort to sing in their language- rather than just expecting BTS to sing in English-is a wonderful surprise.
V and Jungkook are probably the most utilised BTS members here in terms of vocals- with their lines being the longest and their voices the most heard throughout- followed by Suga and jhope with their Korean rap. RM, Jin and Jimin get less to do but what they have to offer is certainly memorable. Rapper RM actually takes on some vocals in the songs and his harmony with Jimin is one of my favourite parts. It works surprisingly well and it kind of made me wish for an RM and Jimin solo song one day as their voices are so different and yet they work so well together, with Jimin’s soft high notes contrasting superbly with RM’s dulcet tones. Jimin acts as a backup in a few places in the song thanks to his gorgeous, high vocals and whilst it would have been nice to hear more from him, it’s hard to see how any more could have been done for him in terms of line distribution when you consider the nature and tone of the song. Jin is the least used member here but much like RM and Jimin, the short part that he does get stands out. In fact, I think I would argue that Jin’s one line was what I kept replaying the most because of how different he sounds. Jin takes on the line “Make my world light up inside” about half way through the song and I had to do a double and triple replay of the line just to see if it was him as I was convinced it was one of the other Coldplay members. His voice just sounds so naturally integrated with the Brit pop rock genre and Chris Martin’s vocals, surprisingly so in fact. His English sounds flawless and his vocals are surprisingly deep. I don’t think the ARMY fans would have been able to handle more than that one line from Jin so it is probably a good thing that is all he got. From the behind the scenes videos of both groups working on the song, we do know that their vocals are all there hidden deep within the chorus so even if it seems like certain members didn’t get a lot to do, their input is likely much more than it seems. The line distribution was incredibly well done in “My Universe”, with everyone having their moment and some of the members (notably RM and Jin) having a chance to show off something different and pleasantly surprising with their vocals.
As much as I have enjoyed BTS’s recent music, I can’t help but feel that “Butter” and “Permission to Dance” – whilst both great, feel good songs- lacked a little something that made the group’s music special, and not purely because they were in English rather than Korean. They lacked that spark that some of their Korean work had but I think this is because they have more of an input in their Korean music and songs that have their own touch to them always feel more true to BTS. For example, the small rap verse in “Butter” felt very much more akin to BTS as a group then the rest of the song as this is the one part that they had a hand in writing. As I said, I very much enjoyed “Permission to Dance” and “Butter” but they felt somewhat tailored to the English speaking market. That being said, “My Universe” is the closest we have gotten to classic BTS since their BE album in November 2020 and the fact that Coldplay are the ones who have managed to achieve this sound with them is indicative of the understanding that they have for BTS as artists. The respect is clearly mutual too, with BTS adding their own style to “My Universe” and effortlessly combining their unique nature with Coldplay’s British alternative flair. I also like the fact that this collab is all about equality. This isn’t Coldplay featuring BTS, nor is it BTS featuring Coldplay. The Coldplay x BTS title suggests that both parties are equal in their involvement. There are no egos to be had here, just two talented bands coming together and working as one to create excellent music. “My Universe” is an excellent song that captures the spirit of both BTS and Coldplay, bringing the iconic bands together to create an easy going and feel good song that stays true to the work of both artists. It exudes the classic Coldplay Brit rock style whilst injecting some BTS in via their lyrics, their language and their vocal stylings to create one of the best musical collaborations in popular music to date. The song is sure to be a hit for both parties and hopefully this could lead to further collaborations between the two powerhouse musicians. “My Universe” is available now and Coldplay’s Music Of The Spheres will be releasing on October 15th 2021.