Coldplay + Jon Hopkins, “Midnight”

Now that the new Coldplay single is out—just in time for their iTunes Festival appearance, of course—people have been quick to peg “Midnight” as some sort of Bon Iver rip-off. Which is both a valid criticism and a completely short-sighted one. Contrary to popular belief, Justin Vernon did not invent the vocoder or Auto-Tune. As Dave Tompkins points out in his book on that very subject, the former’s been around since World War II and its impact on hip-hop did not begin and end with a Kanye West/Bon Iver collab.

Do us a favor then; listen to the track above with a clean slate. Pretend it’s not Coldplay. And you’ve never even heard “Lost in the World” before. What does “Midnight” remind you of now? Why, it’s a perfectly acceptable electro-pop ballad that works because it literally doesn’t sound like Coldplay. Gone are the grandiose guitars and goose-bump-y choruses; in their place is a stark Jon Hopkins production that’s bleak yet beautiful, building to a crystallized crescendo that’s, well, a little chilling. The video tries a little too hard in terms of manufactured moodiness, but the song itself? It just made us like Chris Martin by muting his arena-ready emoting and basically making him sound like the hook on a muffled James Blake track.

Maybe Hopkins wasn’t kidding when he said Martin is really into experimental fare like HudMo and Battles? Either way, the recent Mercury Prize nominee just made us care about Coldplay more than Brian Eno ever could. And that’s a testament to both his growth as a producer and his capability to infiltrate the charts in ways we’ve yet to see…