The opening track and album name came from the band’s want to create an original character and story for a concept album. Chris Martin has stated that the Xylo portion of the name was inspired by the word xylophone and to as in toe. The character Mylo Xyloto later appeared in a six-part comic series. At one point in the recording process Mylo Xyloto was attached to or part of a track called Great Expectations.
Guitarist Jonny Buckland was heavily involved in the composition of Hurts Like Heaven, a track based around two major chords and layers of guitar. Buckland, who has two solos on the track, is described by Chris Martin as “coming out of his cocoon”, and the song as “a call to arms”.
Chris Martin wrote Paradise in 2010 in response to a request to pen a winner song for The X Factor in the UK. Drummer Will Champion decided Paradise was too good to give away, and the band kept the track instead. Mylo Xyloto was originally envisioned as an acoustic record, but the band realised after writing Paradise that the song couldn’t be played in an acoustic style. Mylo Xyloto the pop record was formed instead.
One of the first songs written for the album, Charlie Brown was penned after Chris Martin attended a Bruce Springsteen concert in Los Angeles. An early version of the track was built around an accordion, but that was scrapped when Mylo Xyloto took its concept album form. A lyric about Charlie Brown — the Peanuts character after which the track is named — was cut from the final recording. The track at one point had the working title Cartoon Heart.
One of the earliest songs written for the album, Us Against The World was retained from early recording sessions when the band had envisioned Mylo Xyloto as an acoustic record. Drummer Will Champion sings the track’s distinct harmony. In concept album context, Chris Martin imagined the song as the meeting place of the two characters from Paradise and Charlie Brown.
The short instrumental interlude leads into Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall (both on the album and tour) and came from the idea “Matt McGinn is awesome”. Matt McGinn is Jonny Buckland’s long-standing guitar tech, and author of Roadie: My Life on the Road with Coldplay.
Chris Martin was inspired to write Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall after watching Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2010 film Biutiful and hearing a sequence of chords in a nightclub scene. That melody is based on the 1976 song Go To Rio by Peter Allen and Adrienne Anderson, who are credited as co-writers.
Chris Martin was inspired to write Major Minus after reading Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 book The Road. Described by Chris as a “Bond villain of a song”, Major Minus was originally called Silencia. A version of the song’s lyrics originally belong to a track called The Man Who Swears which was written during the Viva-sessions.
The first song written for the album, U.F.O. is built around a chord sequence that crops up a number of times throughout Mylo Xyloto. An instrumental interlude leads into Princess Of China. According to his studio notebook, Chris Martin wrote and recorded an unused piano part for U.F.O. at one point during the Mylo Xyloto sessions.
The band’s favourite song on the album, Princess Of China is the first duet Coldplay have recorded. Originally written for Rihanna years before Mylo Xyloto, the band decided to keep the track and ask the singer to perform with them instead. Drummer Will Champion considered singing the duet before Rihanna joined the composition. The track features a sample from the Sigur Rós song Takk.... An acoustic version was released as a b-side.
The last song recorded for the album, Up In Flames was written only months before the release of Mylo Xyloto and recorded in five countries in seven days. Chris Martin wrote the track hours before Coldplay’s performance at the 2011 iTunes Festival in London in July 2011. Elements of the song were recorded backstage at that event.
A short instrumental interlude, A Hopeful Transmission borrows its melody from Mylo Xyloto. A version with lyrics existed at some point in the Mylo-sessions, but was never released.
Coldplay wrote Don’t Let It Break Your Heart with the intention of finishing the album with a happy ending. Chris Martin said the track arrived “very late in the day” and that the band enjoyed hitting “everything as hard as possible”.
The album’s final track samples Brian May’s Driven By You, and includes a lyrical sample from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem. Up With The Birds has been soundchecked by the band, but never performed live. The track was released as a limited edition single for Record Store Day in 2012.
Three years after the release of Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends Coldplay furthered their sonic evolution with Mylo Xyloto in 2011. What started as an acoustic record became a full-blown pop spectacle under the guidance once more of producer Brian Eno. A self-proclaimed concept album, the colourful 14-track narrative pushes the band into new waters, and includes their first album duet.