Once you’re reached the very top, where is there to go, really? That’s the happy conundrum Coldplay found themselves in after their global smash collaboration with BTS, “My Universe,” gave the band their first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 in 14 years.
“We’ve sort of come to the end of doing singles as Coldplay, I think we’ve probably finished doing that,” singer Chris Martin told Billboard backstage just before the band’s first of two sold-out nights at Chicago’s Soldier Field over the weekend. “‘My Universe’ felt like, ‘well, we can’t go poppier or more single-y than that and that felt so good,” he added when asked about hitting the top of the charts again in October with the song featuring the biggest K-pop band on the planet.
Martin joked that it “might just be another BTS No. 1,” even though the bouncy track appears on Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres album. “With all these things it has to be that you really like the artist and then the right song comes along,” he explained, pointing to the Spheres single “Let Somebody Go,” with Selena Gomez as another example of perfect voice, perfect timing. “Her voice is up there with our favorite singing voices, along with Rihanna and Beyoncé and some other people we’ve been really lucky to work with,” Martin said of Gomez.
Guitarist Jonny Buckland added that it “just really felt good” working with BTS, though he wasn’t sure they knew how special it was in the moment. “You get excited about it [but you don’t know],” Buckland said. Martin recalled that he’d heard BTS’ Jin say he liked Coldplay and then the group covered “Fix You” in early 2021, leading to a rumor that BTS had asked for a song they might be able to work on together.
“At first I was like, ‘there’s no way that’s ever going to work, ever. How could that possibly be? We’re like four retired janitors and they’re like Korea’s handsomest people,’” Martin laughed. But the idea got into his head and when he heard a loop someone on the band’s team had made, he asked if he could have it to drive around and listen to. “I was driving around — which is very rare because I don’t really like driving — and this chorus [for] ‘My Universe‘ just came through and the whole song appeared in one go,” he said of the flash of inspiration that yielded Coldplay’s first No. 1 since “Viva La Vida” hit the top in 2008.
The vocalist then ran back to the studio and once he’d laid some of it down he knew the song had to happen. “As soon as I started singing it it felt good and I was like, ‘This has to be for us and BTS because it’s about forbidden love… then the rest carried on as it did. I felt like it was really cool from the beginning.” The result is that there is “definitely mutual admiration” between the two camps, according to Martin, who noted that the collab was “way more fun that we would have ever thought.”
Though they came up in very different systems in the music business, Martin said the thing that binds the two groups is as simple as the single word on the thousands of lapel pins Coldplay hand out to fans on each stop of their current world tour: Love (stylized with a heart in the O and a dove-shaped V). “The main similarity and the core one is that they really get along and they really cherish each other and look out for each other and that’s the same [with Coldplay],” he said.
But when asked if they could ever catch that lighting in a bottle a second time, Martin said it’s unlikely, though he wasn’t quick to totally shut the door on exploring that universe further. “I don’t know if it would happen again because it would be hard to make it better than it was,” he said.
The next stop on Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres tour is on Wednesday (June 1) at FedExField in Washington, D.C., while BTS are scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden on Tuesday (May 31) at the White House to discuss combatting anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination as part of AANHPI Heritage Month.
Watch the “My Universe” video below.