Coldplay's Chris Martin on 'Princess of China' guest Rihanna: 'She's a much, much better singer than me'

Rihanna-Coldplay

Image Credit: Ian Gavan/Getty Images; Nick Pickles/WireImage.com

There is still a week to go before the release of Coldplay’s fifth album, Mylo Xyloto, and earlier today the tune that will undoubtedly be the disc’s most talked-about made its way onto the Internet — though the band’s label, EMI, is consistently pulling the song down where they find it.

Back when the track listing was first announced, “Princess of China” immediately stood out, mostly because it contained the note “featuring Rihanna” right after it.

It isn’t the first time a voice that isn’t Martin’s has shown up on a Coldplay song (remember that version of “Lost!” that captured one of Jay-Z’s best freestyles over the piano solo?), but “Princess of China” is a pretty powerful departure for the band, as it not only invites RiRi along for the ride but also locks into something like an R&B groove (or at least the British swoop-rock interpretation of an R&B groove).

“She’s one of the top five singers in the world,” Martin told EW during a recent conversation about the new album (the results of which you can read in the current issue, on newsstands now). “While we were working on it, I was thinking, ‘I wish Rihanna was singing this.’ That was around the time of Rated R, when she was singing dark stuff like ‘Russian Roulette.’ I got nervous to ask [drummer] Will [Champion], because I knew he would say, ‘Well, we don’t really have guests on the records,’ but then I asked him and it was accepted as an idea. But the song itself was always asking for her. The process of getting her to sing on it took ages, but in my head I would have been very disappointed if anyone else had done it.”

Martin said that once the decision was made and the logistics worked out, the process of working with Rihanna was exceptionally smooth. “It was very organic,” he explained. “I played her the song on the piano, and then she said ‘OK, leave it to me.’ And then the next thing you know, you’ve got a f—ing beautiful Rihanna record. She’s amazing. And by the way, she could sing the menu and it would sound amazing. Believe me, I thought about doing that — just replacing the rest of our album with her singing the menu. ‘Two ninety-nine!’”

Still, fans of “Princess of China” may have to wait for a special occasion to see it performed live. While the band was test-driving the songs from Mylo Xyloto on the road in the spring and summer, they ran into a bit of a roadblock when it came to that song. “I gave it one go, in Germany,” Martin said. “I couldn’t get away with it, so we had to stop playing it. She’s a much, much better singer than me.”

Hungry for more Coldplay? They’ll be playing The Colbert Report this Thursday. Much like their appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! a few weeks ago, the band will be giving a new song from Mylo Xyloto its television premiere.

More one EW.com:
Coldplay to livestream concert in Madrid
Coldplay pay tribute to R.E.M. with cover of ‘Everybody Hurts’: Watch it here
Coldplay unveil new single ‘Paradise’: Hear it here

Comments (30 total) Add your comment
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  • Phil

    I can’t wait for “Mylo Xyloto” next week! Guaranteed #1 now that Young Momney wisened up and moved Drake’s release due to *cough cough* sample clearance issues. Coldplay catch alot of flak, but they’re incredible, and along with Maroon 5 one of the most consistent bands touring today. Coldplay albums are masterpieces that can be listened to from beginning to end, and in this singles minded/iTunes era, thats pretty rare. I can’t wait to hear “Princess of China” but I’m already thinking its gonna get picked up by pop radio no matter what. American Pop radio has an iffy love affair with Coldplay, but Rihanna is their Homecoming Queen as of late.

    • Dave

      Along with Maroon 5? Gah, they are awful. Coldplay are just decent.

      • Phil

        Sorry if Maroon 5 aren’t your cup of tea, but their live show is non stop hits, and Coldplay’s live set is amazing. If you’ve never seen either in concert you should hold your contempt back.

    • sam

      Same here… I loved Every Teardrop and Paradise, but Princess of China will probably have to grow on me. Not really feeling it.

  • Elle

    Sorry, but she is not a better singer than Chris. I think he’s just being modest. If not, I question his hearing.

    • Michael

      I agree with you. Rihanna has just been more annoying. At least Coldplay has had better music, and it has been worth listening too from start to finish.

      • Adhi

        What’s wrong with Beethoven or Mozart? I don’t see anything rrlticulapay wrong with enjoying classical music. It doesn’t mean you’re an intellectual, a snob, a freak or anything really. You just enjoy that particular form of music and how they contributed to it. This applies to any band, group or musician out there. Musical taste is pretty much the most personal thing in the world other than DNA, so arguing over it is a waste of time.

  • Jay

    Way to go Coldplay! it is nice you are no longer pretending that you are a rock band and are embracing your new top 40 staus along with Maroon 5 and Nick Jonas. In the current issue of EW you say that rock fans hate you and you don’t know why….this is why. When is your Justin Bieber collab going to drop?

    • Greg

      So its somehow bad that a rock band is doing well? I see. Because they are successful, they cant be a good rock band… that makes so much sense.

      • NonEntity

        The question is doing well at what? Coldplay has done well at being a cheap imitation of U2 and now has done an equally great job at not only making mediocre music, but also with bringing on other mediocre artists and making more terribly dull marketing posing as music. I laugh when people equate sales with doing well. Good consumers.

  • Peter Griffin

    Hey, how about we do something that’s not whiny bullcrap?

  • Mike

    I have liked many Coldplay songs although I felt the quality of their music trended downwards after A Rush of Blood. Princess of China is an embarrassment. It’s truly one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. It’s really not even a song. Bad, bad decision to release it.

  • Cat

    I think the whiny bullcrap complaint is so overplayed. Try listening to I Ran Away, 1:36, Goldrush, Sleeping Sun, and all of the Viva la Vida album.

  • sv

    “Princess of China” leaked today — it turned out really well. Of course, not everyone will like it just because Rihanna is on the track, but whatever, it’s a quality listen.

  • Ross

    I can’t believe Chris actually thinks Rihanna is a good singer?!? He made a huge mistake with her!

    • Jane

      Shes actually kind of an awesome singer. shes not consistent live for sure but to write her off completely isn’t fair. Listen to her live performances of California King Bed or Whats My Name, theyre kinda fantastic!

  • Elizabeth

    I love Coldplay! I am so excited to buy this CD next week.

  • NonEntity

    Now that you’ve been brainwashed with Coldplay, corporations are gambling they can get a few more sales via yawn worthy Rihanna. It is clear that there is no difference between these two acts and their motives on behalf of their sponsors: money. Your money, all of it, in exchange for nothing special.

    • Phil

      You must enjoy waiting for paint to dry.

  • Leina

    Rihanna in the Rated R era is really a fantastic artist. She sounds incredible on this track too.

  • Phil

    Billboard.com is streaming the track in its entirety. And honestly it sounds like nothing else out on the radio right now.

  • Dax

    I watched Coldplay live in Johannesburg, South Africa just over a week ago. They were awesome. They even shot a bit of the upcoming “Paradise” video at the concert. So look out for me & thousands of other people (& the funny masks the band wore) at the end of the video ;)

  • LL2

    This an R&B song? Are you sure you are a music critic? This is pop song. FYI, Rihanna sings various types of music. It is intellectually lazy to categorize every song she sings as R&B. It makes you look like you don’t know what you are talking about.

    • LL2

      Correction: ” This is an R&B song?” & “This is a pop song.”

  • tresorparis

    Thanks for interesting blog post. You guys are always provide information that it makes it impossible not to want to buy your next product ;I cant wait to see what you guys come up with based on all your research and data that you gather.

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