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: