X&Y (Capitol)

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In the span of five years, Chris Martin has gone from irritating bloke mewling about yellow stars to movie-star boinker and fruity-name bestower. Inside the music business, he's also seen as the man most likely to resuscitate the industry -- and X&Y, the latest from Coldplay, offers the breath of life. Songs such as "Square One" and "Speed of Sound" start small, but they quickly grow to enormous size, thanks to fully engorged production and choruses that embrace melodramatic gestures beloved by the anthem-loving masses. The melody of Kraftwerk's ironically distanced "Computer Love" is transformed into arena fare on the rousing "Talk," and even the title cut -- initially recalling the wimpiness of old -- eventually builds to a peak designed to inspire fans by the millions to sway in the light of their glowing cell phones. At times Coldplay's populist gestures feel blatant, but there's no denying their effectiveness. Celebrity watchers who know Martin only as Mr. Paltrow, Apple's daddy, will have to adjust their thinking. He may not be yellow, but his star is on the rise.

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