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The song was recorded by the band during sessions for their sixth studio album in 2013, at their purpose-built studios The Bakery and The Beehive in North London, England, both originally constructed for work on their two previous studio albums, 2008's Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends and 2011's Mylo Xyloto respectively. The song's bass riff, the first part of the song, was originally conceived by Guy Berryman during the band's recording sessions in February 2013.
The single art for "Magic" was etched by British-based, Czech etching artist Mila Fürstová. The artwork features a symbolic white dove imposed onto a blue background. Much like other artworks of the Ghost Stories album cycle, the image depicts a scenario contained within the perimeter of the subject of focus, this time the white dove. The scenario features imagery related to stage magic, including a levitating couple, a flying deck of cards and a theater stage.
A beat consisting of a "muffled snare" and "dusty bass riff" is repeated throughout most of the song. As the song progresses, a piano is later added to the instrumentation which is eventually swapped out for a stomp-clap beat and again for a synth beat. Following the song's second chorus, these beats are gradually combined together while Martin sings in falsetto. The song's "anticlimactic" portion then decreases intensity until it has eventually resumed to simply a snare and bass riff.
"Magic" has received highly positive reviews from critics. Jamieson Cox of Time magazine wrote that "Magic" isn't as far from the style of Coldplay's previous albums as "Midnight", the first track from Ghost Stories that was revealed. He added that the single "does hint at a few new tricks up the band's sleeve," and described it as "a successful marriage of old and new."Rolling Stone magazine's Kory Grow commented in similar tone, calling the song "a return to form," proven "to be Coldplay through and through."Digital Spy's Lewis Corner concurred, writing: "[The song] isn't a quick card trick to draw you in like some of the band's previous hits, but rather a long-form spectacle that slowly allures you with its intricacies and delicate craftsmanship." The song was placed at number thirty on Rolling Stones 50 Best Songs of 2014 list.
Writing for Consequence of Sound, Alex Young opined that the track "sounds a lot less Bon Iver and a lot more Chris Martin drinking a venti, no-whip Skinny Vanilla Latte on a Sunday afternoon." Carl Williot of Idolator noted the song's Edge influence and commented that it showed "a tonedown their trademark grandeur in exchange for a more minimalist, atmospheric set of songs."Spin's Kyle McGovern had similar thoughts, and called the track "a low-key meditation on love." Bill Lamb of About.com gave the song 4.5 stars out of 5 and called it a "refreshingly simple, heartwarming love song." Writing for Los Angeles Times, Mikael Wood commented: "With Martin's delicate falsetto floating over a muted drum-machine beat ... this one offers up a sumptuous vocal melody - and a surprisingly soulful one at that."
The narrative of the music video is centered around a magic show, which was translated by the director from a literal interpretation of Coldplay's song, whose lyrics make allusions to various magic tricks and stunts. The video itself is presented as a monochromesilent film, with cinematography and production mimicking those of the early 20th Century silent films, including an opening credits sequence, with "ragtime jazz", reminiscent of those used in early silent films. The video's narrative has been compared to the 2006 film The Prestige, without the "gripping" elements of the film.
Synopsis and reception
Cecile (Zhang Ziyi) is a stage magician who performs magic in a traveling circus. She performs with Christophe (Chris Martin), a young magician who serves as Cecile's assistant. The duo perform various routine magic acts, such as impalement arts and shapeshifting. Cecile is married to Claude (also played by Chris Martin), a famous magician who, in addition to being an alcoholic, is violently aggressive to his wife. As Christophe continues to perform with Cecile, he starts to notice evidence of Claude's aggressive behavior towards Cecile, including bruises across her arm and witnessing Claude shouting at his wife, reducing her to tears.
Christophe, after he learns the art of levitation, formulates an idea to relieve Cecile of her troubles with Claude. He invites Cecile into the show tent to show her his newly-learnt ability to levitate himself. This however, upsets Claude who, after accusing his wife of cheating on him with Christophe, seeks to challenge him to a fight in one of his alcohol-fueled rampages. Christophe, however, uses his new abilities to levitate Claude and send him flying into the sky, thus saving Cecile from Claude. The two continue the show without Claude and show off new entertaining magic tricks and stunts.
Carl Williott of American music website Idolator wrote positively of the video, stating that it was "a quirky, entertaining video, specifically the parts with Martin playing a goofy-ass villain". Jason Scott of music blog Popdust also wrote positively, describing the music video's imagery as "vivid" and "a literal interpretation of what we've all come to expect from a 1920s side-show attraction".
The video was filmed on February 4 and 5, 2014 in Los Angeles State Historic Park and no camera tricks were used.