Release Date: Dec 4, 2015
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Britpop, Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
The credits of Coldplay’s seventh album say much about the sort of group they’ve become. Duets with Beyonce, guest-spots from Noel Gallagher, sample clearances from Barack Obama – there are few bands who can pull these sorts of strings, and fewer still who’d go so far as to invite their frontman’s ex-wife (the subject of a desperate, disconsolate breakup record released just last year) and his new girlfriend to join on backing vocals. Curiously enough, however, it’s Gallagher whose name sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb: after their EDM-pop pivot and the meek, miserablist balladry of ‘Ghost Stories’, it’s been a while since they seemed bothered about being a ‘rock’ band of the sort the erstwhile Oasis guitarist usually turns out for.
Coldplay's last album, 2014's Ghost Stories, was a surprisingly dark and muted set released just months after Chris Martin's split with Gwyneth Paltrow. A year and a half later, the frown has been turned upside down. A Head Full of Dreams, produced by Norwegian hitmakers Stargate, might be Coldplay's brightest album ever – an eagle's-wings whoosh of soaring melodies, happy dance beats and Martin at his most wide-eyed.
Released swiftly after Ghost Stories -- just a year and a half, all things considered -- A Head Full of Dreams plays like a riposte to that haunted 2014 album. Where Chris Martin spent Ghost Stories in a mournful mood -- his sorrow perhaps derived from his divorce to Gwyneth Paltrow or perhaps not; it's best not to read too much into the tabloid headlines -- the Coldplay leader sees nothing but sunshine and stars on A Head Full of Dreams. Martin gives away the game with his song titles.
If this is indeed Coldplay’s final album, as frontman Chris Martin has implied in interviews, then no band this massive — like, Super Bowl massive — will have ever undergone a dissolution this quiet. For 15 years, the quartet’s brand has been stasis, and it would be fitting that their breakup should occur as unceremoniously as every other aspect of their career has. Martin compared seventh album A Head Full of Dreams to the “seventh Harry Potter book,” and it’s clear that he wants the band’s swan song to be viewed sentimentally but not dramatically, not to be questioned any more than why a book series has to have a final entry.
If smiley faces weren’t already taken as a signifier in pop, this album would be plastered in them. Coldplay’s last album, Ghost Stories (2014), was a sombre affair dealing with the fallout from Chris Martin’s conscious uncoupling. A Head Full of Dreams, by contrast, splats the band in primary hues, accentuating the positive with dance moves, ape costumes, high-profile guest spots – Beyoncé, Noel Gallagher – and Norwegian pop producers Stargate.
Few albums in recent memory have suffered from more dispiriting advance publicity than Coldplay’s A Head Full of Dreams. It came not from the sources that dispiriting advance publicity about albums usually does – not from snarky music journalists, or a candid interview revealing that its recording was unbridled misery and the end product a disappointment – but from the celebrity gossip press, in which Chris Martin has been unlucky enough to find himself a permanent fixture since his marriage to Gwyneth Paltrow. It was April when Heat magazine offered some white-hot intelligence on Martin’s creative stimulus for the follow-up to Ghost Stories, courtesy of one of those “unnamed insiders” they’re always quoting.
If you subscribe to the idea that Coldplay are heirs to U2's throne, then A Head Full of Dreams is their Pop. On that record, Bono and company hooked up with Howie B, immersed themselves in club culture and produced their most dance floor-friendly record at a time when the music industry was trying to sell dance music to America under the guise of "electronica. " Efforts on both fronts were a bit of a washout.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. So first things first: Coldplay are not as horrible as people make them out to be. Sure, Chris Martin's lyrics have a tendency to sound like they were written down in the very first diary owned by a 12-year-old ("I'd rather be a comma than a full stop" makes me cringe every single time). Yet somehow, Martin and his motley crew--bassist Guy Berryman, drummer Will Champion and criminally underrated guitarist Jonny Buckland--have made some of the most memorable songs of the past 15 years through some form of aural alchemy.
If A Head Full of Dreams is Coldplay’s final album, as frontman Chris Martin once recklessly warned, then the 11-track whirlwind finds the mega-selling British quartet racing toward the setting sun in a Mad Max: Fury Road gas-guzzling Franken-heap. Martin puts on the confetti-spewing Technicolor dreamcoat he discarded for 2014’s downer Ghost Stories and returns on the band’s 7th studio release with a rejuvenated spirit — just in time to get creamed commercially by Adele. A 13th-century Persian poet helped Martin snap out of his post-conscious uncoupling funk.
At this stage in their career, Coldplay are pretty much review-proof. You know what a Coldplay album will sound like (lots of piano-based anthems, plenty of ‘woah-woah’s), you know what the reviews will read like (pretty sniffy), you know how many people will rush out and buy it no matter what (a lot). Rather like Adele – who, you may have heard, has sold a fair few copies of her third album recently – they’re about as close as you get to a guaranteed success story these days, no matter what the cool kids may say.
On the very first song on their very first album, Coldplay introduced themselves with a heartfelt declaration: "We live in a beautiful world." Fifteen years and some 80 million albums sold later, the British quartet haven’t elaborated on that philosophy—they’ve just amplified it. Where massive success has a tendency to make bands more jaded and aloof, Coldplay only seem more gobsmacked and in awe of life itself. Their songs aren’t just designed to uplift, they’re often about the very sensation of being uplifted.
Coldplay’s best moments take you to another place - a simpler universe, a neat exit. At some point in their career (ie. very early on), they realised their strength lay in delivering giant, overly earnest songs for the millions. And despite the love / hate conundrum they lean on, few can challenge their ability to write huge, stadium-straddling triumphs.
Fifteen years ago, Coldplay’s Chris Martin walked along the pre-dawn beach of Studland Bay and won the admiration of millions with one simple, fatally romantic pledge: “You know I’d bleed myself dry”. It was simple, it was sweet, and it launched Coldplay straight into the spotlight, starting in the UK top ten and reaching only greater heights from there on. The group’s previous singles and EPs were an unremarkable amalgam of all their influences (including blatant and obvious Radiohead worship that would carry throughout the rest of their career) but Parachutes, that unabashed, smarter-than-its-years debut album, arrived with a distinct voice, a true sense of purpose, and numerous examples of understated-yet-effective songcraft.
Coldplay's seventh album A Head Full of Dreams is insufferably bland at best and downright offensive at worst. Over the course of 11 tracks, Chris Martin and company repeatedly and frequently make decisions that prompt the simple question: why?.
“Turn your magic on!” could well be the Chris Martin lyric to end all Chris Martin lyrics. It’s got the requisite amount of look-to-the-heavens wonder and potential glass half empty subtext you come to expect from a pen that spills both exuberant and wistful ink, and, well, it’s really rather naff and desperate. If last year’s tonally confused Coldplay album Ghost Stories was Martin’s break-up record, A Head Full of Dreams is an attempt at moving on, rebounding into the sun with head held high, a smile on the face and bright colours painting the path.
Album titles can often be instructive. In the case of Coldplay, it’s easy to intuit the differences in sensibility between the Brit pop-rock quartet’s 2014 album, “Ghost Stories,” and its new release, “A Head Full of Dreams.” That the album cover art depicts a geometric shape known as the “Flower of Life” is also a clue where things are headed. Where the spectral, downbeat “Stories” began at what sounded like a funeral and felt bleakly obsessed with the past, “Dreams” erupts at what sounds like the world’s most jubilant disco.
After darkness, light: Coldplay has wallowed and Coldplay has wept, but there comes a season for renewal. “A Head Full of Dreams,” the band’s seventh studio album, courts the communion of the dance floor, along with the good will of its allies and fans. Blissful even at its most bittersweet, it’s an album on which three songs make lyrical references to diamonds — as in, “We are diamonds” — and every surface contentedly gleams.
COLDPLAY has hinted that their new record could be their last, and while A Head Full of Dreams doesn’t reach the soaring, incandescent heights of Viva La Vida, it is more cohesive than Ghost Stories, which was a glorified Chris Martin solo project and a pretty tiresome listen. With their 15-year career possibly coming to a close, Dreams serves as a bit of a retrospective, embodying some of the anthemic arena rock that made them a global smash and also some of the more curious EDM influences that have marked their recent releases. The album opens with the title track, an uplifting, bouncy jaunt of a song that shimmers and glistens satisfyingly.
There's no shortage of shine on Coldplay's seventh studio effort. In case you couldn't tell from the kaleidoscopic, technicolour album cover, it's heavy on happiness. It's consistently uplifting and bright, and its best moments feature powerful orchestral sweeps, a surprisingly adept disco hook and even some gospel. But the lyrics are often so cringe-worthy that A Head Full Of Dreams comes off like that one friend of yours who's so positive you want to punch him.
On its new album, Coldplay sounds like a band gearing up to play the Super Bowl — which it is. Everything sounds bigger, catchier, and the references to birds flying free, soaring eagles and faraway stars abound. Cue the confetti and fog machines, and pass the nacho dip. Coming off the uncharacteristically somber "Ghost Stories" in 2014, Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion and Phil Harvey fire up one relentless chorus after another on "A Head Full of Dreams" (Parlophone/Atlantic), which sounds like it was designed at a pop-radio convention.