With a career as long and a track record as impressive as Coldplay’s, there’s an immensely high standard to be met. The spirit of lead singer Chris Martin’s ex-wife, Gwenyth Paltrow, haunted the band’s 2014 desperately pained breakup album Ghost Stories. Martin’s vocals and lyrics were mellow and pierced, and the record made for a depressing listen. Since the band made their 2000 debut with Parachutes, Coldplay have produced a wide variety of inspiring, soulful and fun tracks to grace our ears with. These elements all seemed to be lacking in Ghost Stories. However these attributes have returned in full-force with the rumoured-to-be final Coldplay album A Head Full of Dreams.
This turnaround in tone seems to be a partial result of Martin having ‘let go’ of his breakup. This becomes startlingly obvious when he has the self-assurance to invite Paltrow to lend her backing vocals to the song Everglow. Indeed Paltrow is not the only contributor to the album, with Beyoncé, Tove Lo, Noel Gallagher, and believe it or not, Barack Obama all featuring. Unfortunately the President’s appearance was only a sample of him singing Amazing Grace at the funeral of Rev Clementa C Pinckney, who was killed during a shooting at a South Alabama church last year. Nevertheless his inclusion on the album is as interesting as it is bemusing.
Whilst Coldplay’s trademark characteristics are all present and correct, from the crowd-rousing lyrics, to the echoing guitar accompaniment, there is a distinctly different sound from their previous albums. The guest artists have a part to play in this, with Hymn for the Weekend, featuring Beyoncé, being the most notable standout. The combination of the R&B-inspired beat with Beyoncé’s angelic, toned down harmonies and Martin’s raw vocals proves to be a trippy, paradisiacal tune that gives the record a throbbing beat. Somehow it improves with every listen.
There’s an unmistakable vibrancy and pulsing life, from the starry, child-like opening titular track, to the sugar-rush inducing positivity of lead single Adventure of a Lifetime. The band should be lauded for their ease in creating such a colourful ear-worm, which highlights their renewed interest in pursuing their dreams. Admittedly it’s a little hum-drum in places, with some predictable lyrics cropping up here and there, and a few too many interludes for an 11 track album, but the evolution of the band has never been more apparent.
When asked on the album, Martin has called it ‘a completion of something.’ Ironically, for an album so concerned with progression, this rings true by the time you’ve reached its end. Martin seems to have come to terms with many of the problems that have seemed to plague Coldplay’s lifespan. These include becoming too attached to relationships, which is addressed in the song Fun featuring Tove Lo, a ballad about being content with a short-lived romance. In fact this sense of contentment is what holds the album together, with Martin never seeming happier on Amazing Day. If this year’s Super Bowl half-time show and world tour are in fact a send-off to the band, then they couldn’t have picked a more thematically successful collection of songs to share.