Album Review: Coldplay – A Head Full Of Dreams

Coldplay released their seventh album A Head Full of Dreams earlier this month and if it indeed is the band’s last (probably more of extended break) it’s for good reason because the record is far from An Album Full of Songs.

Though A Head Full Of Dreams dumps the dreary and melancholy feel, for the most part, that encompassed singer Chris Martin’s postpartum break-up album from last year, Ghost Stories, it definitely keeps the somewhat meandering approach to song writing, seriously lacking the fun hooks and strong harmonies and catchy melodies that made Coldplay musical giants. Perhaps this musical venture has run it course.

To this day, that gem of a song “Paradise” off 2011’s Mylo Xyloto can induce goosebumps with the introductory lead-in culminating in those grandiose arena rock keyboards. Even the hardest soul would have a hard time keeping their emotions in check on “Fix You” off 2004’s X & Y. But there’s nothing, nothing like this on A Head Full of Dreams.

Sure, there’s definitely what could be considered good songs amongst the nine tracks (“Kaleidoscope” and “Colour Spectrum” are not songs and thus won’t be treated as such or this album gets knocked even more points) but even the dismal Ghost Stories offered a couple of standouts. Most of the songs here feel twice as long as they actually are and much of that can be attributed to the slow play and uninspiring arrangements.

The closest you get to memorable starts with the title track that opens the album (giving false hope of what’s to come) which features a solid Guy Berryman bass line and a decent melody but it doesn’t really go anywhere nor does the band bring the song home. “Birds” also starts out promising, again with a clever bass driving the song, but overall feels flat and then abruptly ends. “Hymn For The Weekend” annoyingly repeats the “Oh I, oh I, oh I, I’m feeling drunk and high” chorus far too long and a female vocalist enters late for some reason. Not sure if that’s Gwyneth Paltrow, the reason for Ghost Stories, who is apparently one of many guests on A Head Full of Dreams but at this point, not that interested in finding out.

“Everglow” has a pretty piano line and right away feels like it could deliver that emotional tug so many Coldplay songs provide and this album so desperately needs but Martin sounds like a 5 year old using baby talk and there’s no real passionate depth.

“Adventure Of A Lifetime” introduced the album a few weeks before the official release and brings another catchy bass hook though it sounds much like Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and what’s up with the backing singers? It’s not so much lifeless, there’s really nothing special about it. And seriously whose idea was it to rip off that abysmal Gwen Stefani/Akon song to close it out?

“Fun” features somebody named Tove Lo which is more or less a duet that’s pleasant enough but hardly enduring.  “Army Of One” is probably the closest you’ll get to indelible on this album but then halfway through it inexplicably turns into a quasi hip hop song. The change is so drastic you have to wonder if there’s a mistake in the linear notes. It makes no sense. It’s awful.

The dreamy “Amazing Day” features exceptional vocal work by Martin and feels quite a bit nostalgic but a bit bland too. Finally, “Up&Up” closes the album, and no it’s not about Target’s store brand of products. They’ve completely gotten away from any rock roots at this point. OK, a nice guitar solo (oh, there’s Jonny Buckland) arrives near the end, I guess.

A Head Full of Dreams might indeed suffer from the hope that it brings Coldplay back to form after the emotional release Martin needed and received after their last effort. The band never toured Ghost Stories and reportedly returned to the studio shorty after its release to record this one. Head Full of Dreams arrives with potential but the end product lacks the depth of all of their past albums (even on Ghost Stories the anguish was palpable) and nothing really shines through. It’s more like elevator music with lyrics – listen long enough eventually your head will be full of dreams.

Grade: C-

Coldplay – Head Full of Dreams Track list:

  1. A Head Full Of Dreams
  2. Birds
  3. Hymn For The Weekend
  4. Everglow
  5. Adventure Of A Lifetime
  6. Fun
  7. Kaleidoscope
  8. Army Of One
  9. Amazing Day
  10. Colour Spectrum
  11. Up&Up

Written By: AndrewT

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