Coldplay has been diverting away from their original sound for quite some time now. Gone are the days of "Yellow" and "Shiver", and while that is partially a good thing, the direction they've headed in with A Head Full Of Dreams seems the complete opposite of what they were aiming for in Ghost Stories.
The opening song, "Army Of One", starts out with Martin's glorious voice accompanied by a church organ, something they should use in every song, if you ask me. He croons about fighting for love, that his heart is a gun, hitting those high notes with the greatest of ease. Then about halfway through the song, it's as if Drake or Jason Derulo strolled into the studio and took over. A beat track comes up behind Martin's vocals, he keeps a pretty even keel, with little to no emotion in his voice. All the synthetic noises you normally hear on a typical Pop or R&B song are present; Coldplay had your heart flying through the clouds one minute and then promptly threw you into a club where the bass is too deep and the drinks are $15 a pop. If someone could please go back and cut this song in half, disposing of the latter half, that would be lovely. This is a horrible opening song, but at least the upside of this is that the rest of the album seems like sheer perfection. I don't know what went into this song, thought-wise, but please don't do it again.
"Amazing Day" will become a new wedding song, mark my words. It's very simple, but very sweet. The song sounds like you're a giant meadow accompanied with some clouds shaped like bunnies and kittens. Imagine the opening to the animated movie Up, where Carl and Ellie point at the sky all cute-like, totally in love. There is clearly a theme already developing on the record at this point: love, happiness and adventure. Forgetting that the first song happened, I'm back on board.
The third song is basically a segue, titled "Colour Spectrum". Chirping birds and Martin's high, breathy vocals are what it must be like to stroll through Wonderland, without the fear of Tim Burton making things super weird.
"Up&Up" is definitely that - up. When life is being a jerk, this is the track to listen to in order to feel better. The lyrics ensure hope "We're gonna get it / Get together I know / We're gonna get it / Get it together somehow / We're gonna get it / Get together and float", which is refreshing to hear especially in this day and age. The mid-section of the song has an uplifting guitar rift, surely suited to an excellent display of air guitar sessions in the car. Let go of your fears, Coldplay's got your back.
The next track, titled the same as the album, is surely a toe-tapper. Dream big, aim higher and live large! With that lush, full sound that Coldplay has come to embrace, the song drifts through the air with the backing of what sounds like a children's choir. The child-like essence of the song is great, reveling in the awe of what the eye can behold.
"Birds" keeps up with the atmospheric theme of flying and freedom. With another great guitar rift, the song is definitely one you can listen to while laying in the grass, marveling at the beauty of the Earth. The ending is a bit odd though, with the song going full force and coming to an abrupt stop. Did the bird get shot out of the sky or something?
The big collaboration between Coldplay and Beyonce can be found on "Hymn For The Weekend", easily one of my favorites on the album. Beyonce's vocals are layered to open the song, and she just wants you to have a drink. With a light piano intro after Queen Bey, the track has a R&B feel to it; the light tinking of glasses and brass instruments of the genre sway in time with yet another beat track. While something about the first track's introduction of an R&B sound through me through a loop, it feels so appropriate with Chris Martin and Beyonce's vocals. Raise your glasses to this one, although I don't ever expect it to ring through a club.
After plenty of uplifting, cheerful music, we've got "Everglow". You can also hear Gwyneth Paltrow's vocals run through the track, as a heavenly echo. This song is piano-heavy and sweet enough to melt my cold heart. The lyrics are simple, but definitely heartfelt: "There's a light that you give me / When I'm in shadow / It's a feeling of ever... / Everglow". It's a goodbye to a lost love, whether from physical departure or death, and it ends beautifully with advice we should all take to heart: "So if you love someone / You should let them know /
Oh, the light that you left me / Will everglow." A wonderfully composed song, no doubt.
Next up we have "Adventure Of A Lifetime", one song I am 100% on board with. Find a group of your best friends and dance down a wide dirt path in Malaysia to this song, because that's what Coldplay wants you to do. This is the first track off the album that hit the radio, and an excellent choice at that. Martin's vocals, crying out "Whoo hoo!" near the end of the song ring through the mountains, and make you want to sing alongside him.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtXby3twMmI
"Fun" features the impeccable Tove Lo, with a sickeningly-sweet voice that meshes with Martin's so easily. Two lovers reflect on their past, not in anger, but in a nod to what was. People depart one another on good terms, and maybe have a tinge of regret towards the event. Wrapping the song up is a lyric, "Maybe we could again", giving this breakup song a lighter feeling. While the song itself is well done, the album so far hasn't been stripped down very much. I think an opportunity was lost here, putting a full sound in where maybe something more acoustic could have been better suited.
Wrapping up the album is "Kaleidoscope", a two-minute reflection on what it's like to be human and the ways that our lives can change practically overnight. I'm not a fan of spoken-word songs, as you're basically just adding instruments to a speech, and it gives the end of the album an empty feeling.
Overall, A Head Full Of Dreams is a great album and I look forward to listening through again. After Ghost Stories gave us some excellent, mellow tunes to get us through a rough work week (save for "A Sky Full Of Stars", one of my favorite songs of all time), we've been given a Prozac and love-infused album. Maybe it was time to perk up after being zen for so long, but maybe applying a little more chill to this record would have been a good idea. Hopefully in the future though the gents veer away from that odd R&B sound, as it's really kind of jarring to hear from them.