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. He's quite literally having "Fun" on an "Amazing Day," living for the weekend and viewing his impending middle age as nothing so much as the "Adventure of a Lifetime." Coldplay match his optimism by tempering their signature soft focus, pushing themselves toward the light and undergirding the newfound positivity via glittering disco beats and a gossamer electronic sheen. Arriving after the deliberately dour Ghost Stories, this infusion of backbeat and glitz does indeed feel welcome and bold but such determined levity also suggests the gusto of a greying divorcee boogying down on the deck of a cruise ship, determined to seize every bit of life headed his way. This carpe diem spirit courses throughout A Head Full of Dreams, turning it into a 21st century equivalent of Steve Winwood's Back in the High Life, a divorce record where every end seems like a fresh new beginning. Appropriately, Coldplay invite more than a few guests to help usher them into this brave new world, the showiest being Beyoncé, who overwhelms the band's innate politeness on "Hymn for the Weekend," but Tove Lo eases right into "Fun" and Noel Gallagher amiably allows himself to be swallowed by the gentle wash of guitars and synths. All these cameos suit the overarching theme of A Head Full of Dreams -- how there's a big, bright, beautiful world just waiting to be discovered if you just open your heart and live a little -- and if this message is unabashedly corny, under the stewardship of Chris Martin, Coldplay cheerfully embrace the cheese, ratcheting up both the sparkle and the sentiment so the album feels genuine in its embrace of eternal middle-aged clichés.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine