A Head Full Of Dreams was always going to be considered a risky album for Coldplay. With their previous album Ghost Stories only released in 2014, the band ran a double risk of sustaining commercial success, and producing an entire album’s worth of material in a condensed period of time. Ultimately, A Head Full Of Dreams is satisfactory on both counts, but fails to reach the dizzying heights of the band’s previous releases.
Although the tracks each retain integrity as stand-alone pieces, when assembled together they feel incongruous. The album meanders from genre to genre: the titular opening song is heavily disco-inspired, featuring shuffling dance beats, while Hymn For The Weekend is an odd R-n-B-pop hybrid track featuring none other than Beyonce, and not-so-hidden track X Marks The Spot is almost laughably similar to Kendrick Lamar’s Swimming Pools. Conversely, songs such as Everglow or Army of One follow in a similar vein to Coldplay’s earlier material, centring on bittersweet balladry.
A Head Full Of Dreams is ambitious, carefully executed and (mostly) well-written. However, there is a continual and pervasive sense that the band’s reach is simply exceeding their grasp. This is not to say there aren’t some genuinely beautiful moments on the album – the song Kaleidoscope, for instance, is based around a recording of Coleman Barks reading aloud a translation of a Rumi poem, and is a powerful track in its own right. It’s a shame then that it is marred by the album’s sheer inconsistency. Had Coldplay picked a clear musical direction to commit to, there is little doubt that the album could have achieved the same dazzling brilliance as their earlier releases.