Review: Coldplay's new album is different, but so what?
They leave Queen Bey in the dust, though.
Official album art for A Head Full of Dreams.
The seemingly greyscale alternative-rock band, Coldplay, has been around — and pretty damn successful — for over 15 years now. While other, more interesting alternative bands have fazed in and out of the music scene, Coldplay has remained a steady constant with its romantically cynical sound in the alt-rock atmosphere for listeners everywhere.
There is a very present element of sappiness in just about everything Coldplay has done, but that isn’t necessarily bad. I think it is this element that has kept the band afloat for so many years. I am not sure how or why it works, but it does. But with its new album, A Head Full Of Dreams, it seems Coldplay is trying to add some color and difference to its otherwise monochrome portfolio.
This theme is even prevalent with the album cover, as it is splattered in rainbows and other random colorful items.
I would have to say that overall, this new album is the most vibrant LP of Coldplay's career. The album kicks off with “A Head Full Of Dreams," making it immediately obvious that this is no regular Coldplay album. Unlike the band's previous music, this song is upbeat with a very prominent, funky bass line that lead singer, Chris Martin, sings over with encouraging lyrics about change and miracles.
Coldplay has definitely taken a stylistic turn, but not without keeping some of the musical aspects that have made it popular for so long. The usual synth-piano mashup is scattered throughout the album along with Martin’s very distinct — and, frankly, limited — vocals.
In songs like “Everglow” and “Amazing Day," the typical Coldplay elements are almost obnoxiously present. These songs are a bit redundant and less fun to listen to in my opinion, but are still musically well developed. They seem to cover the sadder side of this otherwise upbeat album.
The most popular song off this album at this point is “Adventure of a Lifetime.” This is a prime example of how Coldplay is turning more toward an alt-pop vibe with modern tendencies toward strong bass lines and slurred synth riffs.
While most of the songs on the album take a pop-dance spin, a couple veer in the opposite direction. The songs “Colour Spectrum” and “Kaleidoscope” are really abstract. The first is only a minute long, but this entire minute is only transcendental noise with the occasional background conversation that is almost impossible to understand.
The second, “Kaleidoscope," features Barack Obama. Yes, the president. Coldplay used a clip of Obama singing “Amazing Grace,” along with a spoken poem by Persian poet Rumi.
“Kaleidoscope” by far has the strongest message out of all the songs on the album, but is musically the most unexpected. I see this song more as a display rather than a tune, with a purpose and an intended message. It is really worth listening to. If not for the music, then for the message.
But other songs off the album are almost lyrically profane. From the song “Hymn for the Weekend,” Martin sings, “Life is a drink, and love's a drug,” and continues to sing about how high he feels. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Beyoncé is featured in this song. But that’s only because her vocals constitute a very small part of it.
This album is doing pretty well, but that isn’t to say that is without flaw. I think the largest injustice on the album is the lack of importance from the featured artists. "Hymn for the Weekend" starts with Beyoncé singing a little tune, and then she is left to sing almost insignificant harmonies every now and then throughout the song. It really is a shame and frankly very disappointing — who features Beyoncé in a song for her harmonies?
Pop star Tove Lo is featured in the song “Fun," which is not nearly as enjoyable to listen to as the name entails. It is very slow, but also very pretty. It contains elements that somewhat resemble an '80s love song, but it's still very distinctly a Coldplay song. As it is with “Hymn for the Weekend," Tove Lo is reduced to singing basic harmonies and is not musically used anywhere near to her full potential. Shame on you, Coldplay.
Overall, I was impressed with Coldplay’s willingness to extend beyond its typical songs in its new album. It is obvious that the band has developed more since its days of “Clocks” and “Yellow," in a modern-pop/feel-good direction. But there are some aspects of the album that left me cold. I hope to see the band continue to expand upon these new ideas more thoroughly in the future.
Follow Thea Van Gorp on Twitter.