It’s no small feat for a band to maintain the level of success and social impact that Coldplay has had over the past fifteen years, but with standout albums such as A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002) and Viva La Vida (or Death and All His Friends) (2008), there is no doubt that they deserve their fame. But as times change, so do musical stylings. While there is some value to be gleaned from the band’s latest album, A Head Full of Dreams, it also marks potential doom for Coldplay’s popularity.
From the very outset of the album, Coldplay’s deviation from earlier work is extremely apparent. Clearly influenced by the ever-growing field of pop music, A Head Full of Dreams trades strings for synthesizers, relying heavily on groovy techno beats and an electronic style. It’s a bold artistic choice for Coldplay to deviate from their rock-solid acoustic sound, and, unfortunately, this choice does not pay off in the end. Each song becomes more repetitive than the last, making a full listen-through of the album a very tedious chore. The lyrics do little to alleviate the flaws in the instrumentals—they range from average at the best to facile and inane at the very worst. And sadly, this “very worst” seems to be popping up more and more often.
Not every single piece of A Head Full of Dreams falls flat, which earns it at least a small amount of praise. Despite its repetitiveness, some of the melodies are catchy. “Adventures of a Lifetime” is the album’s standout song. With a catchy hook and a decent beat, it succeeds in capturing the listener’s attention. It seems that Coldplay is also seeking to return to ballad-style songwriting in certain cases. The longer tracks on the album, “Army of One” and “Up&Up,” are examples. A number of songs from the earliest Coldplay albums utilize this method of songwriting, many of which became immediate fan favorites, and the same may be the case in this instance. They are somewhat out of place on this tracklist, but considering the drudgery of much of the album, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Finally, Chris Martin’s vocals, as usual, are well above par. He is an incredibly talented frontman, and though his songwriting is somewhat lacking in this instance, his singing redeems the album to a degree. The same can be said of the entire band. If nothing else, they know the fundamentals of music-making better than many artists. Of course, this makes it all the more unfortunate that their work is mostly for naught. The level of musicianship that Coldplay brings to the table rivals the very best of artists, held back only by the shallow nature of their newest work.
Examining the progression of Coldplay’s work, two trends become quickly apparent: a deviation from acoustic, alternative sounds, and a progression toward manufactured pop-rock stylings. This is not inherently a bad thing—pop-style music infused with other genres is a growing trend, one that stands to define the tastes of the 21st century. The problem lies in the fact that, on the resume of Coldplay’s musical strengths, manufactured pop-rock is at the very bottom of the list. A thousand other artists, from Lana Del Rey to Taylor Swift, produce better pop music than Coldplay. If the band continues on this path, they will undoubtedly reach obscurity. As of now, the release of A Head Full of Dreams shows one thing has become irrevocably true: Coldplay must draw from its alternative roots if they want to remain in the limelight for much longer.
Featured Image By Atlantic Records