Fifteen years ago, while my family was living in England, my dad discovered Coldplay and predicted then they would be big one day. Coldplay just played the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, so they are “big” in at least one sense of the word, and my dad has been cemented as a hip music listener who catches bands before their time. Coldplay consists of Will Champion, Johnny Buckland, Guy Berryman, and the often-overlooked Chris Martin. They’ve stuck together for about 20 years, which is a feat in itself.
I grew up listening to Coldplay’s first few albums. They are filled with lovely, simple songs that can be enjoyed by all ages. The band’s first three albums are fairly cohesive in their sound. With their fourth album, Viva La Vida, Coldplay decided to shake things up and began working with more complex instrumental layering. Mylo Xyloto saw an even more drastic movement from their existing sound and probably marks the start of the Coldplay we see today. Their sound and brand are now colorful, fun, positive and driven by a mix of instruments and electronics.
Before this review, I hadn’t kept up with Coldplay’s most recent albums or listened to any of their music in quite a while. But after a brief reminiscing session backed by their old tune “In My Place,” I decided it was time to listen to their December 2015 release, A Head Full of Dreams. The album started off strong. “Birds” has an unexpected but enjoyable driving beat and “A Head Full Of Dreams” is a catchy tune. “Adventure of a Lifetime” was probably my favorite track. The song has a great groove and is full of undeniable Coldplay positivity. The first line, which pops up again and again throughout the song, pushes you to “turn your magic on.” It’s hard not trying.
The rest of the album, however, was disappointing. “Hymn For The Weekend,” which features Beyoncé, was clearly intended to be one of the hits of the album, but the song verges on predictable pop and is underwhelming. Although Coldplay began to lean towards pop with Mylo Xyloto, that album still had a distinct and exciting sound that this song lacks.
The rest of A Head Full of Dreams was equally dissatisfying. “Everglow” sounds like the band’s failed attempt to get back to their slow-song roots. And “Army of One” started off alright, but was ruined when it turned vaguely techno halfway through. The album featured a few gems, but was overwhelmed by duds.
Even though I wasn’t a fan of this recent album, I still tuned in to Coldplay’s halftime show. Based on what I’ve heard about their live shows, I expected an explosion of light, color, and sound. This was indeed the case, though it didn’t exactly work in their favor, given the sun was still largely out. Thank god, then, that they did include some of their classics, for old time’s sake.