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Album Review

Chris Martin is finally at peace.

No, no, Coldplay's lead singer isn't dead. Far from it. The influential British band's frontman just seems to have vanquished the metaphorical specters that haunted Coldplay's last effort, 2014's Ghost Stories.

Since then, Martin has soared out from the beneath the gray fog that hung over him after his divorce last year from actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Now, it seems, there's nothing but sunshine and rainbows, optimism unleashed so luminously (just check out the album cover, for starters) that it prompted nowtoronto.com reviewer Matt Williams to write, "A Head Full of Dreams comes off like that one friend of yours who's so positive you want to punch him."

If that's a problem, though, it's a very good one—not to mention a rare one in popular music. Indeed, the swirling, chiming (vaguely spiritual) positive thinking on Coldplay's seventh studio effort—which Chris Martin has hinted may be the influential British band's last—bristles brightly with the buoyant belief that no matter how bad things have been, they're bound to get better.

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The title track affirms that miracles and change are possible in our broken, ordinary world. "I think I've landed where there are miracles at work," Martin observes. "Leave your broken windows open/And in the light just streams." So he encourages us to indulge "a head full of dreams" where "you can see the change you want to" and "be what you want to be." U2-esque "Birds" not only instructs listeners to "start falling in love" because we "only got this moment," but then challenges, "Come on, raise this noise/For the million people who got not one voice." The song concludes bravely, "We'll go/Through this together/When you fly, won't you/Won't you take me too?/In this world so cruel/I think you're so cool."

Gleaned from 13th-century Muslim mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi's poem "The Guest House," "Kaleidoscope" consists of these gratitude-saturated (spoken-word) lyrics: "This being human is a guest house/Every morning a new arrival/A joy, a depression, a meanness/Some momentary awareness comes/As an unexpected visitor/Welcome and entertain them all!/Be grateful for whoever comes/Because each has been sent as a guide." "Hymn for the Weekend" says, "Oh angels, sent from up above/You know you make my world light up/When I was down, when I was hurt/You came to lift me up." And "Amazing Day" longs for the good feelings that come when a man spends time with the woman he loves. Martin also thanks God for those emotions ("Oh thanks, God/Must've heard when I prayed/'Cause now I always/Want to feel this way/Amazing day").

"Everglow" properly plumbs the pain of divorce. "Oh, they say people come/They say people go/This particular diamond was extra special/ … What if it feels like the end of my world?/When I should but I can't let you go/ … And now I'm gonna miss you, I know." There's some hurt on "Fun," too ("I know it's over before she says"), but there's also wistful recollection about the good times a couple shared ("But didn't we have fun?/Don't say it was all a waste").

Things are again looking up on "Adventure of a Lifetime," where Martin tells a (presumably) new love, "I feel my heart beating/Oh, you make me feel/Like I'm alive again." He also believes that life's pressures form us into something beautiful ("Under this pressure, under this weight/We're diamonds taking shape"). "Army of One" promises, "My army of one is going to fight for you/ … Yeah, my heart is my gun, army of one/Is my only weapon." Hidden track "X Marks the Spot" promises to find a man's beloved, who's been separated from him.

Album closer "Up&Up" wraps with perhaps the purest distillation of Coldplay's effervescent optimism: "When you're in pain, when you think you've had enough/Don't ever give up/Don't ever give up/Believe in love."

Objectionable Content

On "Hymn for the Weekend," Chris compares his exuberance to chemically induced experiences ("Got me feeling drunk and high/So high, so high"). Near the end of "Adventure of a Lifetime," an otherwise positive carpe diem-esque line could imply that this life is all there is ("And if we've only got this life/ … Then I/Want to share it with you").

Summary Advisory

Even amid the melancholy mourning for a sundered marriage on Ghost Stories, Chris Martin tried to hold on to hope. A year and a half later, it's clear he's got an even better grip on it. The aptly titled A Head Full of Dreams yearns to experience life and love and happiness once more. Only a couple of clouds hang on the lyrical horizon here. Otherwise, it's bright, sunny skies and a call to passionate perseverance.

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Debuted at No. 2.

Record Label

Parlophone, Atlantic




December 4, 2015

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Adam R. Holz

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