Dance-pop ebullience drips from every cut on Coldplay’s seventh album, A Head Full of Dreams. Chris Martin’s feathery falsetto floats above purring disco propulsion. Jonny Buckland’s six-string chime gracefully pirouettes across sleek bass grooves that cleverly find common ground between Chic-informed funk and Northern Soul’s ecstatic bounce. Fragile piano melodies sit atop programmed hip-hop beats. And if all that that weren’t enough, Coldplay’s contagious pop vision is expansive enough to include cameos from R&B diva Beyoncé, Brit-rock troublemaker Noel Gallagher, soul legend Merry Clayton, and even POTUS(!).
No act since the turn of the century has made the leap from alt-rock club to the dancefloor as audaciously as Coldplay. Even though several cuts, including “Everglow” and “Amazing Day,” echo the group’s original sound, A Head Full of Dreams ultimately feels lifetimes removed from the days when the rock press regularly compared the quartet to Radiohead and U2. Each of those groups, it should be noted, have also explored electronica, yet neither has surrendered so fervently to the glitzy allure of the club as Coldplay does.
We saw Coldplay’s embrace of dance-pop coming as far back as 2011’s Mylo Xyloto. But despite featuring a collaboration with pop queen Rihanna, the album still felt like the product of a band rooted in Brit-rock tradition. This isn’t the case with A Head Full of Dreams, a point driven home by Coldplay’s choice of producers. Sharing a production credit with trusted mainstay Rik Simpson is Stargate, the Norwegian hit-makers who previously worked with Katy Perry and Selena Gomez.
The production team’s Euro-pop aesthetic coolly washes over “Adventure of a Lifetime,” as well as the hypnotic title track that boldly reaches for sublime peaks generally reserved for ABBA and Giorgio Moroder sides. Along with the rest of A Head Full of Dreams, these cuts represent the most effusively upbeat music Coldplay has yet to produce. They’re expressions of the outfit’s newfound sense of optimism, something Martin revealed in a recent interview with USA Today. “That this is our job after 16 years of being together is simply a miracle, I’m so grateful for it and I don’t take it for granted,” he cheerfully explained.
At the same time, it’s optimism buttressed by a great deal of inner reflection. The soulful “Hymn for a Weekend,” featuring Beyoncé, tears a page from the disco playbook by extolling the lighthearted joys of leisure time with a yearning that borders on the spiritual. “Life is a drink, and love’s a drug,” croons Martin. “Oh now I think I must be miles up.” On “Kaleidoscope” and “Color Spectrum,” the songs’ ambient-flavored interludes spotlight samples from the moving speech and rendition of “Amazing Grace” that President Obama gave at the funeral of Congressman’s Clementa C. Pinckney after this year’s tragic mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. Here we have Coldplay tapping into classic pop utopianism, wherein personal hope and universal notions of positivity and unity are fused into a profoundly infectious pop sound. Accepting the mainstream is clearly the best move the band ever made.