A Head Full of Dreams is the seventh studio album by British rock band Coldplay. It was released on 4 December 2015 by Parlophone and Atlantic, with a 5.1 Surround Blu-ray Audio version being released via the band's website on 23 September 2016.
Coldplay recorded the album from late 2014 to mid-2015, right after the completion of Ghost Stories, with a markedly different style and sound from its predecessors. For various songs, Coldplay collaborated with Beyoncé, Noel Gallagher, Tove Lo, Khatia Buniatishvili and Merry Clayton. The album was produced by Rik Simpson and Stargate. The album also features a sample of President Barack Obama singing "Amazing Grace" at Clementa C. Pinckney's funeral on "Kaleidoscope".
The album received mixed reviews from critics. Commercially, it topped the UK Albums Chart, and was the runner-up in the United States, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Italy where it was held off the top spot by Adele's 25. At the 2016 Brit Awards the album was nominated for British Album of the Year. It was the eighth best-selling album of 2015 with 1.9 million copies sold worldwide, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
Coldplay began working on A Head Full of Dreams in the summer of 2014 while they were promoting their sixth album Ghost Stories. The album has a markedly different style and sound from its predecessors. In an interview with Radio 2 DJ Jo Whiley in December 2014, bassist Guy Berryman and guitarist Jonny Buckland gave a hint as to the difference between A Head Full of Dreams and its predecessor – Buckland called it the "night to the day", comparing the style of Ghost Stories to the expected uplifting theme of A Head Full of Dreams. Frontman Chris Martin hinted at the style of the album by saying that the band was trying to make something colourful and uplifting. He also stated that it would be something to "shuffle your feet" to.
On 26 September 2015, the band performed at the Global Citizen Festival 2015 in New York City, playing a six-song set, including a new song called "Amazing Day". The band's producer Rik Simpson confirmed that the song would be on the new album. On 21 November 2016 frontman Chris Martin announced new material to be released for 2017 via Twitter, it would be named 'Kaleidoscope EP'.
The album was produced by Rik Simpson (the band's longterm collaborator) and Norwegian duo Stargate (Tor Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen). Mixing duties were carried out predominately by Rik Simpson. Stargate executive produced the album.
Compared to the sparse tour dates of the Ghost Stories era, Coldplay announced a larger global tour soon after the album release, which will be more reminiscent of the Mylo Xyloto Tour than the Ghost Stories Tour, to promote both A Head Full of Dreams and Ghost Stories. It was confirmed that the band will perform in locations such as India and South America – more specifically Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico in the first half of 2016. They have since confirmed that pre-production on the tour has started and that the official tour is planned to start next year. On 20 November 2015, they announced the A Head Full of Dreams Tour, with shows in South America starting at 31 March 2016, Buenos Aires and a European leg is also announced for summer 2016, including four sold-out nights at Wembley Stadium in June. In February, the band featured a picture on various social media sites of a hot air balloon (a symbol used to promote the tour) by Glastonbury farms' main pyramid stage field, along with the date Sunday 26 June. Glastonbury organisers have since confirmed a record-breaking fourth headline appearance, having previously performed on the stage in 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2011. The band's appearance was then confirmed to be Coldplay's festival show of this year's tour. On 30 September 2016, after the huge success of 2016’s A Head Full of Dreams Tour, Coldplay announced a new leg of the tour with dates in Germany, France, Austria, Poland, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Ireland and Wales. On 7 October 2016, the band announced eighteen more shows in North America beginning in Aug 2017 and finishing in October. On 15 November 2016, they announced shows in Asia for April 2017, visiting Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan.
Around 30 October 2015 anonymous posters were pinned up on the London Underground showing a geometric pattern, known as the Flower of Life, along with a note "December 4". Coldplay fans claimed that the symbol resembled the design on a T-shirt worn by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin at the Global Citizen Festival in New York. On 2 November, Coldplay posted the same piece of artwork as an animated GIF on their Twitter account, seemingly confirming that it would be the album cover and 4 December was the album's release date. One day later, they published another animated image of which the former was a detailed view. The artwork was created by Argentine artist Pilar Zeta in collaboration with the band. Oli Sykes, lead singer of British post-hardcore band Bring Me the Horizon, suggested that the flower of life symbol Coldplay used was similar to that of the design of Bring Me the Horizon's 2013 album Sempiternal. Sykes took to Twitter accusing Coldplay of "jackin our steez". He did however clarify in a NME interview that the "flower of life" is a universal symbol and has meanings across the world, none of which he owns the rights to. He also specifies that it had meaning to him and that he is simply acknowledging the symbol being spread and is happy for its doing so.
At the Global Citizen Festival in New York Coldplay performed six songs, ending with the live debut of a new song, Amazing Day. They also played Amazing Day at TFI Friday, where they played four songs including the live debut of "Adventure of a Lifetime". During their concert at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles they performed four songs from the new album, including the live debut of the songs A Head Full of Dreams and Up & Up. On 24 November Coldplay started releasing 10-15 second snippets of each song from the new album via Instagram at hourly intervals.
The first single to promote the album, "Adventure of a Lifetime", was released on 6 November 2015. The music video for the latter came out 29 November 2015. "Hymn for the Weekend" was released as the second single for the album on 25 January 2016. The band was criticised by a section of the social media for the stereotypical portrayal of Indian society in its single. The third official single "Up & Up", was released on 22 April 2016. The fourth official single, "A Head Full of Dreams", was released on 19 August 2016, with an accompanying music video. A newly-recorded, stripped-down version of "Everglow" – inspired by Martin's unrehearsed solo performance of the song due to a technical mishap at Glastonbury Festival – was released on digital outlets as the fifth single on 11 November 2016.
"Everglow" was released as a promotional single four days before, with a music video released on 2 December 2015. "Birds" was released as a promotional single on 3 January 2016; the music video also came out on the same day.
A Head Full of Dreams received mixed reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating from mainstream critics' reviews, the album had a score of 60, based on 27 reviews. Jon Dolan of Rolling Stone wrote that A Head Full of Dreams "might be Coldplay's brightest album ever" and concluded: "He's [Chris Martin] hinted that this could be Coldplay's last album; if so, they're going out on a sustained note of grace." Barry Nicolson of NME called it "the most satisfying collection of songs they’ve written in years".
Alexis Petridis of The Guardian felt that A Head Full of Dreams "is frustratingly blighted by the sense that Coldplay haven't fully committed to the album's big idea" and remarked: "It's a moot point whether that's a sign of innate conservatism or of a band that know exactly what they are doing, who understand that you won't keep packing out those Midwestern sports stadiums if you frighten the horses." Citing the band's unwillingness to stray from their tried and true formula, Ian Gormely of Exclaim! wrote that "A Head Full of Dreams might have been a poptimist masterpiece. Instead, it's just another Coldplay album, with all the baggage — both positive and negative — that entails."
In a 1/5 star review in Truck & Driver's regular music reviews Shaun Connors queried "why such boring wishy-washy material has been successful," commenting the reasoning for this defeats all rational explanation. He continued: "With this latest collection of tedium there are contributions from Beyoncé (a so-so vocalist) and Noel Gallagher (a not even so-so guitarist)," to conclude with: "On the basis of this album, they've either run out of ideas or bored themselves senseless (or both)..."
NME ranked it the 35th-best album of 2015.
A Head Full of Dreams debuted at number three on the Irish Albums Chart on 11 December 2015, the band's lowest charting album in Ireland and their first to miss the top spot since Parachutes in 2000. The same day, the album debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart on sales of 235,975, behind Adele's 25, which denied Coldplay a seventh consecutive number-one album. It was, however, their highest first-week album sales since 2008's Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, which sold 302,074 copies in its first week. Had A Head Full of Dreams debuted atop the UK Albums Chart, it would have made Coldplay only the second band in UK chart history (after Oasis) to do so with their first seven albums. The album did, however, manage to top both the UK Album Downloads Chart and the Official Vinyl Albums Chart.
The album also reached number two in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Italy, held off number one by Adele's 25 in all territories. In the Netherlands, however, the album eventually managed to reach the number one position in its 30th week on the charts, the week following Coldplay's two concerts in Amsterdam.
In the United States, A Head Full of Dreams debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, with 210,000 equivalent album units, behind Adele's 25. It was the second best selling album of the week, selling 195,000 copies in its first week, which is a drop from the 383,000 copies sold in the first week by Ghost Stories. In its second week, the album fell to number seven on the Billboard 200, selling 61,000 copies. On the chart dated 27 February 2016, the album returned to the top ten of the US Billboard 200, peaking at number four selling 90,000 units (71,000 in pure album sales). On 4 March 2016, the album was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for combined album sales, streaming-equivalent and track-equivalent of half-million units. Later, it has been certified Platinum by the RIAA as Ghost Stories was, despite its low first week sales. The only country where A Head Full of Dreams managed to debut at number one was Norway, replacing 25. This enabled Coldplay to achieve there what Adele prevented them from doing in other territories; all of their studio albums reaching the top spot.
On 12 February 2016, following positive reception and exposure from Coldplay's headlining set at the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, the album rose to number one in the UK after selling 30,146 copies that week. This secured them a seventh number one album in the UK, thus putting them second in the list of acts with the most UK number one albums in the 21st century; only Robbie Williams has more, with ten.
This is Coldplay's most successful album in term of single's chart performance, with "Adventure of a Lifetime" and "Hymn for the Weekend" charting respectively at No. 95 and No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End chart for 2016, making "A Head Full of Dreams" their first album to have more than one single charting on a Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart.
All tracks written by Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman, and Will Champion. All songs arranged by Coldplay and Stargate.
Notes^[a] signifies an additional producer.
"Kaleidoscope" and "Colour Spectrum" contain elements of the poem "The Guesthouse" written by Jellaludin "Mawlana" Rumi and read by Coleman Barks. "Kaleidoscope" also contains elements of "Amazing Grace" (written by John Newton and performed by Barack Obama).
Credits are adapted from A Head Full of Dreams liner notes.
ColdplayChris Martin – lead vocals, piano, acoustic guitar
Jonny Buckland – electric guitar
Guy Berryman – bass guitar
Will Champion – drums, drum pad, percussion, backing vocals
Design and managerial