Only six months after the release of Ghost Stories, Chris Martin announced that the band were working on a seventh record and revealed the album’s name and titular track, A Head Full Of Dreams. Chris was inspired by and borrowed the “conference of birds” lyric from the title of a twelfth-century poem by Attar of Nishapur.
Davide Rossi, who wrote and arranged string parts for Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends and Mylo Xyloto, reunited with the band to add strings to Birds. Chris Martin noodled around on an acoustic guitar (badly and mistake riddled, according to the frontman) and you can hear that improvised strumming in the final track.
Hymn For The Weekend was written early in the recording sessions. Chris Martin — inspired by the idea of writing a late-night club song — came up with the lyric “drinks on me, drinks on me” and the melody evolved from there. The rest of the band decided that lyric wasn’t appropriate and it became “drink from me”. The beginning of the song was a happy accident: Beyoncé’s vocal takes (recorded at Chris’ house in The Hamptons) were layered together to create the opening collage of sound.
Gwyneth Paltrow came up with the lyric “how come things move on/how come cars don’t slow”, and Chris Martin invited her to sing that line as a backing vocalist on Everglow. After a piano issue at Glastonbury in 2016 forced Chris to perform the song acoustically, the band rerecorded Everglow and released the largely acoustic version as a single. It also became the version performed at future gigs.
Adventure Of A Lifetime evolved from another song called Legends. The band decided that Jonny Buckland’s guitar riff was the best part of Legends, so they wrote a new song around a sped up version of the riff. The vocal effect at the start of the song is also a vocal sample from Legends, Chris Martin is singing — among other lyrics — “legends all the way”.
Swedish singer Tove Lo was invited by the band to perform on Fun. Coldplay sent her the track while she was in Rio, and Tove recorded her vocals a month later in Los Angeles. Tove Lo has since supported the band on the A Head Full Of Dreams tour in both Europe and North America, but the band has never performed the track live.
An interlude track, Kaleidoscope features a reading of Rumi’s poem, The Guesthouse, by American poet Coleman Barks. Former president Barack Obama also sings Amazing Grace, the sample taken from Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney’s funeral in 2015 at which Obama sung the hymn. Pianist Khatia Buniatishvili contributes a piano melody to the track. An EP of additional material called Kaleidoscope was released in 2017.
Stargate’s favourite mixer, Phil Tan, mixed both Army Of One and Adventure Of A Lifetime. The band have only performed Army Of One live acoustically, but with an extended intro. A hidden track called X Marks The Spot closes the track. The band’s longtime audio engineer Dan Green has a composition and production credit on X Marks The Spot.
Davide Rossi, who wrote and arranged string parts for Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends and Mylo Xyloto, reunited with the band to add strings to Amazing Day. The track was the first song debuted from the album, making a live appearance at the Global Citizen Festival in New York in 2015.
Another instrumental interlude, Colour Spectrum includes a sample of poet Coleman Barks reading Rumi’s The Guesthouse. Dan Green, the band’s longtime audio engineer produced the track, which was used as an opening instrumental during the band’s A Head Full Of Dreams world tour.
Chris Martin called Up&Up the closing track the band had always wanted to write. Oasis’ Noel Gallagher wrote and performed the track’s second guitar solo (both are performed by Jonny Buckland when played live). Up&Up features a choir of guests singing backing vocals including Beyoncé, Merry Clayton, Annabelle Wallis and Brian Eno, as well as the families of the band, and their production staff.
Coldplay entered the studio immediately after a short Ghost Stories tour in 2014, wanting to close another sonic chapter with a colorful counter album celebrating life and togetherness. Recorded in 2014 and 2015 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, Malibu and London, and under the tutelage of Norwegian duo Stargate and regular producer Rik Simpson, the multilayered album features contributions from Beyoncé, Tove Lo, Noel Gallagher and, among others, Barack Obama.