I just finished watching and reliving the 20 years of the famous modern era arena pop-alternative-rock British band Coldplay in the documentary, Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams. You can catch it on Amazon Prime Video now. I first heard of this movie releasing from their YouTube channel that featured a trailer in October 2018. Sitting in my lonely desk chair gradually falling to pieces, glued to my 29 inch flat screen, I was mesmerized by the life behind the stage and behind the deep gallery of listed songs that profile a plentiful career. Apparently, the director Matt Whitecross had been following around Coldplay since the beginning of their formation, when the fab four were just kids still in college during the 90s. Originally calling themselves, Star Fish, the name, “Coldplay” was stolen after a garage band they were friends with changed their name because they felt it was lame. If Chris ever read this, he’d probably kill me for not mentioning the most important member of the band, Phil Harvey, Coldplay’s manager pulling all of the strings and keeping the boys one tight knit happy family.
Coldplay was formed in 1998 when Jonny Buckland (Guitar), Guy Berryman (Bass), Will Champion (Drums), and Chris Martin (Vocals) performed at a small music venue in which the sweaty filled room was crowded by all college students. However, the four friends met each other two years prior. Chris Martin, the heart of the band began the creative efforts when he felt a musical chemistry in the guitar riffs of Jonny Buckland and then matched the right bassist in Guy Berryman, the handsome one of Coldplay. Finding the drummer took a few extra steps, Chris always knew Will was a phenomenal guitarist, but never considered him as a drummer until Will’s roommate who was supposed to drum for them bailed. Will decided to give it a try and from that day forward remained the drummer. Coldplay signed with Parlophone records who were responsible for The Beatles, Radiohead, and Duran Duran and been with them ever since.
The film has an eye for impressive editing, as the documentary consistently goes from the band’s explosive sold out concerts to their private lives in the band, as if a fly on the wall was filming. The film covers Chris, Jonny, Guy, and Will’s witty dynamic banter; times when they united and times when they disagreed. There was a time when Will quit the band due to feeling inadequate because trying to match creative efforts that demanded perfection was burning him out. During these life challenges, Coldplay stuck together because they sought these moments as top priorities and resolved them. Chris felt awful auditioning for a new drummer and so Will was shortly asked to return back to the band. My favorite part of the film was the complicated lives under the veil, Coldplay’s brother-ship and the challenges they had to face as they got closer to reaching the sun. Chris described him and Jonny as the optimists while Guy and Will had a more nihilistic view to their song choices and creative efforts. Having two opposing opinions seemed to help them settle on final decisions as Phil played the role of swing voter. During the recording sessions, Chris would magically come up with a sound and lyrics, Chris would then share with Jonny, for then Guy heard the sound, until Will was given the last exposure. Will would be the one to either say it was good or shit. Chris and Jonny are dreamers while Guy and Will are realists.
The rest of the film explores where the life of the band was at during each era when they recorded studio albums. In the late 90’s, during the recording of ‘Parachutes’, Coldplay was so nervous, they felt they were either going to fail or flourish and luckily for them, they more than flourished. ‘Parachutes’ was dedicated to Will’s mum who had died in the same year of its release back in 2000. With hard work and persistence from their first album, the band worked even harder to create something that would top ‘Parachutes’. After losing a ton of sleep, they finished ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’. Their sophomore album was commercially more successful even at the cost of losing their manager Phil. It’s interesting to know that Phil was on hiatus during Coldplay’s recording of ‘X&Y’ as they’ve individually expressed several times that they were not in a good place. That changed though, when Phil returned from visiting South America for the recording of ‘Viva La Vida or Death And All of His Friends’. The Viva La Vida era was when Coldplay felt at their strongest. They brought on British composer Brian Eno who to Coldplay’s eyes was a musical Merlin or a majestic Dumbledore working creative muscles that the British band never experienced before. Certain sounds were played backwards, noises had to be bombastic enough to push a pile of paperclips out of a speaker, and Chris even played on a drum that was covering Jonny’s head. They then harmonized inside a cathedral in Barcelona. The success of Viva La Vida brought them to new heights like ‘Mylo Xyloto’ where during that time, as amazing and incredible their performances were, away from the glamour, Chris was losing his marriage to Gwyenth Paltrow. One thing Coldplay agreed upon was that front-man Chris Martin would take in the media spotlight in order to leave Will, Jonny, and Guy to a normal life outside their massive colorful and artistic world. Will recalls feeling envious of not getting the fame in the past, but then realized the horrible effect of intrusiveness it must have had on his friend Chris. This led Chris down a depressive spiral where the other band mates including Phil felt that Chris’ way out of that mess in dealing with the fallout of his divorce was by recording a new studio album. Chris never felt how cathartic and therapeutic it was to see himself smiling again. It was during this time they recorded their slower and more acoustic album, ‘Ghost Stories’. Their most recent album and in a lot of ways Chris’ quoted “last album”, feels like an ending to an era. Coldplay felt that they were always building up to ‘A Head Full of Dreams’. The movie then shows a montage of their last 115 shows on the A Head Full of Dreams – Tour throughout the globe. On this album, Coldplay managed to get contributions from all walks of life: Chris’ ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow, Noel Gallagher of Oasis to perform a guitar riff on the song ‘Up&Up’, former President Barrack Obama, a motivational speech by Charlie Chaplin from the 1940 film The Great Dictator, Beyonce in the single ‘Hymn For The Weekend’, and several children along with Chris Martin’s children to sing backup. In recent news, Coldplay announced that they’re currently working on a new studio album pegged to be released sometime next year.
From ‘Parachutes’ to ‘A Head Full of Dreams’, the film takes us on a journey of how a band survived through hardship, addiction, and loss while showing how it overcame obstacles through evolution, evident in each album. Coldplay’s seven studio album discography could be viewed from the entire life of a person, how we start open to the world’s many wonders to then reaching our final goals in which our discoveries are then shared with ourselves, our friends, our family, our community, and the larger world in order to bring peace, motivate inspiration, and believe in love.
Hands down I give this documentary five out of five pianos. Coldplay fan or not, music fan or not, so long as you’re a human being with feelings, you’ll grow to love this beautiful journey that is masterfully presented. I suggest this colorful movie to everyone, it just shows what it means to follow your dreams no matter the odds and the notion that we as mankind are together in this thing called life.