This uplifting power ballad serves as the finale of the A Head Full of Dreams album. It was debuted by Coldplay during a November 21, 2015 concert in Los Angeles live streamed through the Tidal service. Frontman Chris Martin introduced the song as one the band had "been waiting 15 years to write."
Beyoncé sings on two A Head Full Of Dreams tracks: "Hymn For The Weekend" and this song. Singer Chris Martin told London's Magic Radio's Jo Parkerson about the collaboration. "She is just wonderful, as you know, and she was so sweet, and I said, 'Is there any chance you would come and help us do some, you know, backing vocals?' That's how it started, 'cause we were trying to keep it a secret, but she just sounds so great that I think we faded it up in the mix a bit."
The song also features former Oasis songwriter and axeman Noel Gallagher on guitar. Guitarist Jonny Buckland said during a live Q&A session with Radio 1 presenter Greg James of the collaboration: "I was pretty excited when Noel turned up [in the studio]. I thought I've got to make my guitars sound good."
Chris Martin added: "It was really great that day when Noel and Jonny were duelling. They both were there showing each other licks and Noel was like [adopts a Manchester accent] 'Yeah that's alright what about this?' And it came together over a few hours. It was lovely."
Another voice that can be heard on the track is that of gospel singer Merry Clayton, who provided the iconic backing vocal for The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter." "It had been a dream to work with her so we just called her up," Chris Martin told The Sun.
Clayton had just had both legs amputated at the knee following a serious car accident. "She came in a wheelchair and did her thing and then said, 'I just lost my legs'," Martin recalled. "We didn't know. She'd just come out of hospital the week before but was so full of joy, gratitude, love and life."
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Chris Martin described A Head Full Of Dreams as an attempt "to link the personal with the universal." He added that this inspirational song about changing things in life that are not working for you, "just grew and grew and now it sounds like this big world peace anthem. But it came from a very personal place."
Noel Gallagher explained the collaboration to Q magazine: "I just happened to be in Los Angeles and matey boy called us up and said, 'What are you doing tonight?' They only looped this 12–bar bit, that's the only thing they would play me."
Coldplay closed their performance at the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show with this song. They were joined on stage at this point by Beyoncé, Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson.
The music video was shot by Israeli artist and director Vania Heymann with Gal Muggia. The clip has the giant-like band towering hundreds of feet in the air as they play the song in various landscapes and locations. The visual also stitches together surrealistic footage of unrelated whimsical images, including a popcorn volcano, turtles swimming through subway stations and a football match on a kitchen sink sponge.
The video won for Best Visual Effects at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards.
The chorus choir features many musical guests featured throughout the album, including Beyoncé, Brian Eno, and Noel Gallagher, as well as Chris Martin's children and Beyonce's daughter, Blue Ivy.