By their third studio album’s release, Coldplay basically had writing ridiculously radio-friendly piano rock anthems down to a science. It would have been a breeze for Coldplay to play it safe on their fourth release, Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, but instead Chris Martin and gang decided to shake it up. They threw the formula out the window and for the first time really started to experiment.
The result of this experimentation paid off and since its release in the U.S. on June 17, 2008, Viva La Vida has become the most downloaded album of all time. A conquest that might have Martin questioning if maybe he should change the title track’s lyrics from “I used to rule the world” to “I rule the world,” but I guess that doesn’t quite have the same intensity as the original lyrics.
This album really allows each band member to shine on their respective instruments. Drummer and multi-instrumentalist Will Champion must have had a field day on providing the rhythms and instruments for all the style changes on tracks like “42,” “Cemeteries in London” and “Strawberry Swing.” “Violet Hill” features a guitar solo that allows Jonny Buckland to show off his skills. As for vocalist Martin, he daringly ventures into some lower registers on tracks like “Yes.”
Lyrically and Instrumentally, the band creates a circle of life motif, fitting for the album title. The record opens and closes with instrumental tracks (one of which is the hidden track, “The Escapist”). The big drum beat and staccato strings present on so many tracks help march the listener through the album’s adventure. Martin’s vocals add to this movement by transistioning from ethereal and heavenly vocals to more enunciated and grounded vocals.
Lyrically, Martin brilliantly ties his songs together: on “Viva La Vida” he sings, “for some reason I can’t explain, I know St. Peter won’t call my name,” which brings the listener back to “42” in which he sings, “you didn’t get to heaven, but you made it close.”
There’s no question that Coldplay can make pleasant music, but this album is far more intricate than their other efforts. Viva La Vida shows that not only can Coldplay sound good, but they have the intelligence and skills to back up that sound. I’m glad they took a risk and showed that they can produce great music even when they think outside of the box.
If you haven’t already added to the outstanding sales record of this album, do yourself a favor and go buy it.
01. Life in Technicolor
02. Cemeteries of London
05. Lovers in Japan / Reign of Love
07. Viva La Vida
08. Violet Hill
09. Strawberry Swing
10. Death and All His Friends
hidden track: The Escapist
Written by: Bethany