Viva La Vida (song)

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"Viva la Vida" (Spanish for "Long Live Life")[1] is the second single released from Coldplay's 2008 album, Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends. It was initially released along with the iTunes Store pre-order of the album on 7 May 2008, later becoming a download-only single on 25 May 2008.

The lyrics to the song contain historical and religious references, and the track is built around a repeating string section with a percussion background. The song was released on 7 May 2008 as the album's second single, debuting to critical and commercial success. Viva la Vida has reached the top spot of the UK Singles Chart and Billboard Hot 100, becoming the band's first number-one single, as well as their only Transatlantic number-one.

The song has been used in a cross-marketing campaign with the iTunes Store. A nationwide iTunes commercial was aired on May 20, 2008 in the United States during the finals performance episode of American Idol, as well as the following night on the season finale of American Idol season 7, featuring the band performing the song.

Coldplay performed the song live for the first time at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards.

Contents

Track listing

Digital download
  1. "Viva la Vida" (New edit) – 4:04
Promotional CD
  1. "Viva la Vida" (Radio edit) – 3:45
  2. "Viva la Vida" (Full album version) – 4:01
CD release
  1. "Viva la Vida" – 4:01
  2. "Death Will Never Conquer" – 1:17
Official version
  1. Album version – 4:01
  2. Radio edit – 3:45
  3. New edit – 4:04
  4. Thin White Duke mix – 7:24

Cover images

Background

During the album's production, Viva la Vida is one of the songs that had polarized each member's opinion over which version they should choose. In an interview, vocalist Chris Martin recalls, "... we did quite a few different versions and went round the houses a bit and eventually settled on those treatments for it."[2]

Vocalist Chris Martin has explained the song lyric "I know Saint Peter won't call my name" in an interview with Q magazine: "It's about... you're not on the list. I was a naughty boy. It's always fascinated me that idea of finishing your life and then being analyzed on it. And this idea runs throughout most religions. That's why people blow up buildings. Because they think they're going to get lots of virgins. I always feel like saying, just join a band (laughs). That is the most frightening thing you could possibly say to somebody. Eternal damnation. I know about this stuff because I studied it. I was into it all. I know it. It's still mildly terrifying to me. And this is serious."

When asked about the song, bass guitarist Guy Berryman said, "It’s a story about a king who’s lost his kingdom, and all the album’s artwork is based on the idea of revolutionaries and guerrillas."

Unlike the typical arrangement of Coldplay songs, in which either the piano or guitar dominates, "Viva la Vida" mostly consists of a drum string section playing the song's upbeat riff, along with a steady bass drum beat, percussion (including a timpano and a church bell), bass guitar, and Chris Martin's vocals; there is limited use of electric guitar in the song. All the strings are arranged and performed by violinist Davide Rossi, who is also one of the main collaborators of the album.

The song's Spanish title, "Viva la Vida" is taken from a painting by 20th century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It translates into English as "long live life".

Lyrical meaning

The lyrics to Viva la Vida contain historical and religious references.[3] Martin has explained the song lyric "I know Saint Peter won't call my name" in an interview with Q magazine: "It's about ... You're not on the list. I was a naughty boy. It's always fascinated me that idea of finishing your life and then being analysed on it. And this idea runs throughout most religions. That's why people blow up buildings. Because they think they're going to get lots of virgins. I always feel like saying, just join a band... That is the most frightening thing you could possibly say to somebody. Eternal damnation. I know about this stuff because I studied it. I was into it all. I know it. It's still mildly terrifying to me. And this is serious."

When asked about the song, bass guitarist Guy Berryman said: "It's a story about a king who's lost his kingdom, and all the album's artwork is based on the idea of revolutionaries and guerrillas. There's this slightly anti-authoritarian viewpoint that's crept into some of the lyrics and it's some of the pay-off between being surrounded by governments on one side, but also we're human beings with emotions and we're all going to die and the stupidity of what we have to put up with every day. Hence the album title."

Unlike the typical arrangement of Coldplay songs, in which either the piano or guitar is the prominent instrument, the track mostly consists of a string section playing the song's upbeat riff, along with a steady bass drum beat, percussion (including a timpani and a church bell), bass guitar, and Martin's vocals; there is limited use of electric guitar in the song. All the strings are arranged and performed by violinist Davide Rossi, who is also one of the main collaborators of the album. Although Coldplay are widely labeled as an "alternative rock" band, "Viva la Vida"'s classical composition and historical subject matter have led to the song being labeled as "baroque pop" and "chamber pop".

Reviews

But how does it sound? Pretty good, and it is a stronger cut than Violet Hill It opens with a triumphant string melody, and it's the violins that carry much of the song. It's a cleaner-sounding cut than the more aggressive "Violet Hill," but it still glides along with an urgency not heard often enough in Coldplay's music.

By tapping producer Brian Eno, comparisons to U2 will be inevitable, and Viva La Vida brings a bit of U2 grandeur with its epic build, but it still colors the song with enough fresh sounds to demand repeated listens. Things get rolling with a frisky violin, and Chris Martin puts it in check with a commanding vocal turn, singing "I used to roll the dice / Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes."

Moments later the song gets more interesting, with a flash of rhythm momentarily sending a more electronic-sounding beat to the background. References to Catholicism grace the song, and Martin repeatedly declares that Saint Peter will be calling his name.

But never mind the biblical nods. The song further reveals the Coldplay of "Viva La Vida" to be a hungrier, more interesting band. Indeed, as the song builds, strings disappear into a twittering of electronic atmospheres that bridge the verses. Even the addition of church bells sound off just enough to not be corny. As the song comes to a close, a jaunty piano helps carry some background "whoa-whoas," and there's not a guitar in sight. Instead, "Viva La Vida" is swift-moving minimalist orchestra.

Reception

Critical response

Critics were positive towards the song. In the Entertainment Weekly review of the album, critic Chris Willman wrote: "Take the title track ... on which [Martin] imagines himself as a paranoid monarch. 'Who would ever want to be king?' Martin asks. 'Revolutionaries wait/For my head on a silver plate!'. The confident majesty of the music, however, belies how he and his bandmates have invigorated their rock-lite reign." Josh Hathaway from The Plain Dealer noted "Viva la Vida" as the "catchiest" song in the album. Chris Jones of the BBC noted: "The string/brass mutations that bolster a track like ["]Viva La Vida["] ... conjure tunes so sweetly melancholy." In the IGN review, critic Chad Grischow wrote, "It is their one and only foray into unabashed orchestral pop, but the punchy strut of the strings and fantastic marching vocals make it far too charming and lively to dislike, and even harder not to love." Viva la Vida has been nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or a Group at the 2009 Grammy Awards. Viva la Vida won the Grammy for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals and the whole album won Best Rock Album. This song was number 9 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Songs of 2008.

Chart performance

Viva la Vida has become Coldplay's highest-charting single. Fueled by high digital sales, the song peaked at the top spot of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, becoming the band's first number-one single and their second top ten on the Hot 100. It is the first song by a British group to reach number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 since "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls in 1997, and it is the first song by a British rock band to top the chart since UB40's 1993 song "Can't Help Falling in Love". Although the song was initially successful in digital sales, after being released, it went on to become the band's highest-charting single in American radio, becoming their first top ten hit on the Hot 100 Airplay where it peaked at number eight.[29] It had also become the band's first number-one single on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. Viva la Vida also became the first song to top both the Hot 100 and Modern Rock chart since Nickelback's "How You Remind Me" in 2001 and 2002. On the Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks, the song has become the band's first number one, as well as the first single on the Capitol Records label to ever top the chart.

The single was also successful in the United Kingdom. Although the song had been disqualified from the UK charts due to initially being available only by pre-ordering the album on iTunes, it became eligible to chart after the album was released. "Viva la Vida" hit number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Coldplay's first chart-topping single in the UK.

In Canada the single made a "Hot Shot Debut" at number four on the Canadian Hot 100 on the issue of 24 May making it Coldplay's highest debut there.

Release and promotion

"Viva la Vida" was initially released only with iTunes Store pre-orders of Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends on 7 May 2008 (as the "New Edit" version of the song), which led to the song's temporary exclusion from the UK Singles Chart. It was released as a download-only single on 25 May 2008, and a physical CD single in Europe on 29 July 2008, to coincide with the release of the single's music videos.

The song was used as part of Apple Inc.'s iPod + iTunes advertisement campaign, while Coldplay performed the song live for the first time at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards. It has since gone on to make many media appearances, featuring in the episode "We're Not in Kansas Anymore" of the new teen drama 90210 as a song played on the radio, appearing on the international soundtrack to the Brazilian soap opera A Favorita and played during the final week of games at Yankee Stadium.

Music video

The official music video for Viva la Vida was directed by Hype Williams and premiered at Coldplay's official website on 1 August. The video features the band performing in multi-colour backgrounds, including the album's artwork (used for the majority of the video) and speeding clouds (used in between verses and in parts of the final chorus). The video ends with every band member crumbling to rose petals that fly into the air.

A second, alternate video was shot in the Hague, the Netherlands, directed by Anton Corbijn and released alongside the first. This second version is a tribute to Corbijn's video for Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" and portrays Chris Martin as the king from whose perspective the song is sung. During the video, he carries a larger framed version of the cover art for the album. At the end, we see him hang the picture up in a white stall on top of a hill. As he sings the last chorus, his band mates surface heading his way, tying in loose ends from the Violet Hill video.

A parody of this music video (Viva la Cheata) was done on the FOX sketch show MADtv. It starred Jerry O'Connell as John Edwards who sings about how his affair and possible love child has ruined his political career, but is confident that he'll rebound since political sex scandals have been around for a long time.

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Chart performance

"Viva la Vida" has become the band's most successful song, becoming their first number one in both the U.S. and the UK. Fueled by high digital sales, the song debuted at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100, and later became the band's first #1 single and their second top ten on the Hot 100. It is the first song by a British group to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 since "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls in 1997, and it is the first song by a British rock band to top the chart since UB40's 1993 song "Can't Help Falling in Love". Although at first the song was primarily successful in digital sales in the U.S., after being released it went on to become the band's biggest radio hit in the U.S., becoming their first top twenty hit on the Hot 100 Airplay, where it peaked at #11. It was also successful on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart reaching number one, their first number one on the chart, beating out previous songs "Talk" and "Speed of Sound" which peaked at #5 on the same chart. On the Adult Top 40, the song has become the band's first number one, as well as the first single on the Capitol Records label to ever top the chart.[8]

Although the song had been disqualified from the UK charts due to initially being available only by pre-ordering the album on iTunes, it became eligible to chart after the album was released and hit #1, becoming Coldplay's first chart-topping single in the UK. After descending to number 2 just a week and number 7 the following week, the single dropped out of the top 10, but over a month later on 17 August 2008, it re-entered the top 10 at number 10, probably due to the release of the Viva La Vida music video on UK music channels.

Coldplay have reached a record-equalling 30 weeks in the dutch Top 40 single charts which they've accomplished with their single Viva La Vida. Coldplay are currently tied with (I can't get no) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones, and Only A fool by Mighty Sparrow. Should Coldplay stay in the charts for another week, Viva La Vida will be officially recorded as one of the top 10 longest charted singles of all time in the Netherlands. Viva La Vida held the no.1 position in Netherlands for three weeks.

The song reached the top ten in Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, Ireland and Australia, becoming Coldplay's highest charting single in most of those countries.

Chart (2008) Peak
position
Australian ARIA Singles Chart 6
Canadian Hot 100 4
Europe Hot 100 58
Norwegian Singles Chart 5
Swedish Singles Chart 9
Irish Singles Chart 3
Italian Singles Chart 2
Japan Hot 100 12
RIANZ Singles Chart 25
UK Singles Chart 1
United World Chart 9
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks 15
U.S. Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Pop 100 7

Plagiarism allegation

Coldplay were briefly accused of copying portions of "The Songs I Didn't Write" by American alternative band Creaky Boards, for the melody of "Viva la Vida". Creaky Boards' band member Andrew Hoepfner claimed that Chris Martin had heard the track at one of their shows. Coldplay denied the claims; band spokesman Murray Chambers said "Chris was working in AIR Studios in London" at that time.

Creaky Boards later retracted the accusations and now speculate that both songs may have been inspired by the video game The Legend of Zelda.

In December 2008, American guitarist Joe Satriani filed a copyright infringement suit against Coldplay at the Los Angeles federal court. The suit claims that "Viva la Vida" incorporates "substantial original portions" of his instrumental track "If I Could Fly" from his 2004 album Is There Love in Space?. Coldplay has denied the allegation, saying the similarities were "entirely coincidental". Answering Satriani’s claim that parts of their No 1 hit Viva La Vida were copied, the band wrote:

With the greatest possible respect to Joe Satriani, we have now unfortunately found it necessary to respond publicly to his allegations. If there are any similarities between our two pieces of music, they are entirely coincidental, and just as surprising to us as to him. Joe Satriani is a great musician, but he did not write or have any influence on the song Viva La Vida. We respectfully ask him to accept our assurances of this and wish him well with all future endeavours.

The Oracle on Viva La Vida

January 31, 2013 - submitted by Rick W, United States of America
Q. In the alternate video for Viva La Vida made by Anton Corbijn, it looks like the beach Chris walks onto around 2:36 is the same one he walked on in the music video for Yellow. Is this really the case?
The Oracle replies:
Nope, there was only ever the one video visit to Dorset's Studland Bay.

November 28, 2012 - submitted by Valentina, Colombia
Q. Why Viva La Vida? Why in Spanish? I know that it can be called Death and All his friends too, but why the alternative name?
The Oracle replies:
Viva la Vida's title was inspired by Frida Kahlo's painting of the same name hence it being in Spanish. There is no alternative title; Death & All Of His Friends is a separate song that is tagged on to VLV.

April 21, 2011 - submitted by Lucas, France
Q. Hi Oracle, hope you're fine.
Are the very last notes of Viva la Vida -after the last chorus- played by an accordion?
The Oracle replies:
No, it's keys - electric piano in fact. You know how Chris gets the organ sound on Fix You? Well, same thing here but I guess it does sound like an accordion.

May 5, 2010 - submitted by Tanya, Italy
Q. Dear Oracle...
Just wanted to ask you if you or Coldplay ever heard about the Viva La Vida version Lady Gaga did a couple of weeks ago on Radio 1 live lounge? If yes, did you like it? I thought it was pretty cool and a nice tribute to Coldplay (even though she forgot or changed the words sometimes!)
Bye!!!
The Oracle replies:
Eh Tanya? That was over a year ago?? I remember hearing it at the time and never telling Chris that I didn't like it. The he asked me last December what I thought about her; he's a big fan of her work.

April 15, 2010 - submitted by Luke, Canada
Q. Would the band mind if I used the title "Viva la Vida" for the title of a book I am writing, since its inspired by the song?
The Oracle replies:
It wouldn't be up to the band as to whether you could have the same title because Viva la Vida is a commonly used phrase; as you may know the band took the name for their 4th album from a Frida Kahlo painting. I'm confident you could use it as you can't exactly copyright a phrase.

July 2, 2009 - submitted by Natale, Australia
Q. Hi Oracle
I was wondering apparently there are two videos for Violet Hill and Viva la Vida
Which are the official videos?
Also the other ones were they just jokes or just a tried ideas?
Hope you answer.
The Oracle replies:
There are indeed two videos for both of those tracks and both are official. They were far from jokes, they were just alternative videos. Trouble had two videos for different reasons. To find out why, click Trouble in the tag cloud.

October 21, 2008 - submitted by Cindy, Netherlands
Q. Dear Oracle, can you tell me when and where the video for Viva La Vida 2 was filmed? It looks like Holland, and seeing Anton Corbijn filmed it, it probably is Holland. If so, too bad I missed them.
The Oracle replies:
It was shot in the Netherlands by, as you say, Anton Corbijn which is also why is bears more than a passing resemblance to another of his previous videos for Depeche Mode; Enjoy The Silence.

October 15, 2008 - submitted by Abi, United States of America
Q. How did u come up with the name 4 Viva la Vida? I mean the song doesn't even say Viva la Vida once.
The Oracle replies:
There's no rule to say that the title has to be included in a song's lyrics, many Coldplay songs don't (Amsterdam anyone?) Viva la Vida took its name from a Frida Kahlo painting of the same name.
In fact there are thousands of famous songs that don't, for example Bohemian Rhapsody, Smells Like Teen Spirit, The Unforgettable Fire and Peace Frog (Any excuse to be able to listen to this!) to name but a few.

August 18, 2008 - submitted by Jonas, Spain
Q. Dear Oracle, Are Coldplay really fans of Depeche Mode or the optional video of Viva la Vida is just a parody of Enjoy the Silence?
The Oracle replies:
The band are indeed fans of Depeche Mode. It's not a parody though, more of an homage. The videos were both directed by Anton Corbijn. FYI: Coldplay's Tour manager Franksy, used to be TM to Depeche Mode.

August 5, 2008 - submitted by Yoanna, Hong Kong
Q. When will Coldplay release their "Viva La Vida" music video? I'm still looking forward to watch this. A lot of boring people made fake music video on YouTube...And is it true that the iTunes ad is a little part of the real "Viva La Vida" music video? *Thanks Oracle sir!"
The Oracle replies:
There are 2 Viva la Vida videos on the website now.

July 31, 2008 - submitted by Justin, United Kingdom
Q. What does Viva La Vida mean?
Where did Viva la Vida come from?
The Oracle replies:
Literally translated from Spanish, Viva la Vida means Live the Life. The name is taken from Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s 1954 painting of the same name. FYI this year’s Edinburgh Festival showcases the play Frida Kahlo: Viva La Vida.

July 29, 2008 - submitted by Zaituni, Tanzania
Q. What is the name of the song that goes "for some reasons I can't explain..."
The Oracle replies:
Viva la Vida.

Lyrics

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listened as the crowd would sing
"Now the old king is dead, long live the king"
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
Missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
Once you'd gone there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

It was a wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn’t believe what I’d become
Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

Hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can’t explain
I know St Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

External links

Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
Violet Hill | Viva La Vida | Lost! | Lovers In Japan | Life In Technicolor ii | Strawberry Swing
Life In Technicolor | Cemeteries Of London | 42 | Reign Of Love | Yes | Chinese Sleep Chant | Death And All His Friends | The Escapist
Prospekt's March EP
Postcards From Far Away | Glass Of Water | Rainy Day | Prospekt's March/Poppyfields | Now My Feet Won't Touch The Ground
B-Sides/Other Releases
A Spell A Rebel Yell | Death Will Never Conquer | The Goldrush | Lhuna (ft. Kylie Minogue)
Unreleased Songs
LeftRightLeftRightLeft | Famous Old Painters | Lukas | School | The Dubliners
Chris Martin | Guy Berryman | Jonny Buckland | Will Champion
Phil Harvey | Brian Eno | Ken Nelson
Discography
EPs: Safety EP | The Blue Room EP | Norwegian Live EP | Prospekt's March EP | Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall
Albums: Parachutes | A Rush of Blood to the Head | X&Y | Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends | Mylo Xyloto
Live albums: Live 2003 | LeftRightLeftRightLeft | Live 2012
Compilations: The Singles 1999-2006
Miscellaneous: Ode to Deodorant | Mince Spies | Christmas Lights
Unofficial collections: A Rush Of B-Sides To Your Head | Castles | After After Before
Singles: Brothers & Sisters | Shiver | Yellow | Trouble | Don't Panic | In My Place | The Scientist | Clocks | God Put A Smile Upon Your Face | Speed of Sound | Fix You | Talk | The Hardest Part | What If | Violet Hill | Viva la Vida | Lost! | Lovers In Japan | Life In Technicolor ii | Strawberry Swing | Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall | Paradise | Charlie Brown | Princess Of China | Hurts Like Heaven
Tours: A Rush of Blood to the Head Tour | Twisted Logic Tour | Latin America Tour 2007 | Viva La Vida Tour | Mylo Xyloto Tour
Other Stuff
Songs | Videography | Concert Reviews | Coldplay Chronology | Collaborations
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