Music Review: Coldplay Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

Coldplay’s newest album, “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends,” succeeds at conjuring up the band’s distinctive melancholy pop-rock vibe, with a new twist. Since its formation in the late ’90s in London, Coldplay has evolved into one of the most popular music groups to date. Released in mid-June of this year, Coldplay’s fourth album became the most legally downloaded album of all time. “Violet Hill” and “Viva la Vida,” two of the album’s most popular songs, were pre-released as EPs. As expected, both of them reached number one status on both the U.S. and the U.K. charts, selling over 450,000 albums on the release date. “Viva la Vida” is an album about love, war and simply living life. Lead singer and guitarist Chris Martin promised a fresh new style for his latest album. Heading away from their trilogy of most recent albums, “Parachutes,” “A Rush of Blood to the Head” and “X&Y,” “Viva la Vida” was a clear step in a new direction. To execute this change, a new producer, U2’s Brian Eno, was added to the album. Eno incorporates hints of U2’s style, refining and refreshing Coldplay’s music. Also, while touring around Latin America and Spain throughout early 2007, Coldplay gathered Hispanic influence, adding to their wide array of culture. “Viva la Vida” has also been called a political record because of references to war and religion throughout their eclectic album. I came across a variety of responses when interviewing others about their take on “Viva la Vida.” “It’s less mainstream then their previous albums,” said Michelle Ma ’11, a Coldplay addict. “I’d have to say “Lovers in Japan” is my favorite song, although it’s quite hard to choose. I can’t say I dislike a single track.” Calista Small ’10, a general fan of livelier pop music said, “I like their songs, but they kind of send out sad vibes.” The upbeat aura of titular “Viva la Vida’s,” something unusual for Coldplay, has the ability to captivate a wide array of audiences. Beginning with the instrumental “Life in Technicolor,” the album sets up the dream-like state that carries on throughout. It’s a soothing, uplifting song that builds into a crescendo ending with a cheery repeating guitar riff. “Violet Hill,” pre-released in the spring of 2008, set the scene for “Viva la Vida.” Martin describes it as a “chalky, pastel feeling” reminiscent of his childhood. Although slightly over-played on the radio, “Violet Hill” is undeniably one of my favorite Coldplay songs. Starting with an eerie foghorn-like buildup, it transforms into a rhythmic, gloomy and at the same time catchy ethereal song. When Martin sings the lyrics, the “carnival of idiots on show” and “the fox became God,” he is referring to the mighty powers of the media, especially Fox News’ influence on the world. The “long and dark December” symbolizes winter’s freezing darkness that seems to go on and on, representing the crisis our world is in today in regards to war, the economy and the environment. Religion is abandoned in this dark world where “Priests clutch onto bibles/ hollowed out to fit their rifles/ [as] the cross [is] held aloft.” Coldplay also touches on modern-day materialism by saying, “Banks became cathedrals.” These lyrics symbolize how money is to the 21st century as God used to be to the earlier Christian, religiously-oriented world. Throughout the song the speaker refers to his love, singing “if you love me/ won’t you let me know?” As the whole album is themed around life and living life to the fullest, I took this line to echo this central concept. “Violet Hill” is a heart-wrenching song about war and lost love, and is definitely a must-have for those sad moments in life where the best medicine is simply an iPod and a cup of tea. Coldplay finished off their stunning album with “Death and All His Friends.” Contrary to the slightly depressing title, the song is unpredictably happy, about seizing the moment and living life. The speaker sings of not “want[ing] to follow death and all of his friends” into a pointless “cycle of recycled revenge.” On a lighter note, the song is about not letting stupid things impact life. Coldplay conveys this in lyrics alluding to the fact that life is short and starting an evil “cycle…of revenge” only leads to a downwards spiral. The song’s uplifting chant of “try” leaves a yearning for more. Overall, “Death and All His Friends” is a great wrap-up song that puts a positive spin on the album as a whole. A great album for both fans and those new to Coldplay, I recommend “Viva la Vida” as a soothing and uplifting album. With songs that can be listened to for hours on end as background music, and ones perfect for a rainy day, “Viva La Vida” is definitely worth the money.