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Viva La Vida Review, Coldplay

Album Review: Coldplay's Viva La Vida

Coldplay fans rejoice: Viva La Vida has arrived! This album, the band's fourth, is a big deal as Coldplay strives for that sweet spot between critical success and broad appeal. This time out, Chris Martin and co. have brought in famed U2 producer Brian Eno to help take their sound in new and interesting directions.

Viva La Vida is indeed experimental but not in a way that will alienate fans. Many critics had a viscerally angry reaction to to 2005's X&Y (the New York Times declared Coldplay "the most insufferable band of the decade" after that effort – ouch, right?), but Viva La Vida is just the kind of album you want a band of this stature to release mid-career.

Martin and his mates retain all the epic instrumentals that give Coldplay its signature amphitheater rock sound but apply an obvious amount of self-restraint to the album, making it fun without putting you to sleep. The band refrains from repeating choruses over and over again (ahem, "Fix You") and steers clear of the self-pitying lyrics of albums past, instead focusing on themes around war, religion, and the nature of love.

Viva La Vida is something borrowed and something new for Coldplay, and I'm pleasantly surprised and happy with the result. After giving the entire album a whirl, I feel like I’ve listened to a soundtrack of a sweeping epic that spans wars, generations, and the globe.

To see my initial thoughts on each of the tracks,


  • "Life in Technicolor": A briskly urgent instrumental that layers techno sounds with an acoustic guitar. Sets the mood for an album that will sample sounds from around the world.
  • "Cemeteries of London": Starts in right away with soft, dark lyrics and moody instrumentals. Sounds like Chris Martin is telling me a ghost story about London. The guitar picks up and there are "singing la la la"s. This is one of my favorites on the album.
  • "Lost!": Big organ sound along with hand-claps. This song is a funny blend between U2 and maybe Peter Gabriel. Definitely has a world beats vibe going on. I like it.
  • "42": Soft, stripped-down start with piano and lovely vocals by Martin. Feels somewhat inspired by John Lennon in the beginning. Eventually crests to something more electronic with a long instrumental, then becomes altogether upbeat and peppy, with these lyrics: "You thought you might be a ghost/You didn’t get to heaven but you made it close!"
  • "Lovers in Japan": One of the most interesting songs on the album, this one stands far apart. It's gorgeous and upbeat with a clear influence from the far East. I don't know if this could be a hit single, but it sure is good.
  • "Yes": Has a Middle Eastern flavor to it and really crazy low vocals from Martin. He's singing an octave or three dozen below his normal range. It's jarring in a good way. I really like this song.
  • "Viva La Vida": This is the "iTunes commercial song." While it has all the trademark instrumentals that are grandiose enough to fill a giant stadium, there's no clear and easy point for a crowd sing-a-long which makes it interesting and unexpected.
  • "Violet Hill": The big hit of the summer. If you haven't heard it by now, check it out; you'll want it on your playlist right away.
  • "Strawberry Swing": A pretty song. It's more sitar sounds with an urgent thumping beat and lyrics about a perfect day. This is a refreshingly brighter tune compared to the emotional songs on the rest of the album.
  • "Death and All His Friends": This is the most earnest song on the album, with the entire band singing, "I don't wanna follow death and all of his friends!" Again, there is no obvious chorus or hook, and the structure of the song is definitely pushing Coldplay boundaries.
  • "Lost?": Just like the first song with the same name — but slower and all piano, with Martin singing his heart out, which is where's it's always been: on his sleeve.


superjules superjules 9 years
I cannot stand Coldplay. I loathe them. Not only do I equate their "music" with nails on a blackboard/screeching babies, Chris Martin is a tool of the first order. I have a real hard time separating music from it's maker. If the artist is a deck, I can't love the tunes. Anyone who demands that no one can make eye contact with him, well he's written off. You're sub-human. And joecer, you only need to hit the enter button one time little buddy.
joecer49123 joecer49123 9 years
OMG!!!! viva la vada is the best song ever created!!!
reesiecup reesiecup 9 years
coldplay never disappoints :)
madchie madchie 9 years
I loved it. Violet Hill and Lost! are my favourite.
chrisa1433 chrisa1433 9 years
The title track is my favourite. If I close my eyes I can almost see a scene playing out in front of me. The orchestral score adds a nice touch as well. Kudos to Coldplay for staying quasi-original and diverse in their fourth album. Can't wait until they tour to see them in person.
Bella_14 Bella_14 9 years
I haven't heard they're whole CD,but i really enjoy listening to Violet Hill and Viva La Vida.Oh,and also I think Violet Hill also has a great video.
Advah Advah 9 years
I kind of hate that album. I loved X&Y, but this one strikes me as a lazy gloomy version of it. Life in technicolour, 42 and Lovers in Japan are gorgeous imho, but the rest annoys the hell out of me. I think the guitar is amazing, but from the moment Chris Martin starts singing, it completely kills the song. I wish he'd challenged himself a bit more vocally, it sounds more like a demo than a finished album to me..
eggmaker eggmaker 9 years
so i'm really enjoying the new album, but is it me...i didn't get that second version of "Lost?" on mine. the last song on the album i bought is "Death and All His Friends." What's the deal???
emalove emalove 9 years
I'm completely obsessed with this album right now...LOVE it.
Allyace Allyace 9 years
I couldn't wait for this one to come out after hearing the title track. I really enjoy it so far :).
lily8206 lily8206 9 years
Thanks for the review Buzz, I look forward to checking it out now :)
JLew1982 JLew1982 9 years
I, too, have been listening to it since I bought it yesterday. It is very...different. I really like it, but it is hard to put my finger on why. It is kind if like one long song. I really liked X&Y too, though.
astello astello 9 years
bought it yesterday on my lunch break and haven't stopped listening since! i'm a diehard fan, so i'm easy to please, but i really think it's a great effort. the whole album is phenomenal. definitely my soundtrack for the summer.
aistea311 aistea311 9 years
I think the album is great. I sat in my car, and blasted it in full while eating some ice cream. The song "Yes" is one of my favorites and "Violet Hill" has become my favorite song from Coldplay of all time. I was in such a Coldplay mood that I was playing "The Scientist" and "Yellow" over and over. I believe this is one of their best works yet and the way they marketed themselves has helped their sales tremendously.
greylady greylady 9 years
I agree that their earlier work was really their best, especially Rush of Blood to the Head. However, I did like some of X&Y and I've been listening to Violet Hill (which I loved) so I'll have to buy the album and see. I've always loved Coldplay :)
lindaloo lindaloo 9 years
I'm just not a big fan. And you hear so much of it on the radio/XM that I doubt I buy this album.
PollyPrissyPants PollyPrissyPants 9 years
I've been listening non-stop to this since the morning and I have to agree with your review. I was disappointed by X&Y (although I didn't hate it as much as some) but this one had me right off the bat...fantastic job by one of my favourite groups.
mariellynelly mariellynelly 9 years
I am OBSESSED with "Viva La Vida". I haven't had the chance to pick up the album, but I know I won't be disappointed. Coldplay never proves me wrong.
Candizzle Candizzle 9 years
Love it!!
EatYourVeggies EatYourVeggies 9 years
Rush of Blood to the Head is one of the 50 best albums ever, in my book. X&Y was okay, except they chose their most mainstream songs as singles, which were "Fix You" and "Speed of Sound". In my opinion these were probably the worst songs on this album. I'm going to buy Viva la Vida on Thurdsday.
californiagirlx7 californiagirlx7 9 years
I heard the new Coldplay album sucks but I'm willing to give it a try. I thought X&Y was a great album and I love a lot of their "older" music too.
divinedebris divinedebris 9 years
Eh, Chris Martin has a huge ego but all their music sounds alike to me. To each his own. I dislike how much airplay they get, though.
Entertainment Entertainment 9 years
fsofield - That's a good question! I haven't seen the liner notes yet but I'll do some exploring. I think they make use of a lot of use of many instruments from around the world on the album ;)
fsofield fsofield 9 years
A sitar isn't from the Middle East it's from India, do you mean an Oud?
HipMom HipMom 9 years
I LOVE X&Y, still listen to it all the time. I also loved the single from their new almbum, and I just ordered the CD today. I can't believe the NYT copuld be so offensive with what is, I think, one of the best bands of the past several years. So much commercial garbage out there, TG for Coldplay and VERY few others.
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