Coldplay are an alternative rock band formed in London, England in 1997. The group comprises vocalist/pianist/guitarist Chris Martin, lead guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman, and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Will Champion. Coldplay have sold 32.5 million albums, and are also known for their hit singles, such as “Yellow”, “The Scientist”, “Speed of Sound”, “Fix You”, “Viva la Vida” and the Grammy Award-winning “Clocks”.
Coldplay achieved worldwide fame with the release of their single “Yellow”, followed by their debut album, Parachutes (2000), which was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Its follow-up, A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002), was named _NME’_s Album of the Year. Their next release, X&Y (2005), received a generally positive reception. The band’s fourth studio album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008), was produced by Brian Eno and released again to largely favourable reviews. All of Coldplay’s albums have enjoyed great commercial success.
Coldplay’s early material was compared to acts such as Jeff Buckley, U2, and Travis. Since the release of Parachutes, Coldplay have drawn influence from other sources, including Echo and the Bunnymen Kate Bush and George Harriso on A Rush of Blood to the Head, Johnny Cash and Kraftwerk for X&Y and Arcade Fire and My Bloody Valentine on Viva la Vida. Coldplay have been an active supporter of various social and political causes, such as Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign and Amnesty International. The group have also performed at various charity projects such as Band Aid 20, Live 8, and the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Formation and first years (1996–1999)
The members of the band met at the University College London (UCL) in September 1996. Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland were the first members of the band, having met one another during their orientation week. They spent the rest of the college year planning a band, with their efforts culminating in a band called Pectoralz. Later, Guy Berryman, a classmate of the two, joined the band without considering what musical direction it was taking. By 1997, the group performed gigs for local Camden promoters at small clubs. By that time, the band had renamed themselves Starfish. Martin also had recruited his longtime school friend Phil Harvey, who was studying classics at Oxford, to be the band’s manager.
The band’s lineup was complete when Will Champion joined the band to take up percussion duties. Champion had grown up playing piano, guitar, bass, and tin whistle; he quickly learned the drums, despite having no previous experience. Eventually Tim Rice-Oxley, a mutual friend, permitted the band to use the name “Coldplay,” which he had used for his band but then thought the name was “too depressing”. Rice-Oxley was also offered the position as Coldplay’s keyboard player, but he refused since he was already committed to the band Keane.
In 1998, the band released 500 copies of the Safety EP. Most of the discs were given to record companies and friends; only 50 copies remained for sale to the public. In December, Coldplay signed to the independent label Fierce Panda. Their first release was the three-track Brothers and Sisters EP, which they had quickly recorded over four days in February 1999.
After completing their final examinations, Coldplay signed to Parlophone for a five-album contract in the spring of 1999. After making their first appearance at Glastonbury, the band went into studio to record a third EP titled The Blue Room. 5,000 copies were made available to the public in October, and the single “Bigger Stronger”, which received airplay on Radio 1, was establishing Coldplay. However, the recording sessions for The Blue Room were tumultuous. Martin kicked Champion out of the band but later pleaded with him to return, and because of his guilt, went on a drinking binge. Eventually, the band worked out their differences and put in place a new set of rules to keep the group intact. First, the band declared an all-for-one approach: Coldplay was a democracy, and profits were to be shared equally, taking a page from bands like U2 and R.E.M. Second, the band would fire anyone who used hard drugs.
In March 1999, Coldplay focused efforts on their debut album, recorded at Rockfield Studios with producer Ken Nelson. They also played on the Carling Tour, which showcased up-and-coming acts. After releasing three EPs without a hit song, Coldplay scored their first Top 40 single, “Shiver”. Released in March 2000, it reached a modest #35 on the UK Singles Chart and earned the band their first airplay on MTV. June 2000 was a pivotal moment in Coldplay’s history: the band embarked on their first headlining tour, which included a triumphant return to Glastonbury. More notably, the group released the breakthrough single, “Yellow”. The song shot to #4 on the UK Singles Chart and placed Coldplay in public consciousness.
Coldplay released their first full-length album, Parachutes, in July 2000, which debuted at #1 on the UK Albums Chart. Along with critical acclaim, Parachutes was sometimes criticised for bearing a strong resemblance to the music of alternative rock band Radiohead in their The Bends–OK Computer era. “Yellow” and “Trouble” earned regular radio airplay on both sides of the Atlantic. Parlophone originally predicted sales of 400,000 units of Parachutes; by Christmas, 1.6 million copies had been sold in the United Kingdom alone. Parachutes was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in September 2000.
Having found success in Europe, the band set their sights on North America, and Parachutes was released there in November 2000. The band embarked on a US club tour in early 2001, beginning with a show in Vancouver, Canada, which was coupled with appearances on Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and The Late Show with David Letterman. Whilst Parachutes was a slow-burning success in the US, it eventually reached double-platinum status. The album was critically well-received, earning Best Alternative Music Album honours at the 2002 Grammy Awards.
A Rush of Blood to the Head (2001–2004)
Coldplay returned to the studio in October 2001 to begin work on their second album, once again with Ken Nelson producing. A Rush of Blood to the Head was released in August 2002. The album spawned several popular singles, notably “In My Place”, “Clocks”, and the ballad “The Scientist”.
Coldplay toured from June 2002 to September 2003 for the A Rush of Blood to the Head Tour. They visited five continents, including co-headlining festival dates at Glastonbury Festival, V2003 and Rock Werchter. Many shows included elaborate lighting and individualised screens reminiscent of U2’s Elevation tour. During the extended tour, Coldplay recorded a live DVD and CD, Live 2003, at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion.
In December 2003, they were named by readers of Rolling Stone magazine as the best artist and the best band of the year. At that time Coldplay covered The Pretenders’ 1983 hit “2000 Miles”, which was made available for download on their official site. It was the top selling UK download that year, with proceeds from the sales donated to Future Forests and Stop Handgun Violence campaigns. A Rush of Blood to the Head won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album at the 2003 Grammy Awards. At the 2004 Grammy Awards, Coldplay earned Record of the Year for “Clocks”.
Coldplay spent most of 2004 out of the spotlight, resting from touring, and recording their third album. In terms of particular musical influences for it, bassist Guy Berryman said, “We were listening to lots of different stuff during the early stages [of X&Y] from Bowie, Eno and Pink Floyd to Depeche Mode, Kate Bush and Kraftwerk. And U2 as we usually do.” In May, Chris Martin and his wife, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, celebrated the birth of a daughter, named Apple.
X&Y was released in June 2005 in UK and Europe. This new, delayed release date had put the album back into the next fiscal year, actually causing EMI’s stock to drop. It became the best-selling album of 2005 with worldwide sales of 8.3 million. The lead single, “Speed of Sound”, made its radio and online music store debut on 18 April and was released as a CD on 23 May 2005. The album debuted at #1 in 22 countries worldwide and was the third-fastest selling album in UK chart history. Two other singles were released that year: “Fix You” in September and “Talk” in December. The latter is set to the melody of “Computer Love”, which was released in 1981 by the German synthpop band Kraftwerk and had in the previous year been revived by Norwegian guitarist Erik Wollo. Despite the commercial success, the critical reaction to X&Y was less enthusiastic than that of its predecessor, with New York Times critic Jon Pareles describing Coldplay as “the most insufferable band of the decade”, while others compared them to U2. Chris Martin later revealed that the negative remarks made him feel “liberated”.
From June 2005 to July 2006, Coldplay went on their Twisted Logic Tour, which included festival dates like Coachella, Isle of Wight Festival, Glastonbury and the Austin City Limits Music Festival. In July 2005, the band appeared at Live 8 in Hyde Park, where they played a rendition of The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” with Richard Ashcroft on vocals. In September, Coldplay recorded a new version of “How You See the World” with reworked lyrics to War Child’s Help: A Day in the Life charity album. In February 2006, Coldplay earned Best Album and Best Single honours at the BRIT Awards.
Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2006–present)
The band began to work on their fourth studio album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, as early as December 2006, with Brian Eno and Markus Dravs as their producers. In addition, music producer Timbaland was rumoured to be collaborating. Coldplay took a break from recording and toured Latin America in early 2007, including shows in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. The band revealed that the album seemed to be shaping up with Hispanic influences, after having recorded in churches and other areas in Latin America and Spain during their tour. The group spent the rest of the year recording, mainly with Brian Eno.
Chris Martin described Viva la Vida as a new direction for Coldplay: a change from their past three albums, which they have referred to as a ‘trilogy’. Martin has also revealed that this album features much less of his falsetto, and he has allowed his voice’s lower register to take precedence. Some songs, such as “Violet Hill”, contain distorted guitar riffs and bluesy undertones. “Violet Hill” was confirmed as the first single, with a radio release date of 29 April 2008. After the first play, it was freely obtainable from Coldplay’s website from 12:15 PM (GMT +0) for one week (achieving two million downloads), until it became commercially available to download on May 6. “Violet Hill” entered the UK Top 10, US Top 40 (entering the Top 10 in the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart) and charted well in the rest of the world. The title track, “Viva la Vida”, was also released exclusively on iTunes; it has since become the band’s first #1 on the Hot 100 and also their first UK #1, based on download sales alone. On 16 June, Coldplay began their Viva la Vida Tour with a free concert at Brixton Academy in London. This was followed two days later by a 45-minute performance that was broadcast live from outside BBC Television Centre.
On 15 June 2008, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends topped the UK album chart, despite having been on sale for only three days. In that time, it sold 302,000 copies — making it “one of the fastest-selling records in UK history”. By the end of June, it had set a new record for most-downloaded album ever. The band have said that they will release another album in late 2009, that will feature a collaboration track with Kylie Minogue, called “Lunar”.
Coldplay’s musical style has been defined as alternative rock, being compared to Jeff Buckley and Oasis, while on their MySpace profile, Coldplay describes their musical style as “very heavy soft rock”. The band’s music has been called “meditative”; it “[reflects] on their emotions” and lead singer/songwriter Martin “endlessly examine[s] his feelings”. Martin’s lyrical wordplay has been called feminist, similar to Andrew Montgomery of Geneva.
The tone of the band’s first studio album, Parachutes, was defined as melodic pop with “distorted guitar riffs and switching percussion”. It was also described as being “exquisitely dark and artistically abrasive”. In a review for A Rush of Blood to the Head, the songs were considered to contain “lush melodies and a heartbreak” and that they had a “newfound confidence.” The music on X&Y has been considered to be “ruminations on Martin’s doubts, fears, hopes, and loves.”
Despite Coldplay’s worldwide popularity, the band has remained protective of how their music is used in the media, refusing its use for product endorsements. In the past, Coldplay turned down multi-million dollar contracts from Gatorade, Diet Coke, and Gap, who wanted to use the songs “Yellow”, “Trouble”, and “Don’t Panic” respectively. According to vocalist/pianist Martin, “We wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves if we sold the songs’ meanings like that.” The song “Viva la Vida” was featured in a commercial for the iTunes Store, advertising its exclusive availability of the single as a digital download on iTunes. Coldplay is a supporter of Amnesty International. Chris Martin is also noted as one of the most visible celebrity advocates for fair trade, supporting Oxfam’s ongoing Make Trade Fair campaign. Martin has been on trips with Oxfam to assess conditions, has appeared in its advertising campaign, and is known for wearing a “Make Trade Fair” wristband during public appearances, including at Coldplay concerts. The band were also filmed for Make Poverty History, clicking their fingers.
In the band’s early years, Coldplay was also widely noted in the media for their claim to give 10% of the band’s profits to charity. Bassist Guy Berryman said, “You can make people aware of issues. It isn’t very much effort for us at all, but if it can help people, then we want to do it.”
- Parachutes (2000)
- A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)
- X&Y (2005)
- Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008)
Compilations and live releases
- 2003_: Live 2003_
- 2007: The Singles 1999-2006
Safety E.P. (500 copies)
Brothers & Sisters EP (2500 copies)
The Blue Room E.P.
Sparks EP (Promo only)
Trouble EP (Norway only)
Speed of Sound EP (Japan only)
“Ode to Deodorant”
Ode to Deodorant (demo tape)
“Brothers & Sisters”
Brothers & Sisters EP
“See You Soon”
The Blue Room EP
“In My Place”
A Rush of Blood to the Head
“God Put a Smile upon Your Face”
Christmas cover of The Pretenders
“One I Love”
“Speed of Sound”
“The Hardest Part”
Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
“Viva la Vida”
“In My Place”
“God Put a Smile upon Your Face”
“Speed of Sound”
“The Hardest Part”
TBA “Viva la Vida&”
Mince Spies (1000 copies)
Remixes (1000 copies)
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- The Billboard Hot 100
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