It’s been almost two decades since Coldplay first crashed onto American shores with their soaring brand of lighter-waving alt rock, on their way to playing stadiums, scoring No. 1 albums on both sides of the Atlantic, and largely defining the sound of the early iTunes era. While in their early days, the band often drew comparisons (often derisively) to more acclaimed ’90s artists like Radiohead and Jeff Buckley, as they’ve evolved over their years, their sound has evolved to something that sounds and feels uniquely and undeniably their own.
It’s a large part of the reason why they’ve managed to stay popular and relevant for so long — impressively, their four top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 have been spaced out to 2005, 2008, 2014 and 2017 — and why we’re so excited to have them back in our lives, as they return this Friday with the double LP Everyday Life.
To properly commemorate 20 years of Coldplay jams, we’ve decided to count down our 50 favorites from the seven albums and change’s worth of songs they’ve released so far. Look how they all still shine for us in 2019.
50. “Paradise” (Mylo Xyloto, 2011)
Coldplay released this euphoric track as the second single from their 2011 rock opera Mylo Xyloto. The band paired rousing, layered vocals, dramatic violins, and dreamy synths to create the addicting track, which scored a Grammy nomination for best pop duo/group performance. Not only did it highlight the band’s relatively new incorporation of over-the-top synths, but it also gave a nod to classic Coldplay styles with its mini-guitar solo and piano outro. — NINA BRACA
49. “A Head Full of Dreams” (A Head Full of Dreams, 2016)
Coldplay hit the ground running on the opener to their seventh (and largely presumed final) album, a blood-rushing, open-space rocker that tries to lap U2’s “One Tree Hill” and almost succeeds. “Oh, I think I’ve landed/ Where there are miracles at work,” frontman Chris Martin sings, and for the seventh time, you’re right there with him. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
48. “Up & Up” (A Head Full of Dreams, 2016)
The final song on A Head Full of Dreams demonstrates Coldplay’s mission statement for the album as a speedy follow-up to the somber Ghost Stories: “We’re gonna get it, get it together right now,” Martin & Co. chant, a hopeful crescendo that captures a glass-half-full full-length. A single version nearly snips the original’s length in half, but “Up&Up” is best served as a nearly seven-minute, fiercely positive pop-rock jam. — JASON LIPSHUTZ
47. “Lost!” (Viva La VIda or Death and All His Friends, 2008)
A Viva La Vida single that borrows the organ from “Fix You” for far less stadium-leveling purposes: “Lost!” is a gently knocking testament to being adrift-but-not-too-adrift, Martin moaning, “I’m just waiting till the shine wears off.” “Lost!” also marked the peak of Martin’s double-dating friendship with fellow music industry titan (and power coupler) Jay-Z, with the Jigga Man showing up on the song’s remix with one of his wiser post-retirement couplets: “So it’s tough bein’ Bobby Brown/ To be Bobby then, you gotta be Bobby now.” — A.U.
46. “Up Against the World” (Mylo Xyloto, 2011)
Another Mylo track, this one features a tried-and-true Coldplay combo: Martin’s soft vocals and a strumming guitar. It grows to a powerful ballad, with bellowing harmonies and chiming guitar riff, to create an intimate-sounding track to offer relief from the series of bombastic singles that opens the album. — N.B.
45. “42” (Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, 2008)
Two-part songs were the reason for the season on Coldplay’s fourth album, with about half the set’s tracks ending up in very different places than they started. “42” is one of the few that bothers to bring it full circle, with their eerie piano ballad about something being wrooooooong evolving into a jagged alt-prog shuffle with rusty “Optimistic” guitars, only to return back on Martin, the piano, the dead living in Martin’s head. A majestic amount of ground covered for a sub-four-minute deep cut. — A.U.
44. “X & Y” (X & Y, 2005)
The title track off of the band’s third studio album represented exactly what they wanted the album to sound like – a glorious space odyssey, influenced by David Bowie and Brian Eno. The lyrics on the track, like many on the entire album, echo the idea of feeling “lost” and “drifting,” this time in space, with a dreamy guitar melody and a beautifully haunting violin outro. — N.B.
43. “Green Eyes” (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)
Never in music history has there been a bad song called “Green Eyes,” and Coldplay sure weren’t about to have the first. Their “Green Eyes” is a predictably lovely capo’d ballad, good for the solo-Martin section of the live show, with the singer insisting “I came here with a load/ And it feels so much lighter/ Now I met you.” Save you a Google: Gwenyth Paltrow’s eyes are actually blue. — A.U.
42. “Christmas Lights” (Non-album single, 2010)
Coldplay’s 2003 cover of The Pretenders’ Christmas power ballad “2000 Miles” sounded like a good idea but didn’t really take; Chrissie Hynde’s peerlessly heartfelt delivery is tough to match or even approach without 100% commitment, which isn’t always the amiable Martin’s thing. “Christmas Lights,” a less-powerful but similarly pristine original composition, was much more in his range, joining the modern holiday canon with a Zales-worthy piano riff and a clever nod to Darlene Love-via-Bono — “When you’re still waiting for the snow to fall/ It doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all. — A.U.
41. “Adventure of a Lifetime” (A Head Full of Dreams, 2016)
After a brief hiatus following Ghost Stories, Coldplay came back with a new, vibrant sound for the first single off of their seventh album, A Head Full Of Dreams. It’s hard to deny the infectious riff of this song — with the groovy guitar matched up with energetic clapping and a sing-along type vocal outro that makes it almost impossible to turn off. Of course, there is also the CGI ape music video, with its nearly one billion YouTube views, that helped make the song the band’s ninth top 20 hit on the Hot 100. — N.B.
40. “All I Can Think About Is You” (Kaleidoscope EP, 2017)
Who know there laid long-dormant Massive Attack DNA in Coldplay? For its first half, lead Kaleidoscope EP track plays like a brilliantly studied tribute to the trip-hop greats, with bass gently murmurming like “Safe From Harm” over a tapping beat reminiscent of “Teardrop.” But soon the piano and guitar hits like a rush of blood to the you know what, and we’re back in Coldplay’s stadium strata, impressed and intrigued. — A.U.
39. “Politik” (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)
“Politik” begins with bang: the in-your-face, repetitive electric guitar throb makes for a perfect intro to their second studio album, the multi-Platinum-certified blockbuster A Rush of Blood to the Head. The unusually aggressive track — which the band performed at their first-ever Grammys appearance in 2003 — mashes an alarm-clock intro with slow, emotional verses, and a gale force of a chorus, perfectly echoing the layout of the entire album: a collection of fast-paced songs, with emotional ballads sprinkled throughout. — N.B.
38. “Orphans” (Everyday Life, 2019)
Perhaps it’s premature to put the band’s brand new single, “Orphans” on our list, but its place already feels well-deserved. The band’s first transmission off Everyday Life is Coldplay at their best, a wonderful mixture of a limber guitar riff, emotionally charged lyrics, and a massive chorus that seems to be celebrating drunken revelry, but covers up a story in the verses that the band says is actually inspired by the Damascus bombing of 2018. — N.B.
37. “O” (Ghost Stories, 2014)
Not like most Coldplay songs are particularly known for their imposing brawn, but even by the band’s gentle standards “O” is a supremely delicate closer. Finishing off the band’s quietest album, “O” consists of little more than a gracefully tiptoeing Martin piano line, light string plucks, and another lyric are birds flying on, the singer sounding like he wishes he was heading off with them. Olympic sensation Adam Rippon gave the song a second life when it soundtracked his free skating routine at the 2018 ceremonies, making it head-smackingly obvious that this was the song’s destiny all along. — A.U.
36. “Princess of China” (feat. Rihanna) (Mylo Xyloto, 2011)
In line with the synth-laden, production-heavy departure Coldplay made on 2011’s Mylo Xyloto, “Princess of China” has arguably the most in-your-face production of the entire album — and in turn, one of the most sonically dynamic bangers of their discography. Its thumping bass and soaring digital sounds result in one epic banger, especially when paired with the cinematic Chinese wuxia-inspired video. Now that’s a way to collaborate with one of the biggest pop stars of the century. — TAYLOR WEATHERBY
35. “Brothers & Sisters” (Non-album single, 1999)
This debut Coldplay single never made it to a full-length studio album, but still remains an underrated cut, featuring Martin’s early, raspier 21-year-old vocals. The impressive, spidery guitar hook sounds just one step away from being an early 2000’s post-rock track, or of course, an early Radiohead hit. — N.B.
34. “Something Just Like This” (with The Chainsmokers) (Kaleidoscope EP, 2017)
As long as The Chainsmokers were going to score top five hit after top five hit with lightly ponderous pop-rock covered in heavy synth blankets, it only made sense that Chris Martin & Co. would show up to show ’em how they’d been doing it all decade. Skeptics took a minute to cotton to the song’s slightly meatheaded theology and doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo chorus hook, but by the end of the decade, no less an authority than Tina Turner was shouting it out as a modern classic. — A.U.
33. “Always in My Head” (Ghost Stories, 2014)
You can tell it’s a breakup album when even the love songs are kinda depressing. There are many ways one can read an opening lyric like “I think of you/ I haven’t slept,” but when Chris Martin lays them out like a poetry first draft he can’t be bothered to workshop, you’re bound to take him at his literal word. The guitars still sound impossibly dreamy and the production shamelessly sentimental, but man, dude just sounds tired. — A.U.
32. “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” (Mylo Xyloto, 2011)
This upbeat track off of Mylo Xyloto sounds like it could soundtrack a dramatic coming-of-age story. With its uplifting lyrics echoed over a momentous piano and vibrant guitar riff, it made a perfect climax to an already colorful album. — N.B.
31. “Til Kingdom Come” (X&Y, 2005)
The “hidden track” on X&Y was originally devised as a duet between Martin and Johnny Cash; sadly, Cash passed away in 2003 before his vocals could be recorded. The backstory makes “Til Kingdom Come” all the more poignant, but even without it, Martin’s muted emotion on the track makes it a touching coda to an album the leans into the bombast at times. — J.L.
30. “Sparks” (Parachutes, 2000)
Coldplay won the world over with their acoustic sounds and Chris Martin’s tender vocals on their debut set, Parachutes, and “Sparks” may just be the most underappreciated representation of that. A deep cut, the song’s slow-burning melody makes Martin’s voice even more impactful as he compassionately calls out to someone he loves that he fears he might be losing. Even if the band thought it couldn’t hold up as a single like “Yellow” or “Trouble,” “Sparks” is still one of the most raw displays of the frontman’s gripping vocal abilities of Coldplay’s catalog. — T.W.
29. “Oceans” (Ghost Stories, 2014)
The most intimate number on the most intimate Coldplay set, you can hear just about every stray breath and guitar scrape across the acoustic ballad that is “Oceans,” a song that certainly sounds like the end of something. The track’s primary hook is a spellbinding lone synth echo, blaring like a beacon fading further and further away from sure. “Meet me again in the rain,” Martin insists, but you’re not terribly sure he’s going to make it. — A.U.
28. “Birds” (A Head Full of Dreams, 2016)
Amid the more stadium-sized singles on A Head Full of Dreams like “Adventure of a Lifetime” and “Hymn For the Weekend,” “Birds” sneaks in as a softer, dreamier uptempo album cut. It offers a nice airy balance to the more intense tracks, and its racing beat makes the narrative of escaping reality even more exciting. Sometimes Coldplay’s lyrics can be a little too outlandish, but the lighthearted way they presented “Birds” makes you forget just how odd it is to write a song about being a bird. — T.W.
27. “Square One” (X&Y, 2005)
After the star-minting success of Rush of Blood, expectations were higher for third album X&Y than the set was really up for meeting — despite strong initial sales, and an album opener that certainly sounds like the mightiest band at the world setting up shop. With thick bass, sinewy riffing and a production density befitting a no-doubt robust studio budget, “Square One” was resounding but maybe not quite epic, a song whose musical confidence belies the slight insecurity of the lyrics: “From the top of the first page/ To the end of the last day… You just want somebody listening to what you say.” Good thing the band’s commercial downturn didn’t last. — A.U.
26. “Hypnotised” (Kaleidoscope EP, 2017)
Not only is this track a melodic, twinkling mix of old-school Coldplay piano reminiscent of “Trouble,” and a newer, softer sound, “Hypnotised” was also an interactive release, which came with a companion app. The app, titled Coldplay: Hypnotised allows users to play it along with the song to add their own melodies, making the song not only unique to the band, but also its listeners. — N.B.
25. “Ink” (Ghost Stories, 2014)
Who would’ve thought there’s an eloquent way to sing about a tattoo you got with an ex? “Ink” is proof that there is, as the whimsical production and Martin’s bright vocals disguises the pain he’s feeling as he sings about a love he lost that’s forever encapsulated in, well, ink. The song builds from a stripped-down intro into an echoing chorus that carries throughout the rest of the track, making it hard to not at least tap your toes by the end. “Ink” is genius way to make heartbreak enjoyable — or, at the very least, a little easier to cope with that awkward body art. — T.W.
24. “Life in Technicolor II” (Prospekt’s March EP, 2008)
The beginning of Coldplay as EDM floor-slayers miscast as a stadium rock outfit lies in the hands-in-the-air opening hook to “Life in Technicolor,” a santoor-and-tabla loop to light up the eyes and dot the setlists of cheesy DJs across the world. The full-length sequel version of the Viva La Vida instrumental doesn’t quite live up to the promise of that five-star opening, but it finds its way to an equally exhilarating “woah-ah-ohhhh” singalong, and gives the band an excuse for one of their most fun music videos. — A.U.
23. “Violet Hill” (Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, 2008)
This track shows the grittier, dark side of Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, otherwise a largely lush, upbeat album. Distorted guitars accompany Martin’s lyrics, as he pleads with a loved one during a cold winter. You can practically see your own breath from the iciness of the song. Despite being the set’s lead single — released even before the Hot 100-topping title track — it’s an often-overlooked track, but one that’s aged remarkably well. — N.B.
22. “Charlie Brown” (Mylo Xyloto, 2011)
What do running riot, glowing in the dark and scarecrow dreams have to do with Charles Schulz’s beloved child protagonist? Absolutely nothing, but that has no effect on the impact of Coldplay’s take on “Charlie Brown.” The swirling sound effects and bouncy riffing do give the song an air of innocence, though, and Martin’s heartfelt delivery of the song’s lyrics make you want to do that little hop dance Charlie Brown and his friends always do. “Charlie Brown” is as anthemic as it is carefree — and not for nothing, it has a lovely piano finish that reminds listeners of Coldplay’s musicality. — T.W.
21. “Trouble” (Parachutes, 2000)
Dark, dejected and stubbornly apologetic, “Trouble” as an unwitting antithesis to “Yellow,” Coldplay’s breakthrough anthem on their 2000 debut Parachutes. Martin’s sorrowful refrain — “I never meant to cause you trouble, and I never meant to do you wrong” — and spider-web metaphors remain affecting, but the star of this show is that twitchy piano melody, which captures the downcast mood in five notes. — J.L.
20. “See You Soon” (The Blue Room EP, 1999)
A somewhat buried gem found on their second EP The Blue Room, “See You Soon” is an acoustic track featuring Martin’s breathy whispers over a simple but effective chord progression. But it’s the simplicity that makes the deep cut sound so appealing nowadays, when Coldplay is mostly known for their large, expansive epics. — N.B.
19. “Death and All His Friends” (Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, 2008)
What starts out as a quiet piano theme quickly turns into a soaring combination of huge guitar hooks and layered vocals on this closing track to Coldplay’s 2008 best-seller. Not only is the track itself beautiful, the lyrics continue the band’s journey of exploring the concept of life and death, before quickly transitioning into a synthy, dream-like conclusion. It somehow combines all of Coldplay’s greatest strengths: a quiet piano melody, a loud and melodic guitar solo, and a mysterious, intriguing outro. — N.B.
18. “Yes” (Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, 2008)
Of all the multi-part odysseys on Viva La Vida, none succeeds quite as soundly in both halves than “Yes,” whose Eastern-tinged, knotty mid-tempo chug sets up an alluring musical premise that the second half — an out-of-nowhere indie rave-up with one of the band’s most shimmering riffs, led by a distant Martin, falsetto’d to unrecognizability. It feels like an alternate-universe Coldplay where the band got really into Broken Social Scene, and if you’re (understandably) wondering if that actually would have been a good idea, the song gives you its answer in its title. — A.U.
17. “Speed of Sound” (X&Y, 2005)
This Kate Bush-inspired track was the lead single off of X&Y, with pouncing drums and a tremendous chorus. It even features a nod to Bush with lyrics about climbing a mountain (an alleged reference to “Running Up That Hill,” which inspired Martin to write the track.) The single was nominated for two Grammys, and topped Billboard‘s Adult Alternative chart. Despite the success, the band has been open about disliking the song, and rarely play it live. Justice for “Speed Of Sound”! — N.B.
16. “Don’t Panic” (Parachutes, 2000)
There’s something rather perfect about the fact that “Don’t Panic” was featured on one of the definitive indie rock sets of the early 2000s: the soundtrack to Garden State. The lead track from Parachutes never opens up into a sing-along like “Yellow” or “Trouble” from Coldplay’s first album; instead, it stays soft and introverted like a Shins cast-off, addressing the apocalypse with a resigned sigh rather than an arena-ready shout. “Don’t Panic” offered Coldplay a quieter path than the one their career eventually took, but it certainly could have changed a new lives, a la “New Slang.” — J.L.
15. “Magic” (Ghost Stories, 2014)
The first single from Ghost Stories, better known as Coldplay’s “conscious uncoupling album,” contains four distinct stages: shock from a breakup (“I just got broken, broken into two,” Martin deadpans), pleading for reconciliation (“No I don’t, no I don’t, want anybody else but you”), acceptance of the abyss (“I wanna fall, fall so far”), and a glimmer of hope that love can still heal (“Still believe in magic? Yes I do … Of course I do”). Following the split in Martin’s personal life, he offered a credo that was both moody and beautifully rendered; the rest of Ghost Stories, in turn, followed suit. — J.L.
14. “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” (Mylo Xyloto, 2011)
To begin a new era in the 2010s, the band released “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” as the lead single from their fifth studio album Mylo Xyloto in 2011. The album was a self-described rock opera, chronicling an ongoing war against sounds, colors, and art by a dystopian government. For such a heavy concept, the track remains a hands-in-the-air anthem, featuring a twinkly guitar lead and inspirational lyrics, with fan favorites such as “Don’t wanna see another generation drop/ I’d rather be a comma than a full stop.” — N.B.
13. “Shiver” (Parachutes, 2000)
Due to its heavy similarities to some of the rollicking, falsetto-laden tracks on the 1994 album Grace, “Shiver” was described by Chris Martin as the band’s “Jeff Buckley attempt” though “not as good.” Still, the earlier, heavier track highlights some of Martin & Co.’s best songwriting, tied together by an undeniably catchy guitar riff. It goes to show that even in the early days, with low-budget production and too-obvious influences, the band already knew exactly what they were doing. — N.B.
12. “Strawberry Swing” (Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, 2008)
Low-key by Coldplay single standards — at least for their first decade — “Strawberry Swing” was lacking a knockout chorus for radio, but was still ingratiating in its gently looped sentimentality in a way that felt somewhat unique within the band’s catalog. Simple, sweet, and unapologetically dewy-eyed, the song got an invaluable-in-retrospect cosign from a then-largely unknown young R&B talent who knew a thing or two about doing nostalgia right. — A.U.
11. “Fix You” (X&Y, 2005)
There is a reason this song has come to be a classic. The echoing, funereal organ (Martin has confirmed that song was written for then-wife Gwenyth Paltrow after her father’s death) blended with deeply personal yet inspirational lyrics with a masterful build up into a full-fledged rock anthem. The song has gone on to become one of the band’s most well-known songs, being covered countless times, but never losing its original meaning: someone wanting what’s best for a loved one going through a difficult time. It has become a staple at their live shows, a moment where fans come together and sing the monumental chorus in unison, as Martin runs around the stage, taking it all in. — N.B.
10. “A Sky Full of Stars” (Ghost Stories, 2014)
All the promise of the Mylo Xyloto era, all the drops that should have been, all the hooks that were crying out for a club-smashing remix that never quite arrived to satisfaction: All of it was validated with the Avicii hook-up “A Sky Full of Stars.” If you’d ever doubted that Coldplay’s skyscraping hooks were just as natural a fit in the dance world as the rock world, by the end of the first bar of Chris Martin’s head-swimming piano riff, you responded with a Billie Eilish-worthy “Oh, duh.” The band’s new young Swedish friend set his synth phasers to stun, while Martin matched his riff with an appropriately moony and meaningless lyric and stood back to appreciate the heavenly view on the instrumental chorus. Inexplicably, the music video takes place during the day. — A.U.
9. “In My Place” (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)
“In My Place” was the resounding lead single off of A Rush Of Blood To The Head, and a No. 2 hit in their home country. In trademark Coldplay fashion, at surface level, the song feels stirring, but the lyrics tell a different story: one of regret and feeling hopeless, another common theme on their sophomore album. The massive drum beat (borrowed from Ride’s shoegaze all-timer “Dreams Burn Down”) supporting a chiming guitar riff is one of the best intros Coldplay has ever written, and Martin’s strained, emotional pleading during the bridge is one of his best performances. The song snagged a Grammy for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal, and became an instant fan favorite. — N.B.
8. “Hurts Like Heaven” (Mylo Xyloto, 2011)
Just because the band had begun to embrace their dance capabilities on Mylo Xyloto doesn’t mean the band didn’t leave some space for kicking out the jams as well. After the short titular instrumental, “Hurts Like Heaven” comes zooming in, with racing riffs, heart-pounding drums and a brilliantly overwrought shout-along chorus (“You use your heart as a weapon/ And it hurts like heaven”) like a band whose top priority is saving rock and roll at all costs. It wasn’t — and they probably couldn’t — but it was good to know that they weren’t giving up the fight completely. — A.U.
7. “Viva La Vida” (Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends)
You know you’ve got a smash when all it takes is 12 seconds of violin to get fans amped. “Viva La Vida” is arguably one of the most memorable uses of a string section in pop history, with the plucky riff creating a vibe both powerful and invigorating, especially when Martin belts out “I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing!” Its historical and biblical references make the song a lyrical masterpiece as well, with the intense melody adding to the vigor of the verses and chorus. “Viva La Vida” was clearly striking to anyone who heard it, as it stands as Coldplay’s sole No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. — T.W.
6. “Midnight” (Ghost Stories, 2014)
The Coldplay song to separate the real heads from the pretenders? Maybe, but even if not, a good song to play for your hater friends who think the band was still ripping off Thom Yorke and Noel Gallagher 15 years into their career. Nah, they were hooking up with acclaimed electronic producer Jon Hopkins, and making ghostly, pitch-black synth-pop mini-masterpieces that punch you in the heart and beat M83 at their own game. The long-simmering beat maybe never quite explodes the way part of you can’t help but wish it would — but then again, that’s what the Giorgio Moroder remix is for. – A.U.
5. “The Scientist” (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)
When mathematicians cannot come up with a solution to an equation, they naturally return to the beginning of the problem and try to solve it with a different tactic. “The Scientist” finds Martin adopting this approach to a matter of the heart: “I’m going back to the start,” he concludes, after trying to search through the experiential details and figure out where a relationship started to crack in half. The futility of the experiment is supposed to be heartbreaking, and when paired with a four-chord piano movement that eventually envelops the entire band, the result is an achingly pretty document of unrequited sadness, a slow-motion car crash that’s spectacular in its physical brashness. Following the alt-rock radio power of A Rush of Blood to the Head singles “In My Place” and “Clocks,” “The Scientist” followed as a tearjerker that, 16 years later, is still able to leave the listener gasping for air. — J.L.
4. “Lovers in Japan” (Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, 2008)
This song could be an entire album in itself. The fourth single off of Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends features a layered piano, which was achieved by the band actually buying a piano and sticking it with tacks to give it a unique sound. Its inspirational lyrics and a consistent guitar riff echoing throughout the entire track make for an explosive single filled with complex and unpredictable production. On the album version, the song’s extended outro is a soft, short ballad, almost to act as a palate cleanser from the intricate main part. — N.B.
3. “Talk” (X&Y, 2005)
“Talk” is one of those songs that highlights the band’s success in intertwining musical elements with emotional themes. The track, off 2005’s X&Y, begins with dark, howling synth sounds introducing a warmer, positive electric guitar riff, almost mimicking the theme of the song: trying to find something positive while feeling defeated. The delayed guitar echoes Martin’s melodies in the chorus, giving off a call-and-response type effect between Martin and the song itself when he sings, “Write a song nobody has sung” — perhaps reflecting on the band’s difficulties recording X&Y due to pressures from the group’s next-level success. The famous riff was borrowed (with permission) from Kraftwerk’s 1981 electro-pop totem “Computer Love,” an unexpected inspiration that resulted in one of the band’s most unshakeable hooks. — N.B.
2. “Yellow” (Parachutes, 2000)
To nobody’s surprise, “Yellow” is normally the song most frequently cited when both casual Coldplay listeners and diehard fans are asked about their favorite track. Rightfully so — the alt-rock love song helped the band gain worldwide recognition after it was released in 2000 on their debut studio album, Parachutes. With its iconic, sky-high guitar riff combined with an acoustic base and lyrics penned at just the right level of cliché, the song is an obvious fan favorite, and is played at virtually every one of the band’s concerts. “Yellow” peaked at No. 48 on the Hot 100, but went on to become No. 2 on the Adult Alternative Chart — securing their first U.S. success, and helping them skyrocket to international fame. — N.B.
1. “Clocks” (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)
“Yellow” was Coldplay’s proof of concept, but “Clocks” was the song that showed they could be singular. From the first listen through that instantly unforgettable piano cascade, it was clear that something different was happening here: The song was anthemic without being bombastic, stately without being staid, British and pop without being anywhere near Britpop. “Clocks” is all about balance; as majestic as the cloudbursting piano is, equally important is the surprisingly high-in-the-mix bass chugging underneath it. And while Martin’s lyric is one of his best, he set the standard for 21st century mainstream rock by letting the verbosity fall away in favor of a statement that needed no further elaboration: “Ooooo-ooooooooo…. ohhhhhhhh…” – A.U.