Behind the Hit

 
Updated June 19

The following features interesting facts and stories behind classic singles from the past. Songs are chosen arbitrarily.

 

Viva La Vida - Coldplay (2008)

UK Charts - #1 .. U.S. Charts - #1

 

"Viva la Vida" is a song by British rock band Coldplay. It was written by all members of the band for their fourth album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008), and was released as the second single from the album. On the album, this song segues directly into the next track, "Violet Hill". Viva la Vida is Spanish for "Long Live Life" or "Live (the) Life". It is recognized as one of Coldplay's signature songs. The lyrics to the song contain historical and Christian references, and the track is built around a looping string section in unison with a digital processed piano, with other layers gradually being added as the song builds.

 

cover art

The song was released on June 13, 2008 as the album's second single, debuting to critical acclaim and commercial success. "Viva la Vida" reached the top spot of the UK Singles Chart and Billboard Hot 100, becoming the band's first number-one single in both the U.S. and U.K. The song won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards in 2009. The song became the sixth song to reach the 4 million mark in paid downloads in the United States. It has sold over 7.1 million copies worldwide by 2014, and over 6 million in the U.S. alone by June 2013.

 

Grammy award

The song's Spanish title, "Viva la Vida", is taken from a painting by 20th-century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. In Spanish "viva" is an expression used to acclaim someone or something, so "Long Live Life" is an accurate translation and the painting reflects the artistic irony of acclaiming life while suffering physically. When asked about the album's title, referring to Frida Kahlo's strength, enduring polio, a broken spine, and a decade of chronic pain, lead singer Chris Martin said: "She went through a lot of pain, of course, and then she started a big painting in her house that said 'Viva la Vida', I just loved the boldness of it." During the album's production, "Viva la Vida" was one of the songs that had polarized each member's opinion over which version they should choose. In an interview, Martin recalled: "We did quite a few different versions and went round the houses a bit and eventually settled on those treatments for it."

 

Kahlo

"Viva la Vida" was initially released only with iTunes Store pre-orders of Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends on May 7, 2008, 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 May 25, 2008, and a physical CD single in Europe on July 29, 2008 to coincide with the release of the single's music videos. "Viva la Vida" was well-downloaded on the Internet, becoming iTunes' best-selling song of 2008.

 

album

The official music video for "Viva la Vida" was directed by Hype Williams and premiered at Coldplay's official website on August 1, 2008. The video depicts the band performing against a blurry, warped version of Eugène Delacroix's painting La Liberté guidant le peuple, ending with the band members crumbling into rose petals. The video currently has over 470 million views on YouTube. 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 Delacroix's painting. At the end, he hangs 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.

 

video

"Viva la Vida" has become the band'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 and, to date, only US 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 1996. Although the song was initially successful in digital sales, after being released, it went on to become the band's highest-charting single on American radio, becoming their first top-ten hit on the Hot 100 Airplay where it peaked at number eight. It had also become the band's first number-one single on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. 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 has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The song also became one of the first six songs to reach the 4 million mark in paid digital downloads.

The National Hockey League's New York Rangers played "Viva la Vida" at Madison Square Garden after victories during the 2011 season.

 

NY Rangers

Coldplay were first accused of plagiarism of "The Songs I Didn't Write" by American alternative band Creaky Boards (shown below), for the melody of "Viva la Vida". Creaky Boards' band member Andrew Hoepfner claimed that Martin had heard them playing the song at a live show in October 2007. The band released a video clip, in which it compares sections of both songs. Coldplay denied the claim. Band spokesman Murray Chambers said Martin was working in AIR Studios in London at that time, having checked the singer's diary. In addition, Coldplay had recorded a demo version of "Viva la Vida" in March 2007, long before Creaky Boards performed it live in October of the same year. Creaky Boards later retracted the accusations and speculated that both songs may have been inspired by the video game The Legend of Zelda.

 

Creaky Boards

 

On December 4, 2008, guitarist Joe Satriani filed a copyright infringement suit against Coldplay in Los Angeles. 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? The band has denied the allegation, saying the similarities were "entirely coincidental". On September 14, 2009, the case was dismissed by the California Central District Court, with both parties potentially agreeing to an out-of-court settlement.

 

Joe Satriani

In May 2009, Yusuf Islam stated that the song is very similar to his song "Foreigner Suite," recorded under his former stage name, Cat Stevens. He said "My son brought it to my attention and said: 'Doesn't that sound like 'Foreigner Suite?'" Islam said that any legal action he might take "depends on how well Satriani does." Coldplay drummer Will Champion denied the claim, stating, "We're confident we haven't done anything wrong." In June 2009, Islam later said, "They did copy my song but I don't think they did it on purpose," adding, "I don't want them to think I am angry with them. I'd love to sit down and have a cup of tea with them and let them know it's okay."

 

Cat Stevens

In a documentary for Sveriges Television (2011) American music professor Dr. Lawrence Ferrara showed that the melody structures of "Viva La Vida", "If I Could Fly" and "Foreigner Suite" were very similar to the composition "Se tu m'ami" by the Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, who died in 1736. "Obviously this is a work that we would call in the 'public domain'", Dr. Ferrara said.

Chris Martin once said that the plagiarism allegations were inspiring him and added: "If everyone's trying to take away our best song, then we'd better write 25 better ones!" Will Champion has also talked about the accusation saying, "For some reason, God only knows why, the successful songs seem to be the ones that are accused of being stolen."

2Cellos performed an instrumental cover of "Viva la Vida" in their debut album 2Cellos.

 

2 Cellos

Weezer included their cover version of the song on the deluxe edition of their 2010 album Hurley.

The song was used in the official soundtrack for The Big Year.

 

"The Big Year"

Both this and "Violet Hill" debuted in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for week ending May 24, 2008. It is a rare feat for an act to have two songs debuting in the same week.

 

"Violet Hill"

 

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
My 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 St. Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh [5x]

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

 

 

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