It seemed as if Coldplay came out of nowhere.
A solid debut album with a radio hit in “Yellow” it wasn’t long before Coldplay ruled the world. Just 20 years have passed since Parachutes was released and seven more albums later Coldplay remains highly popular, beloved (by some) and a large enough act to headline a stadium tour. Arguably though, as many who flock to their concerts, just as many wouldn’t attend if they were given a ticket as the band simply fails to resonate.
Coldplay does have some type of musical spell that can, somehow, bring forth a well of emotion. And yet, other songs mystify or simply misfire. Coldplay isn’t hard rock but hardly adult contemporary while emerging on the heels of 90s alternative rock and the birth of modern rock. Singer Chris Martin’s relationship with actress Gwyneth Paltrow fueled at least one drippy album while their latest, 2019’s double album Everyday Life, would have fared better cut in half. And, yes their words tend to draw some criticism while leaving some scratching their heads, but I don’t live and die by lyrics so the wheel can most certainly break the butterfly.
At any rate, Coldplay deserves much credit for broadening their scope and trying new things even if those adventures in their lifetime fall a bit flat. Truly, the last couple of albums hardly resemble the early few.
The first time I saw Coldplay I was immensely disappointed. The second time they redeemed themselves and the third time stands as one of my most memorable concerts. Whatever the setlist, Coldplay puts on a fine show and an all-around energetic performance. Martin excels as a frontman and the rest: Guy Berryman on bass, Jonny Buckland, lead guitar, and Will Champion on drums have formed an us against the world coalition that more or less prevents anyone of them from being replaced. If one goes, it’s likely the band folds.
In terms of the music landscape, Coldplay is a young band and could easily carry on for another 20 years with eight more albums. However, Martin seems a bit wishy washy on Coldplay’s future saying A Head Full of Dreams, the band’s seventh album from 2015, was the last hurrah.
Considering the somewhat avant-garde approach to Everyday Life, four years later, one could argue A Head Full of Dreams was a finale, of sorts.
Best Coldplay Songs
Overall, Coldplay boasts a mostly fine collection of authentic songs from mellow thought provokers to those with energetic grooves. Choosing some of the best Coldplay songs came easy, of course I have my favorites, but a more intrinsic listen brought some additional tracks to the surface while leaving off some obvious singles. Hence the standard asterisk because this list could change for me next month and if Coldplay does indeed return to the studio hopefully they’ll produce a song or two deserving of this Best Coldplay Songs list.
As usual, these come in no particular order but #1 tends to be #1 for a reason.
- Paradise – Mylo Xyloto (2011)
The anthemic keyboard burst about 30 seconds in gets me every time. I beautiful piece of song writing that radiates with even more grandeur live. Fully uplifting and represents a total departure from their earlier somber filled catalog, “Paradise” sounds a lot like a musical bliss.
- Fix You – X&Y (2005)
Quite simply, what Coldplay does best. Heart achingly painful, “Fix You” hits home for anyone who has ever watched a love one die. The church organ replaced by the simple but effective guitar chord midway through that slowly builds into the tear-inducing chorus offers a much-needed emotional release before Martin almost serenades you with “Lights will guide you home / And ignite your bones / And I will try to fix you.”
- Clocks – A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)
I’m pretty sure this was the song that tuned me fully into Coldplay as I’d never heard such an almost melodramatic piano melody in rock music before. This captivating and haunting piece on the band’s second album no doubt helped propel Coldplay into the stratosphere on the music scene. I’ll admit it gets a little repetitive halfway through but hardly enough to ruin this near masterpiece.
- Birds – A Head Full of Dreams (2015)
A grooving bass line if I’ve ever heard one. “Birds” is the second song off A Head Full Of Dreams and turned into one of the few highlights off that album even though I initially said it floundered. Berryman gets all the credit on this fun, upbeat track that ends on a melodic high note.
- Lost! – Viva La Vida or Death & All His Friends (2008)
Prior to releasing 2008’s Viva La Vida Or Death & All His Friends I recall Martin saying Coldplay had recorded the best song ever in “Viva La Vida.” Yes, good song, hardly the best song ever, one that eventually wore thin and ultimately not better than “Lost!” which appears on the same album.
- Square One – X&Y (2005)
The opening track for 2005’s X&Y has tempo changes, rythmic guitar, snappy drums and mostly gets away from some of the dreary anguish present in so many of their other hits, instead opting for a mostly straight forward rock song.
- Arabesque – Everyday Life (2019)
“Arabesque” didn’t come out of left field, more like the parking lot. A totally new direction and sound for Coldplay, I hesitated at first to include this song because of the extensive amount of collaboration leaning more towards “Warning Sign.” However, “Arabesque” stands as a fantastical Coldplay song horn section, saxophone and all.
- Yellow – Parachutes (2000)
It would probably be criminal to leave off the best song from their debut album Parachutes but indeed “Yellow” introduced the world to Coldplay and remains a fan favorite. It has fallen a bit off the radar, now 20 years old, and somewhat overshadowed by the bigger albums and songs that would arrive on the stage in a few short years. In many respects “Yellow” offers a glimpse of what’s to come with a weighty introspective feel that ebbs and flows from a yielding verse to a rigid chorus.
- Ghost Story – Ghost Stories (Deluxe Edition) (2014)
Featured on the deluxe version of Ghost Stories sold by Target “Ghost Story” has Coldplay thinking outside the box a bit without losing their identity. Using a stripped down approach, “Ghost Story” sprinkles some African folk sounds throughout while letting Martin carry this one vocally along side a contemplative yet relaxing acoustic melody only politely interrupted by the harder edged harmonic chorus.
- A Message – X&Y (2005)
Book-ended with only Martin’s vocals and an acoustic guitar, this impassioned song slowly builds into a heartfelt dance that eases you down softly.
Whether Coldplay used the downtime during the coronavirus lockdown to work on new material remains to be seen. The band did perform a live set on Instagram last month and probably wants to hit the road to celebrate Everyday Life at some point a future no doubt exists for Coldplay, just for how long?