Though Music of the Spheres promises to be a stylized collection of pop songs with an outer space theme, Coldplay is no stranger to transformation. Each of their studio albums, from 2000’s Parachutes to 2019’s Everyday Life, are ambitious, detailed works, with several highlights and exciting entries to their discography.
From their bare-bones, post-Britpop hits of the early 2000s, to Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends‘ chamber pop, to the Top 40-friendly sounds of their new albums, Coldplay’s chameleon-like energy doesn’t seem to be dying out any time soon.
Nobody said it was easy, but to celebrate their storied career, we’re ranking the 10 best Coldplay songs.
— Paolo Ragusa
Executive Editorial Assistant
Memory is a tricky thing — how much can it be trusted, when a relationship has started to fizzle out? “Sparks” addresses this phenomenon in a quiet, contemplative track off Coldplay’s debut, Parachute. Lyrically, it’s very sparse — two verses and a chorus take up a nearly four minute song — yet it still feels full. The waltz tempo ensures a feeling of intimacy and romantic longing persists. It’s a song that makes an easy argument for why so many people were drawn to this album upon its initial release. — Mary Siroky
09. “Hymn For The Weekend”
The second single from 2015’s A Head Full of Dreams features none other than an uncredited Beyoncé (who also stars in the vibrant music video). As the story goes, Chris Martin wanted to write a club song. Luckily, Queen Bey was into the idea. “I presented it to the rest of the band and they said, ‘We love this song, but there’s no way you can sing “drinks on me.”‘ So that changed into ‘drink from me’ and the idea of having an angelic person in your life,” Martin told the Wall Street Journal. “Then that turned into asking Beyoncé to sing on it.” With over 1.5 billion views on YouTube as of press time, it’s Coldplay’s most viewed video. — Gab Ginsberg
Of all the songs on Coldplay’s (mostly) underwhelming sixth studio album Ghost Stories, “Magic” is the most pure, the most restrained, and the most focused. In fact, it’s one of the best love songs that Coldplay has ever written, harkening back to the simple joy of songs like “The Scientist” and “Yellow.”
Though the album seems to revolve around the high-profile divorce of Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, “Magic” seems to take place almost in another universe, prioritizing a dreamy and ethereal feel over a “Sky Full of Stars”-esque explosion. Even Martin’s often superfluous musical choices fit gorgeously in “Magic” — a case in point being the bridge’s extended “I call it magic” melody line, which Martin delivers in a whizzing falsetto, stacked with harmonies, and above a reverb-drenched groove.
It’s a perfect example of Coldplay experimenting just enough with their sound while remaining true to what drew so many fans to their music in the first place. — P.R.
Yes, it’s a bit synth-y for some hardcore fans’ taste, but there’s no way you don’t get right in the feels when those strings kick in (and that’s even before Martin starts crooning over sparse piano). The nostalgia-inducing track, which appears on Mylo Xyloto, “is about two people who grow up separately in a very big oppressive city, and they each are a bit lost in their lives,” Martin has noted. If it’s been a while, give it another spin and let him drag you to para-para-paradise. — G.G.
Before Coldplay was one of the biggest bands in the world, they were four scrappy college kids attempting to make music that straddled the line between The Bends-era Radiohead and Jeff Buckley. “Shiver,” one of the lead singles from their Mercury Prize-nominated debut Parachutes, is a prime example of their influences, their heart, and their genuinely impressive musical ability.
Chris Martin often steals the show in Coldplay songs, and while his excellent performance in “Shiver” shows off the sheer range of notes he can comfortably hit, the rest of the band is absolutely riveting. Jonny Buckland and Guy Berryman’s overlapping guitar and bass lines are symbiotic throughout the song, ebbing and flowing with each other perfectly, and all the while, drummer Will Champion drives the song in a powerful and dynamic way.
“Shiver” features Martin both moody and playful, devastated over the lack of attention he’s receiving from the person he loves and completely obsessed with them at the same time. When he reaches the peak of the chorus, asking “Don’t you shiver?”, a jarringly high note flies out of his mouth, bringing a full band’s worth of energy to a massive climax in a stunning and unexpected way. — P.R.
Before it was used in countless television shows and licensed for climactic moments in movies, it was just all yellow. To this day, “Yellow” is one of Coldplay’s most beloved and most enduring tracks, making it once again remarkable that it’s a product of the band’s very first album. It’s a narrative people are perhaps drawn to time and time again, even now, perhaps because of the sheer devotion expressed on the narrator’s part. A lover is the clear center of the universe, and even insecurities become beautiful in this perspective. It’s simple, but it’s meaningful, and it’s an image that lasts: look at the stars — look how they shine for you. — M.S.
Coldplay’s “Trouble” is a dream pop song through and through. Built upon a rolling, tension-filled piano line from Chris Martin, the band stretches and pulls ever so slowly, letting their delicate and atmospheric choices shine the brightest. What feels so profound about “Trouble” is the disappointment and regret displayed throughout — the feelings that Martin indulges in are dark and riddled with anxiety, wishing deeply that things had gone differently and that the fault is his own. Yet, the band orchestrates these massive feelings with tact, subtlety, and acres of space.
It’s also fascinating to note that in 2021, Coldplay are no longer in search of making songs like “Trouble.” As their recent singles (and albums) suggest, Coldplay is interested in making the biggest, brightest thing — even their more downplayed numbers have a swagger to them, and if there are dark emotions being dealt with, they’re usually displayed with anthemic poise.
“Trouble” feels miles away from the stadiums they now sell out, and even as its chorus reaches its dynamic peak, there’s an emptiness swimming in the song that can’t quite be placed, a stoned malaise that guides its somber and minimalist instrumentation. Though it is by no means alien to the rest of Coldplay’s diverse catalogue of alternative rock, “Trouble” is a truly special song, and a beautiful foray into their ability to craft subtle and emotive pop. — P.R.
03. “Fix You”
It’s hard to think of “Fix You” without thinking of the millions of people around the world who have found comfort and catharsis in this song. More so than any of their catalogue, “Fix You” is so emotionally resonant, so highly visible, and executed with such a purpose: to give people who are struggling profoundly, or loving someone who is struggling profoundly, an anthem of steadfast love and commitment to hold onto.
It’s worth noting that much of Chris Martin’s catalogue as a lyricist revolves around the concept of unconditional love, seen in Coldplay’s early albums and even recently with “My Universe.” And while this feeling is worth heavy investigation by Martin and the band, there is no Coldplay song about unconditional love more prolific than “Fix You.” Over 16 years later, the song has taken on a life of its own, and given people hope where there was none. How much more can you ask of a band?
Even if the heart-on-your-sleeve, vulnerable style of “Fix You” isn’t your thing, it’s impossible to ignore its power and its relevance towards grief, love, healing, and hope. To me, sometimes seeing the song used in television shows, advertisements, and beyond can feel like a cop-out, a manufactured moment of authenticity designed to tug at our heartstrings. But then, I remember a viral clip from a Coldplay concert several years ago in which a young, neurodivergent boy is witnessing them play this song for the first time, and is moved to tears. To watch someone in real time connect with “Fix You” in this way reflects a true feat of artistic achievement. — P.R.
02. “Viva La Vida”
With its immediately recognizable string melody in the intro, “Viva la Vida” pushed Coldplay to even higher heights upon release. It’s regarded as one of the best rock songs of the past few decades and became a crossover hit difficult to knock from the charts. It couldn’t be escaped on the radio. More than catchiness, listeners were drawn into the melodramatic, historically-inspired world Chris Martin created, both in the memorable opening lyrics (“I used to rule the world”) and the accompanying visuals. It’s a song built for the stadium, and couldn’t have been a better match for a group known for their euphoric live performances. — M.S.
01. “The Scientist”
Coldplay’s grand piano ballad is a masterclass in simplicity. With only four chords and two verses, Chris Martin and Co. seem to create an entire world to inhabit out of nothing. The minimal and focused efforts of Jonny Buckland and Will Champion highlight the cinematic and melancholy narrative taking place, equally sweet as it is devastating.
Similar to their debut album’s “Trouble,” “The Scientist” features Martin in an extremely vulnerable state, but the way he holds everything back throughout is astounding — the biggest moments he has are consistently downplayed with his searching, gentle falsetto, a true testament to his ability as a vocalist. And lyrically, Martin knows he doesn’t have to do much: “Nobody said it was easy.” No kidding, Chris.
What makes “The Scientist” so significant, though, is actually the ease with which the band can orchestrate such a powerful song. It’s shown in a myriad of Coldplay songs, but very few can match the naturalistic, subdued hue of “The Scientist.” Even at the song’s climatic ending, there is no huge chorus, no shouted belts from Martin, no dance break. Instead, the band trots along, Martin croons delicately, and the song closes with a decidedly major chord, signifying some sort of peace to take away.
Coldplay is a band that has transformed completely with every album, often being compared to U2’s stadium-sized career. But in the end, it all comes back to a song like “The Scientist” to fully understand how in command these four musicians are. They never needed the flashy synths, guitar solos, or pop star features — just four chords, a story to tell, and a sense of unity that very few bands can exhibit. Nobody said it was easy, but throughout their storied career, Coldplay made it look like a walk in the park. — P.R.
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