Musician Jon Hopkins’ instrumental composition, Light Through The Veins, opens the track. The song originally had lyrics but the band decided to remove them after being told Life In Technicolor sounded like an “obvious single”. The lyrical version of the song was later released as a single from Prospekt’s March, an EP of additional Viva-era material.
Chris Martin was inspired to write the song after producer Markus Dravs told him another song he had written during the Viva-sessions was good but not great. Chris turned up the next day with Cemeteries Of London. The track was part-recorded in a Barcelona church to help create its haunting sound. Another verse about drowning witches was cut from the final song.
One of the first songs the band wrote for the album, Lost! was inspired by British rock band Blur. During a soundcheck in Detroit, USA, the band attempted to play Blur’s Sing and Lost! “arrived” instead. A piano acoustic version (Lost?) was released as an album bonus track. Both Lost@ (a live version) and Lost+ (featuring Jay-Z) were later released too.
Coldplay have had a song called 42 since at least 2002, this iteration finally making the cut. The song evolved from the band’s want to create a song without traditional verses and choruses. Chris described 42 as sounding like both John Lennon and Radiohead. Guitarist Jonny Buckland’s electric guitar has every string tuned to F to produce 42’s distinct guitar sound.
Lovers In Japan’s honky-tonk piano sound was created by sticking tacks into the piano hammers, the final result sounding almost like a harpsichord. A demo version had a less positive tone, with the chorus’ final lyric, “one day you’ll tear my heart out”. Reign Of Love, the track’s second half, originally lasted 20 minutes, the band playing through the cyclical chord sequence in the studio. A remixed version of Lovers In Japan appeared on the Prospekt’s March EP, and an acoustic version as a Viva bonus track.
Chris Martin sings in his lowest register throughout Yes, a shift from his trademark falsetto style. The song’s guitar tuning was inspired by The Velvet Underground. An early demo of the song had an electro-percussion intro, before violinist Davide Rossi added the signature string opening. The song concludes with a hypnotic hidden track, Chinese Sleep Chant.
The band toyed with a number of versions of Viva La Vida before settling on the final lyrics and arrangement. The song borrows its name from a Frida Kahlo painting (“Long Live Life”). Davide Rossi, a violinist and composer, worked with the band throughout the Viva sessions, arranging and performing a soundscape of strings.
The song’s opening line and melody (“was a long and dark December”) was the first music the band wrote, and Chris Martin showed it to bassist Guy Berryman when asking him to join the group. Phil Harvey, Coldplay’s “fifth member”, was a big fan of the tune and championed its inclusion on the album. Davide Rossi (strings) and Jon Hopkins (electronics) created the song’s ambient intro. Violet Hill takes its name from a street near the famous Abbey Road.
Strawberry Swing’s Afro-pop guitar sound was inspired by Chris Martin’s time in Zimbabwe, where his mother is from. Chris stated during a live performance that the song was originally conceived in Melbourne, Australia. It’s producer Brian Eno’s voice you can hear at the very start of the track (“it’s a bit fast”).
Death And All His Friends evolved from a song called School, and was originally the beginning of EP track Rainy Day. The song features what Chris Martin called the “Coldplay Choir” — layered tracks of the band (and whoever else was in the studio) singing in unison. Producer Brian Eno came up with the “cycle of recycled revenge” lyric. A hidden song, The Escapist (built on a Jon Hopkins instrumental), closes the studio version of the track.
Coldplay released Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends in 2008. After the success of X&Y, the band felt a strong desire to become better, not just bigger. They built a recording studio (“The Bakery”) in North London, hired famed producer Brian Eno, and drew up a set of sonic rules. What resulted was Viva: a collection of musically diverse and colourful songs, painted by a rich palette of instruments.