Viva la Vida

Viva la Vida
"Viva la Vida"
Single by Coldplay
from the album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
B-side "Death Will Never Conquer"
Released 25 May 2008
Format Digital download, CD
Recorded 2007–2008
Genre Baroque pop
Length 4:01 (Full album version)
3:45 (Radio edit)
4:04 (New edit)
Label Parlophone, Capitol
Writer(s) Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion, Chris Martin
Producer Coldplay, Brian Eno, Markus Dravs, Rik Simpson
Certification Platinum ABPD[1]
Coldplay singles chronology
"Violet Hill"
"Viva la Vida"
Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends track listing
  1. "Life in Technicolor"
  2. "Cemeteries of London"
  3. "Lost!"
  4. "42"
  5. "Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love"
  6. "Yes"
  7. "Viva la Vida"
  8. "Violet Hill"
  9. "Strawberry Swing"
  10. "Death and All His Friends"
Music sample
"Viva la Vida"
Music video
"Viva la Vida" on YouTube

"Viva la Vida" (Spanish pronunciation: ['biβa la 'βiða]), is a song by the English alternative 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 means "Long live life" in Spanish.

The lyrics to the song contain historical and Christian references, and the track is built around a repeating string section with a percussion background. Coldplay performed some of the song live in The Simpsons episode "Million Dollar Maybe".[2]

The song was released on 13 June 2008 as the album's second single, debuting to critical 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 US and UK. The song won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year at the 51st Grammy Awards in 2009. The song became the sixth song in digital history to reach the 4 million mark in paid downloads.[3] It has sold over 5 million copies in the United States, becoming only the second song by a British act to reach this milestone.[4]

The song was played to the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis to wake them up on day two of STS-135, the final mission of the Space Shuttle program. It was played for crew member Douglas Hurley.

The song was played live at the Steve Jobs memorial/celebration-of-life event at Apple headquarters on October 19, 2011 in Cupertino, CA.



The song's Spanish title, "Viva la Vida", is taken from a painting by 20th century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It translates into English as "long live life".[5]

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, vocalist Chris Martin recalls, "We did quite a few different versions and went round the houses a bit and eventually settled on those treatments for it."[6]


"Viva La Vida" soars in with a grandiose instrumental arrangement and sweeping lyrics detailing the pain of being deposed from a lofty position. The big sound of the song constantly verges on becoming overblown, but Coldplay know how to walk the tightrope perfectly. Bells and chimes and orchestral swells are all there on the chorus, but Chris Martin's voice still pierces through like a clarion call. Lyrically, the pain of the protagonist is clear, but the sweep of words about Jerusalem bells, Roman cavalry, and Saint Peter give "Viva La Vida" an air of intelligence rare in today's most popular pop songs.

-Bill Lamb,[7]

The lyrics to "Viva la Vida" contain many Biblical references.[8] For example, "pillars of sand" is a clear reference to the Biblical parable given by Jesus about the fool who built his house on sand, and the wise man who built it on solid rock, while "pillars of salt" is a reference to Lot's wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt. "I know Saint Peter won't call my name" refers to the popular tradition of St. Peter guarding the gates of Heaven. He is often depicted in art as holding the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven per the Petrine doctrine and the Biblical reference in Matthew 16:19. He is also commonly depicted with the book of life reading off the names of those individuals who had believed in Jesus Christ as per Revelation 20. The term "... my head upon a silver plate" refers to the beheading of St. John the Baptist when Salome demanded his head delivered to her upon a platter.

The song has inspired a great deal of debate about its meaning. People have claimed that the song may be about various subjects, such as the French Revolution.[9] The band members themselves do not appear to have corroborated any of these claims, and have referred only to kings and revolutionaries in general, rather than any particular king.

Martin has explained the song lyric "I know Saint Peter won't call my name" in an interview with Q magazine: "It's about ... You're not on the list. I was a naughty boy. It's always fascinated me that idea of finishing your life and then being analyzed on it. And this idea runs throughout most religions. That's why people blow up buildings. Because they think they're going to get lots of virgins. I always feel like saying, just join a band ... That is the most frightening thing you could possibly say to somebody. Eternal damnation. I know about this stuff because I studied it. I was into it all. I know it. It's still mildly terrifying to me. And this is serious."[10] When asked about the song, bass guitarist Guy Berryman said: "It's a story about a king who's lost his kingdom, and all the album's artwork is based on the idea of revolutionaries and guerrillas. There's this slightly anti-authoritarian viewpoint that's crept into some of the lyrics and it's some of the pay-off between being surrounded by governments on one side, but also we're human beings with emotions and we're all going to die and the stupidity of what we have to put up with every day. Hence the album title."[11]

Unlike the typical arrangement of Coldplay songs, in which either the piano or guitar is the prominent instrument, the track mostly consists of a string section playing the song's upbeat riff, along with a steady bass drum beat, percussion (including a timpani and a church bell), bass guitar, and Martin's vocals; there is limited use of electric guitar in the song. All the strings are arranged and performed by violinist Davide Rossi, who is also one of the main collaborators of the album. Rossi's strings comprise the main driving force throughout the song, with a strong beginning loop that supports Martin's voice, until the choruses where the symphonic power of the orchestra takes its fullest shape.[12] The song is played in the key of A major at a tempo of 138 beats per minute, while the vocal range spans E3–A4.[13] Although Coldplay are widely labeled as an "alternative rock" band, the classical composition and historical subject matter of "Viva la Vida" have led to the song being labeled as "baroque pop" and "chamber pop".[14][15]

Release and promotion

Chris Martin performing "Viva la Vida" during the band's 2008 Viva la Vida Tour

"Viva la Vida" was initially released only with iTunes Store pre-orders of Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends on 7 May 2008 – the "new edit" version of the song – which led to the song's temporary exclusion from the UK Singles Chart.[16] It was released as a download-only single on 25 May 2008, and a physical CD single in Europe on 29 July 2008 to coincide with the release of the single's music videos. "Viva la Vida" was well-downloaded in the internet, becoming iTunes' best-selling song of 2008.[17] From 24 December 2008 to 5 January 2009 an official remix of the song, named the "Thin White Duke Mix", was given away for free as a Christmas gift via the band's website.

The song was used as part of Apple Inc.'s iPod + iTunes advertisement campaign.[18][19] Coldplay performed the song live for the first time at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards.[20][21] It has since gone on to make many media appearances, including being featured throughout the episode "A Person of Interest" from the paranormal drama Medium, as a song played on the radio in the episode "We're Not in Kansas Anymore" from the teen drama 90210,[22] used as bumper music on Bill Bennett's "Morning in America" radio talk show, and on the international soundtrack to the Brazilian soap opera A Favorita which helped push "Viva la Vida" up the charts in Brazil, where the telenovela been shown.[23] "Viva la Vida" was the entrance music for Birmingham City Football Club during the 2009-2010 season, but was quickly dropped after negative response by the supporters. In 2009, Solange Knowles covered the song.[24] Lady Gaga also covered the song for BBC Radio 1.[25] A live version of the song appeared on Coldplay's 2009 live album LeftRightLeftRightLeft.[26] Pet Shop Boys also performed the song live on their 2009 Pandemonium Tour and the song appeared on their Christmas EP.[27] It was also used in an episode entitled "Million Dollar Maybe" of The Simpsons. The song was covered in the seventh series of The X Factor by the boyband One Direction in 2010.

Music videos

Screenshot from the Hype Williams video
Screenshot from the Anton Corbijn video

The official music video for "Viva la Vida" was directed by Hype Williams and premiered at Coldplay's official website on 1 August 2008.[28] The video depicts the band performing against a blurry, warped version of Eugène Delacroix's painting La Liberté guidant le peuple. Since its release, this video "Viva La Vida" has become one of the most viewed music videos on YouTube, with over 100,000,000 views worldwide.

A second, alternate video was shot in The Hague, the Netherlands, directed by Anton Corbijn and released alongside the first.[29] 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.


Critical response

Will Champion performing "Viva la Vida" during the Viva la Vida Tour

Critics were generally positive towards the song. In the Entertainment Weekly review of the album, critic Chris Willman wrote: "Take the title track ... on which [Martin] imagines himself as a paranoid monarch. 'Who would ever want to be king?' Martin asks. 'Revolutionaries wait/For my head on a silver plate!'. The confident majesty of the music, however, belies how he and his bandmates have invigorated their rock-lite reign."[18] Josh Hathaway from The Plain Dealer noted "Viva la Vida" as the "catchiest" song on the album.[30] Chris Jones of the BBC noted: "The string/brass mutations that bolster a track like 'Viva La Vida' ... conjure tunes so sweetly melancholy."[31] In the IGN review, critic Chad Grischow wrote, "It is their one and only foray into unabashed orchestral pop, but the punchy strut of the strings and fantastic marching vocals make it far too charming and lively to dislike, and even harder not to love."[32] "Viva la Vida" was nominated for "Record of the Year", and won "Song of the Year", and "Best Pop Performance by a Duo or a Group" at the 2009 Grammy Awards.[33][34] This song also won the Ivor Novello Award for "Best Selling British Single".[35] The song was included in Rolling Stone's annual "100 Best Songs" of 2008 at number nine;[36] it was also voted number two on Rolling Stone's Readers' Rock List: Best Songs of 2008.[37] "Viva la Vida" was also listed at number five on Blender's 1001 Downloads: The Top 144 Songs of 2008,[38] as well in the number eight position on Village Voice's Pazz and Jop list.[39]

"Viva la Vida" has also been sampled in other several songs, such as in Flo-Rida's single "Be on You" and Drake's "Congratulations".

Chart performance

"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 US number-one single and their second top ten on the Hot 100.[40][41] 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.[42] Although the song was initially successful in digital sales,[40][41] after being released, it went on to become the band's highest-charting single in American radio, becoming their first top ten hit on the Hot 100 Airplay where it peaked at number eight.[43] It had also become the band's first number-one single on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.[44] "Viva la Vida" also became the first song to top both the Hot 100 and Modern Rock chart since Nickelback's "How You Remind Me" in 2001 and 2002. 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.[45] The single has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[46] The song also became one of the first six songs to reach the 4 million mark in paid digital downloads. As of June 2011, it had sold 5,000,000 units in the US.[4]

The single was also successful in the United Kingdom. Although the song had been disqualified from the UK charts due to initially being available only by pre-ordering the album on iTunes, it became eligible to chart after the album was released. "Viva la Vida" hit number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Coldplay's first chart-topping single in the UK.[47] The song remained in the top 40 through early 2009, and on 15 March 2009 dropped to number 34.[citation needed]

In Canada, the single made a "Hot Shot Debut" at number four on the Canadian Hot 100 on the issue of 24 May, making it Coldplay's highest debut there.[48] It is also Coldplay's highest charting single in Australia, where it reached number 2.

In Spain, the single peaked at #2 and achieved Double Platinum status due to the 80,000 copies sold. It also had a strong airplay on the Spanish radio stations.

Sporting usage

During the 2008/2009 season, the German football club Hamburg SV used "Viva la Vida" as their goal celebration song.

The song also became the anthem of Spanish football club FC Barcelona during the 2008-09 season. It turned out to be a season of unprecedented success for the Catalan side in 2009, as they won all six competitions they could possible be involved in, which no football club has managed before in history. The song was selected by the manager of the club, Josep Guardiola - himself a Coldplay fan - to help motivate and encourage his team. It is often played at the Camp Nou before the start of a Barcelona match.

The National Hockey League's New York Rangers play "Viva la Vida" at Madison Square Garden after victories.

The song was used by the Vancouver Canucks in a tribute video during Markus Näslund's number retirement ceremony held in Vancouver's Rogers Arena.

This is the at-bat music of Scott Rolen, third baseman of the Cincinnati Reds.

The song was also used pre match during every 2008 Rugby League World Cup game before the two teams took to the field.

Plagiarism allegations

Coldplay were first accused of plagiarism of "The Songs I Didn't Write" by American alternative band Creaky Boards, for the melody of "Viva la Vida".[49] Creaky Boards' band member Andrew Hoepfner claimed that Martin had heard them playing the song at a live show in October 2007.[50] The band released a video clip, in which it compares sections of both songs.[50] 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.[51] 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.[50] Creaky Boards later retracted the accusations and speculated that both songs may have been inspired by the video game The Legend of Zelda.[51]

On 4 December 2008, American guitarist Joe Satriani filed a copyright infringement suit against Coldplay in Los Angeles.[52] 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?.[53] The band has denied the allegation, saying the similarities were "entirely coincidental".[54] On 14 September 2009, the case was dismissed by the California Central District Court, with both parties potentially agreeing to an out-of-court settlement.[55]

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?'"[56] Islam said that any legal action he might take "depends on how well Satriani does."[56] Coldplay drummer Will Champion denied the claim, stating, "We're confident we haven't done anything wrong."[57] 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."[58]

Chris Martin once said that the plagirism allegations were inspiring him and added: "if everyone’s trying to take away our best song, then we’d better write 25 better ones!".[59] 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."[60]

Cover versions

Darin version

"Viva la Vida"
Single by Darin Zanyar
from the album Lovekiller
Released October 2009
Format CD single, digital download
Recorded 2009
Genre Pop
Label UNI
Writer(s) Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland,
Will Champion, Chris Martin
Darin Zanyar singles chronology
"What If" "Viva la Vida" "You're Out of My Life"

Swedish singer Darin's cover of the song reached number 1 on 30 October 2009 on the Swedish Singles Chart.[61] The song appears in Darin's 2010 album Lovekiller.

In 2010, it was yet again included as the B-side of Darin's "You're Out of My Life" single, reaching #3 in the Swedish Singles Chart.

Coldplay's original single had already charted in Sweden for a total of 49 weeks between 15 May 2008 and 23 October 2009, peaking at number seven.[62]

Preceded by
"Töntarna" by Kent
Swedish Singles Chart number-one single
Darin version

October 30, 2009 – November 12, 2009
Succeeded by
"2000" by Kent

Other cover versions

  • Electropop artist Joy Electric covered the song on the 2009 album Favorites at Play.
  • Lady Gaga performed an acoustic version to the song on piano on "Radio 1 Live Lounge", changing some of the words in the lyrics.
  • Pet Shop Boys covered the song during their Pandemonium Tour of 2009 mixed with the chorus portion of their own hit Domino Dancing. The song was included as a studio version on their Christmas EP in December 2009 and the live version was included on their Pandemonium live album in 2010. They also covered the song at Glastonbury 2010.
  • Rapper Shawty Lo sampled this song for his song, "Roll The Dice", which is best known for ending Lo's feud with T.I., the lines, "I used to roll the dice Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes Listen 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.. (Listen as the crowd would sing "Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!")", was used as the chorus. It features Chris Martin for the chorus.
  • The song was sampled for a Swizz Beats Hip-Hop song entitled "That Oprah".
  • VV Brown covered the song for the first time on 6 January 2010, on French TV show Taratata.
  • The Dirty Heads covered the song on YouTube's RAWsession. Watch Video
  • The song was covered in 2008 by Japanese idol group SMAP, as a collaboration with Coldplay. They performed this song together (as Smaplay) on an episode of SMAP's television variety program, SMAP×SMAP. A famous portrait of the French Revolution appears near the end, suggesting the song's questionable meaning. Watch Video
  • Boyce Avenue covered an acoustic version of the song on YouTube in 2009. Watch Video
  • Drake sampled the song as "Congratulations" for a bonus track of his 2009 mixtape So Far Gone.
  • Matt Giraud covered the song during the eighth season of American Idol.
  • Tim Urban covered the song during the ninth season of American Idol.
  • K'naan covered the song at Mod Club Theatre and at several of his live shows in 2009. Watch Video
  • Westlife performed a one off version of the song in the O2 Blueroom in Dublin on 20 August 2010. Then performed again as part of their medley on their 2011 Gravity Tour.
  • Weezer included their cover version of the song on the deluxe edition of their 2010 album Hurley.
  • Solange Knowles performed the song live, including it on the setlist of her AOL Sessions to promote her second studio album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams.
  • Taylor Swift performed an acoustic version of the song on the Simon Mayo Drivetime show for BBC Radio 2.
  • One Direction performed the song on Week 1 of X Factor Series 7 Live Shows. Cher Lloyd sang a hip-hop version of the song during the bootcamp stage.
  • Penn Masala covered the song, mixing it with "Jashn-e-Bahara" from Jodhaa Akbar on their album Panoramic.
  • The cast of the U.S television show Glee will be covering the song in a future episode.[63]
  • Pianist Jon Schmidt composed a mashup of Taylor Swift's "Love Story" and Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" that received over 1.5 million hits on YouTube. However, he was unable to contact Coldplay or their representatives to obtain permission for the song and was thus legally compelled to remove his video from YouTube; he later reworked the composition to remove all traces of the Coldplay song.
  • 2Cellos is a cello duo consisting of Croatian cellists Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser, and they did a cover of "Viva la Vida" in their debut album "2Cellos".

Track listing

Digital download
  1. "Viva la Vida" (New edit) – 4:04
Promotional CD
  1. "Viva la Vida" (Radio edit) – 3:45
  2. "Viva la Vida" (Full album version) – 4:01
CD release
  1. "Viva la Vida" – 4:02
  2. "Death Will Never Conquer" – 1:17
Bootleg Version
  1. "Viva la Vida - DMS12 mix" – 7:01


Chart (2008) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[64] 2
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 75)[65] 6
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[66] 4
Belgium (Ultratop 40 Wallonia)[67] 7
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[68] 4
Czech Republic (IFPI)[69] 1
Denmark (Tracklisten)[70] 8
European Hot 100 Singles[71] 3
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[72] 10
France (SNEP)[73] 7
Germany (Media Control AG)[74] 5
Italy (FIMI)[75] 2
Ireland (IRMA)[76] 3
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[77] 90
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[78] 4
New Zealand (RIANZ)[79] 16
Norway (VG-lista)[80] 5
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[81] 2
Slovakia (IFPI)[82] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[83] 7
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[84] 5
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[85] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[86] 1
US Pop Songs (Billboard)[87] 12

Year-end charts

Chart (2008) Position
German Singles Chart 26 [88]
Swedish Singles Chart[89] 16
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 13
Chart (2009) Position
Australian Singles Chart 92[90]
Swiss Singles Chart[91] 31
UK Singles Chart[92] 126
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 55[93]

Decade-end charts

End of decade chart (2000–2009) Position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[94] 49


Country Certifications
(sales thresholds)
Australia Platinum[95]
Belgium Gold[96]
Brazil Platinum[97]
Denmark Platinum[98]
Finland Gold[99]
Germany Gold[100]
New Zealand Platinum[101]
Spain 3× Platinum[102]
Switzerland Platinum[103]
United Kingdom Gold[104]
United States 3× Platinum[105]

Chart procession and succession

Preceded by
"Singin' in the Rain" by Mint Royale
UK Singles Chart number-one single
22 June 2008 – 29 June 2008
Succeeded by
"Closer" by Ne-Yo
Preceded by
"Lollipop" by Lil Wayne featuring Static Major
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
28 June 2008
Succeeded by
"I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry
Preceded by
"Let It Die" by Foo Fighters
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks number-one single
30 August 2008 – 13 September 2008
Succeeded by
"Believe" by Staind
Preceded by
"It's Not My Time" by 3 Doors Down
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks number-one single
16 August 2008 – 23 August 2008
Succeeded by
"I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz
Preceded by
"The Time of My Life" by David Cook
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks number-one single
07 February 2009
Succeeded by
"I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz
Preceded by
"I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry
Dutch Top 40 number-one single
4 October 2008 – 18 October 2008
Succeeded by
"Show Me Love 2008" by Robin S.


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