Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends

Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends

Not to be confused with Viva la Vida.

Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
Released 11 June 2008
Recorded June 2007–April 2008
The Bakery, London;
The Magic Shop, NYC;
The Nunnery, Barcelona;
A Church, Barcelona
Genre Alternative rock
Length 45:49
Label Parlophone, Capitol
Producer Markus Dravs, Brian Eno, Jon Hopkins, Rik Simpson
Coldplay chronology

Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
Prospekt's March
Singles from Viva la Vida
  1. "Violet Hill"
    Released: 9 May 2008
  2. "Viva la Vida"
    Released: 25 May 2008
  3. "Lost!"
    Released: 10 November 2008
  4. "Strawberry Swing"
    Released: 13 September 2009

Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, often referred to as simply Viva la Vida, is the fourth studio album by British alternative rock band Coldplay, released on 11 June 2008 on Parlophone. The album was named after a Spanish phrase that translates in English as "Long live life", although it can also be taken as "Live the life". Lyrically, the album contains references to love, life, death, and war.

Recording sessions for the album took place during June 2007 to April 2008 and featured production by Jon Hopkins, Rik Simpson, Markus Dravs, and Brian Eno. The album was their first to be produced by Eno. The band forced themselves to explore experimental styles, as Eno required every song on the album to sound different, and expanded their musical interests while recording Viva la Vida. The band wanted to make the album shorter than 42 minutes. Despite this, the album is longer than the length they intended. Development of the album delayed the release date several times.

Viva la Vida was both a critical and commercial success. Five songs have been released in promotion of the album; "Violet Hill" and "Viva la Vida" in May 2008, "Lovers in Japan" and "Lost!" in November 2008, and "Strawberry Swing" in September 2009. "Viva la Vida" became the band's first song to reach number one in both the United States and the United Kingdom. It won Best Rock Album at the 2009 Grammy Awards and was also nominated for Album of the Year. It was the best selling album of 2008.[1] To date, the album has sold more than 10 million copies.[2] Viva la Vida was re-released on 25 November 2008 in a deluxe edition containing the original album and the Prospekt's March EP.


In October 2006, two weeks after bassist Guy Berryman welcomed his first daughter, which makes him the third Coldplay member to have a child, reports circulated that the band were taking a five-year hiatus. The new baby, and the fact that Coldplay had no touring or recording schedule at the time, had fans wondering if the band's new album would not be released until 2010. Dispelling such reports, Ambrosia Healy, spokesperson to Capitol Records, sent an e-mail message to MTV that there was no self-imposed hiatus. However, Healy clarified that Coldplay was indeed "enjoying a much-deserved break", and there was no timetable for the follow-up to the band's third studio album, X&Y.[3]

Work on the album began in November 2006, only being interrupted by the Latin America Tour in March 2007.[4]


Ambient musician and English record producer Brian Eno produced the album.[5] Coldplay moved to "The Bakery", after finishing up their Latin American Tour, building a studio there. The songs written during their time at the studio are lyrically "much more abstract, much more visual than before", and musically "less straight-forward, more oblique".[6] Additionally, Martin wanted to make a vocal transition from his trademark falsetto to a lower register.[7] This is explored in "Yes", where the main characteristic of the Velvet Underground-inspired song is the lowest vocals Chris Martin ever recorded that was suggested by the producer Brian Eno to make every single song sound different in the album. The band's drummer Will Champion said in an interview for MTV: "One of the main things we tried to focus on with this record is changing vocal identities, because Chris has a very recognizable voice."[8] Coldplay sparked an interest at Hispanic influences after having recorded in churches and in Spanish-speaking countries such as in Mexico in North America and Spain in Europe,[9] such as Barcelona.[10] However, it was stressed that the influence was not in any specific sound but a general feel to the songs taken as a whole. On their website, the band also described taking acoustic guitars and basic recording equipment to churches and experimenting with particular sounds.

Throughout the recording of the album, Coldplay communicated to fans through their website. "Famous Old Painters" and "Glass of Water" were written in late 2007 and they were considering both tracks for the album, but were not well received by the producers though the latter was added to the finalized Prospekt's March extended play tracklisting instead.[11] The album was delayed further, but a December 2007 post gave hints that the recording stage was nearly finished. The article was signed "Prospekt", strengthening rumours that this would be the album's title. While the band completed two more songs ("Lovers in Japan" and "Strawberry Swing"), they denied that the album was called "Prospekt".[11] Martin revealed he had been reading many Charles Dickens novels during the recording process which may have contributed to the strong visual imagery on such tracks as "Violet Hill" and "Cemeteries of London". In an interview for the Latin American TV channel Boomerang in 2010 Chris said that a big inspiration for the record was the book Les Misérables, which can be noted by the French revolution themes on Viva La Vida for example.[12]

When asked about why "Lovers in Japan" had an additional track, bassist Guy Berryman explained that the band couldn't make up their minds, because they had discussed that they did not want an extra song on the album, and instead they wanted to keep the album concise with a total of ten tracks (and an intended length of under 42 minutes).[11] Champion followed with, "We just preferred to have less titles and more stuff. The album as a whole has got the most on it, but it’s the shortest. We wanted to make it almost impossible for you to not listen to it all in one go."[11] In addition, vocalist Chris Martin revealed that the band had always wanted a song title which was two in one. He added that the reason for having two titles in the track listing of Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends was due to American singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake doing it for his last album, FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006).[13]

The violinist Davide Rossi contributed with Coldplay to record strings on his acoustic and electric violin (the latter being capable to reach notes as low as the upright bass, thus recreating a full orchestra) throughout the album. His strings are featured in 6 songs: Viva la Vida (the song in which his strings are the most used), Violet Hill, Life In Technicolor, 42, Yes and Strawberry Swing. Some of the songs they recorded with Rossi didn't make the cut for the album but were released in the Propekt March EP. Those songs were: Life in Technicolor ii, Rainy Day and Prospekt March.

On 18 July 2009, two early demos from the Viva la Vida recording sessions leaked onto the Internet: the previously unheard "Bloodless Revolution" and a very early version of Viva la Vida single "Lovers in Japan". A day later another demo, called "St. Stephen" appeared online. On 20 July 2009, six more demos were leaked: "The Fall of Man", "The Man Who Swears", "The Man Who Swears II" (actually just the second half of "The Man Who Swears"), "First Steps", "Loveless" and "Goodbye and Goodnight".[14]

Composition and themes

Musically, Viva la Vida contrasts with their previous albums. The title track uses an orchestra, while "Lovers in Japan" features a honky-tonk piano. "Lost!" is influenced by tribal music, whereas "Strawberry Swing" incorporates Afropop music. Martin described Viva la Vida as a new direction for Coldplay: a change from their past three albums, which they have referred to as a "trilogy".[15] He said the album featured less falsetto as he allowed his voice's lower register to take precedence.[15] Some songs, such as "Violet Hill", contain distorted guitar riffs and bluesy undertones.[15]

The album contains an array of different themes such as love, war, and revolutions. Unlike their previous releases it has a more universal approach, it deals less with personal problems and more with problems of humanity. Songs like an instrumental version of "Life in Technicolor II" (which didn't make it to the final tracklist) "Violet Hill" and "Death and All His Friends" talk about war and politics. Martin stated the lyrics of "Violet Hill" were a commentary on Fox News.[16][17] "Violet Hill" also is considered[by whom?] the first anti-war protest song from the band.[18][19] Other songs, such as the double track "Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love" and "Yes" are about love and desire.

Revolutionary themes are also an important part of the album and its promotion. Coldplay used customized French revolutionary costumes through the Viva La Vida Tour and on the videos produced for the album's singles.[20] Chris Martin said on an interview for The Sun "some say this album is brave - I just see us as being very lucky".[21] Martin stated that a big inspiration for the album was the book Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.[22]

The work of The Beatles is apparent as an inspiration throughout the album. The final line of The Escapist, the hidden track after Death and All His Friends ("And in the end/We lie awake/And we dream of making our escape..."), is very similar to the final line of The End, by The Beatles ("And in the end/The love we take/Is equal to the love we make..."). Another reference on the album to the same Beatles album (Abbey Road) can be seen in the title of the song Violet Hill, which borrows its rhythm from The Beatles. The song is named for a road which adjoins Abbey Road in London.[23]

Graphic design

The artwork for Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends was designed by Coldplay and Tappin Gofton; the latter designed the X&Y cover three years earlier. The design style for the album took months to be completed; it was initially developed from a set of large-scale sketches and paintings of expressive typo. Lyrics and song titles were boldly painted across old maps, books, copies of old paintings, newspapers and various sorts of second-hand things. The final work was photographed and later some additional typography was added by computer.[24]

Almost all tracks from the album and the Prospekt's March EP have one or more graphic images. On the album's booklet there are nine paintings made by the band. The first is a blue map of Brazil that includes part of the lyrics from "Glass of Water" painted in white. However, the image was later reworked and used as the artwork for the "Lost!" single cover. The second painting on the booklet illustrates the song "42". The image consists of part of the song's composition written in a red background, with a black stripe covering the centre. The design for "Cemeteries of London" contains an illustration of London, the song's title and a messy violet background. A portion of the lyrics is used on the top of it. The visual design for "Reign of Love" has its lyrics drawn on a green background. In the middle of the booklet, most of the lyrics of the album are shown amidst an unrecognizable object. The artwork for "Yes" consists of a ripped heart, and a line from the song, "Lord lead me not into temptation". The painting next to the song's artwork contains lyrics from "Viva la Vida". The artwork for "Death and All His Friends" was made with scissors and paper. Lyrics for the song appear in the design. The last page in the booklet is simple: a roman numeral of the number 7 painted in red and green on a yellow background.[25] Some of the paintings were shown on a screen during the Viva La Vida world tour, or used on big balloons inside of the venues.[26]

There were three covers for the album. The front cover for the standard edition is a painting by Eugène Delacroix, entitled Liberty Leading the People, which was slightly altered for the cover by using a white paint brush to draw "VIVA LA VIDA".[25] The Prospekt's March Edition cover uses the same words again, but painted in bronze and bigger, also the cover for the Prospekt's March EP included another Eugène Delacroix painting (Battle of Poitiers).[27] The cover used for the Asian Tour edition, has the word "VIVA" painted in red and black stripes against a white background,[28] this same painting was used as the home page for the official Coldplay website during a period, it was created by the band and painted by the drummer Will Champion on a wall at the studio called The Bakery.[29]

Release and promotion

In a Rolling Stone magazine interview, vocalist Chris Martin announced the album's release date and its title, Viva la Vida, which is a Spanish phrase that translates into English as "long live life".[30] It takes its name from a painting by Frida Kahlo, an acclaimed 20th century Mexican artist.[31] The album cover art is an 1830 painting by Eugène Delacroix titled Liberty Leading the People. On 10 April 2008, a new journal entry appeared on the band's website announcing the track list and release date, as well as hinting at new tracks to be issued before the album's release. "Violet Hill" was confirmed as the first single from Viva la Vida, with a release date of 5 May. In May 2008, Coldplay featured in an advertisement for Apple's iTunes with the song "Viva la Vida".

The band's official website was updated in late April to reveal the official Viva la Vida artwork as well as a free release of the single "Violet Hill", which became available for download for one week from 29 April 2008.[32] The album was leaked around 5 June and the band decided to make the album available to stream via their Myspace profile from 8:30 pm WEST on 6 June. On 25 June 2008, the band became the third band ever to perform on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, performing "42" and "Lost!".[33] On 27 June at 7:00 am EDT, Coldplay began a Today Show, outdoor, live performance on the streets outside of Rockefeller Plaza, New York.[34] The band performed on the Late Show with David Letterman on 30 June and on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on 17 July.

In August 2008, Coldplay announced they would be releasing an EP, Prospekt's March, consisting of unreleased material from the Viva la Vida recording sessions.[35] The album was re-released on 25 November 2008 in a deluxe edition, titled Viva la Vida - Prospekt's March Edition. It contains tracks from the original album and Prospekt's March.[36]

The stage setup for the Viva la Vida Tour consisted of a stripped down main stage and two catwalks; Coldplay also performed amongst audience members at the back of venues in a special acoustic set.[37] Instead of a giant video screen on-stage, the band opted for six hanging giant lightbulbs that displayed images and closeups.[37] The band started the tour playing a concert at the Brixton Academy and free shows at Madison Square Garden on 23 June, and ended the tour in Barcelona. The tour ended on March 2010 at Latin America and consisted of 172 concerts.[37]


Commercial performance

The album was successful around the world. In its first week of release it debuted at number one in 36 countries.[38] In the United Kingdom, the album sold 125,000 copies in its first day of release and 302,074 in three days, debuting at number one.[39] In its second week it sold another 198,000, achieving a platinum certification.[40] The album sold over 500,000 copies in 10 days since its release, beating the first week UK sales of Coldplay's third album, X&Y.[41] As of February 2012, the album had sold 1,413,762 copies in the UK.[42] The album debuted with sales of 41,041 copies in Australia[43] and has since been certified 4x platinum.[44] In Canada, the album debuted at No. 1 on the Canadian Albums Chart, selling 90,000 copies in its first week.[45] The album would remain at the top of the chart for five consecutive weeks, selling 176,000 copies in Canada within the first month.[46] The album has been certified five-times platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA).[47]

In the United States, it sold 316,000 copies in its first day, and 720,000 in its first week of release,[48] holding down the number one spot for two weeks, and nearly equalling X&Y's first week sales of 737,000.[49] Viva la Vida has been certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for a shipment of over two million copies.[50] Viva la Vida has become the most paid-for downloaded album of all time, with over 702,000 downloads.[51][52][53] By the end of the 2008, Viva la Vida had sold total of 2,144,000 copies, making it the second top-selling album in the United States.[54][55] As of August 2011, the album had sold 2.8 million copies in the US.[56] Globally, it was the best selling album of 2008.[57]

Critical response

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 72/100[58]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[59]
Entertainment Weekly A–[60]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[61]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[62]
NME 8/10[63]
Pitchfork Media 6.9/10[64]
PopMatters 7/10[65]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[17]
Spin 4.5/5 stars[66]

Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends has received generally positive reviews from critics. According to review aggregator website Metacritic, the album received an average critic score of 72 out of 100, based on 32 reviews.[58] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic stated, "They demonstrate a focused concentration throughout this tight album -- it's only 47 minutes yet covers more ground than X&Y and arguably A Rush of Blood to the Head -- that turns Viva la Vida into something quietly satisfying."[59] Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly magazine rated the album "A-" and called it their best album,[60] while Alexis Petridis of The Guardian, however, wrote a mixed review explaining "Viva la Vida's mild tinkering with the formula represents a failure of imagination: perhaps it's hard to think outside the box when the box is the size of the Las Vegas MGM Grand Garden Arena. Equally, however, there's a genuine conviction about its contents, a huge advance both on its predecessor and their legion of imitators."[61] Will Hermes of Rolling Stone magazine wrote that "Coldplay's desire to unite fans around the world with an entertainment they can all relate to is the band's strength, and a worthy goal. But on Viva la Vida, a record that wants to make strong statements, it's also a weakness. Sometimes, to say what needs to be said, you need to risk pissing people off."[17] Melodic magazine's critic Kaj Roth gave the album 4/5 and felt that "the typical Coldplay trademark is there too with beautiful atmospheric melodies that will embrace the heart".[67] Spin magazine's critic Mikael Wood said in a positive review of the album, "For all of Coldplay's experimentation, though, there's no doubting that Viva la Vida, with its sturdy melodies and universal themes -- think love, war and peace -- is an album meant to connect with the masses (arenas have been built for less than the climax of "Death and All His Friends"). The band's triumph lies in how exciting they make that prospect seem".[66] IGN gave the album 9.3/10[68] and Q magazine, who gave the album 4/5, said "...So some habits die hard, but on every other level Viva La an emphatic success...radical in its own measured way but easy to embrace..." Robert Christgau gave it a one-star honorable mention ((1-star Honorable Mention)), saying, "Applying all his powers, Chris Martin successfully dilutes Radiohead, with--what else?--pleasant results."[69]

The album won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album at the 2009 Grammy Awards.[70] It appeared in several year end publications' Best Albums of 2008 list including New York Post (Number 1)[71] Rolling Stone (Number 7),[72] Q (Number 3),[73] Spin (Number 9),[74] Entertainment Weekly (Number 6), and Billboard (Number 6).[75][76][77] Despite all the positive support, NME nominated the album for Worst Album at the 2009 NME Awards,[78] despite having given the album 8/10 in their review. Viva la Vida was named the number seven album of 2008 by Rolling Stone.[79][80] Also despite giving the album three stars in The Times,[81] Pete Paphides admitted in December 2008 that he was wrong to give it this score and had in fact become his favourite album of the year.[82]

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion and Chris Martin, except where noted.[83][84] Tracks 5, 6, and 10 contain two separate songs each; the latter two are hidden and not listed on the album sleeve.[85] The album is intended to be gapless and as such, some songs fade into another. 
No. Title Length
1. "Life in Technicolor" (Berryman/Buckland/Champion/Martin/Hopkins) 2:29
2. "Cemeteries of London"   3:21
3. "Lost!"   3:55
4. "42"   3:57
5. "Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love" (3:57/2:56) 6:51
6. "Yes" ((4:04) includes hidden song "Chinese Sleep Chant" (3:01)) 7:06
7. "Viva la Vida"   4:01
8. "Violet Hill"   3:42
9. "Strawberry Swing"   4:09
10. "Death and All His Friends" ((3:30) includes hidden song "The Escapist" (2:46): Berryman/Buckland/Champion/Martin/Hopkins) 6:18
Total length:
Bonus tracks
No. Title Length
11. "Lost?" (Japan and iTunes) 3:40
12. "Lovers in Japan" (Acoustic Version) (iTunes pre-order) 3:55
13. "Death Will Never Conquer" (Japanese release of Prospekt's March edition) 1:16

Prospekt's March edition

The Viva la Vida: Prospekt's March edition includes the Prospekt's March EP.

Tour edition DVD

In some Asian countries a special edition of the album was released with a DVD including the five official videos from Viva la Vida and the video for "Life in Technicolor II", from the Prospekt's March EP.[86]

No. Title Length
1. "Violet Hill"    
2. "Viva la Vida"    
3. "Lost!"    
4. "Lovers in Japan"    
5. "Life in Technicolor II"    
6. "Strawberry Swing"    


Charts and certifications

Year-end charts

Country Position
Austria[118] 8
Germany[119] 6
Greece[120] 2
Germany 49[121]
Switzerland 45[122]

Release history

Country Date Label Format Catalog number
Japan 11 June 2008[123] EMI Music Japan CD TOCP-66805 / 49880 068632 5 5
United Kingdom 12 June 2008 Parlophone CD 5 099921 211409
LP 50999 212114 1 6
Brazil 12 June 2008 EMI CD
Europe 13 June 2008 Capitol CD
Australia and New Zealand 14 June 2008 EMI CD 2169640

(Unless specified otherwise)

16 June 2008 EMI CD
Canada 17 June 2008 Capitol CD 509992 26126 0 1
United States CD 50999 2 16886 0 7
LP 50999 2 16965 1 0


External links

  • Discogs
  • Metacritic