"Violet Hill" is a song by 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.
Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin revealed that the band wrote the first line and the first little melody of the song years ago but did not finish it until 2007. Martin told Rolling Stone magazine that lyrics from the song about "a carnival of idiots on show" and how a "fox became God" were a commentary on Fox News. "One day I was watching Bill O'Reilly, and I was like, 'I know how to finish that song. My best friend, Tim ... was having trouble with his boss, and it made me think that so many people spend their lives being told what to do by people that they just don't like. So it was that idea, and watching Bill O'Reilly, and all these words just came out."
During an interview with MTV News, bassist Guy Berryman revealed that the song was one of the older songs that the band had been working on and that they had to move it to one side from the list of songs that were going to appear in the album. Phil Harvey, the band's manager, urged them to include the track in the album, which led to the band to drag it back to the shortlist.
The song is the first anti-war protest song from the band, and it borrows its rhythm from British band The Beatles. "Violet Hill" derives its title from a street of the same name near Abbey Road.
The band announced on 28 April 2008 that the single would be released on the official Coldplay website on 29 April 2008 for free for one week before the paid download on 6 May. The song was downloaded for free by over 600,000 people in the 24 hours since it was made available at 12:15 p.m. on 29 April. In the subsequent week, the single was downloaded 2 million times from the Coldplay website.
Coldplay released "Violet Hill" in the US on 9 May 2008 as the album's first single. A promotional 7" vinyl release of the single was given away free in the 10 May issue of NME, including non-album track "A Spell a Rebel Yell" on the B-side. On subsequent physical releases, "Lost?", an acoustic recording of album track "Lost!" serves as "Violet Hill"'s B-side instead.
The single debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100 on 24 May 2008 at number 40. The song stayed in the peak position from its release. Three weeks after its release, the track entered at the number nine position on Hot Modern Rock Tracks. The song peaked at number six in Canada Singles Chart and number eight in the UK Singles Chart, making it the second single to reach the Top 10 to have not having a single released physically. "Violet Hill" was certified Platinum by Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Discos (ABDP).
Critics were positive towards the song. In the Los Angeles Times review of the album, critic Todd Martens wrote: "The song's first guitar crush arrives after a lengthy ambient intro, and brings an electrifying jolt to the striking piano melody. Martin brings a booming confidence to his vocals that has been more evident in Coldplay's live shows than on record." Simon Vozick-Levinson from Entertainment Weekly wrote: "'Violet Hill' opens with a thin synth wash that's very Music for Airports, and proceeds from there to some droning, stabbing guitar textures that sound cooler than most any Coldplay tunes I can think of." Kristina Feliciano of Paste magazine wrote: "You know you're in for a different kind of Coldplay experience when Chris Martin ditches his anguished falsetto for a deep, doomy basso profundo, as he does on 'Violet Hill'". Mikael Wood of Spin magazine wrote: "'Violet Hill' pulls a similar fake-out, bludgeoning a delicate Eno-style soundscape with big Black Sabbath guitars." Darcie Stevens of the Austin Chronicle wrote: "While the band's fourth LP begins light and pretty, its power breaks late-album with Old West tangent 'Violet Hill'". The song appeared on Rolling Stone's Hot List for May 2009, with the magazine calling it "a (relatively) hard-rocking attack on Fox News' America".
The official video for "Violet Hill" was nominated for Best UK Video as well as Best Special Effects for the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. The track was also nominated for two Q awards in the categories of Best Track and Best Video; the song lost in both categories to Keane's "Spiralling" in Best Track and Vampire Weekend's "A-Punk" in Best Video, respectively. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards in the categories of Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group.