"Viva la Vida" 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). On the album, this song segues directly into the next track on the album, "Violet Hill".
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". During the album's production, "Viva la Vida" is 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."
"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, About.com.
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. 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." 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."
"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. 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. 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. Coldplay performed the song live for the first time at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards. 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, 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 has been shown. "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. A live version of the song appeared on Coldplay's 2009 live album LeftRightLeftRightLeft.
Critics were 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." Josh Hathaway from The Plain Dealer noted "Viva la Vida" as the "catchiest" song on the album. Chris Jones of the BBC noted: "The string/brass mutations that bolster a track like 'Viva La Vida' ... conjure tunes so sweetly melancholy." 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."
"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. This song also won the Ivor Novella Award for "Best Selling British Single". The song was included in Rolling Stone's annual "100 Best Songs" of 2008 at number nine; it was also voted number two on Rolling Stone's Readers' Rock List: Best Songs of 2008. "Viva la Vida" was also listed at number five on Blender's 1001 Downloads: The Top 144 Songs of 2008, as well in the number eight position on Village Voice's Pazz and Jop list.
"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. 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, and it is the first song by a British rock band to top the chart since UB40's 1993 song "Can't Help Falling in Love". Although the song was initially successful in digital sales, 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. It had also become the band's first number-one single on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. "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. The single has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The song also become one of six songs to reach the 4 million mark in paid digital downloads.
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. The song remained in the top 40 through early 2009, and on 15 March 2009 dropped to number 34.
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. 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 in the Spanish radio stations.
During the 2008/2009 season, the German football club Hamburger SV used "Viva la Vida" as their goal celebration song. The song also became the anthem of Catalan football club FC Barcelona during the 2008-09 season. It turned out to be a season of unprecedented success for the Catalan side, as they won all six competitions they could possible be involved in, which two football club has managed before. 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. Canadian figureskater Patrick Chan has used this song for his short program.
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". Creaky Boards' band member Andrew Hoepfner claimed that Martin had heard them playing the song at a live show in October 2007. The band released a video clip, in which it compares sections of both songs. 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. 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. Creaky Boards later retracted the accusations and speculated that both songs may have been inspired by the video game The Legend of Zelda.
On 4 December 2008, American guitarist Joe Satriani filed a copyright infringement suit against Coldplay in Los Angeles. 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?. The band has denied the allegation, saying the similarities were "entirely coincidental". 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.
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?'" Islam said that any legal action he might take "depends on how well Satriani does." Coldplay drummer Will Champion denied the claim, stating, "We're confident we haven't done anything wrong." 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."