Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends

Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends

Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends is the sound of Coldplay starting over. A gruelling tour to support their third album X&Y (2005), the recording of which was also an arduous process for the quartet, had ended with the British rock giants wondering whether they should call it a day. Instead, Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman and Will Champion completely reinvented themselves. This was a total creative overhaul. Before they even began thinking about music, first they had to recalibrate their setup. They bought and renovated a building in North London and turned it into Coldplay HQ. Christened The Bakery in a nod to its former use, here Coldplay could write, record, rehearse, discuss artwork ideas and hang out. With a studio on one level and their management offices on another, the band now had their own base from which to operate. Away from prying eyes, a reimagining could take place. It helped that their “fifth member” Phil Harvey, a long-term sounding board who had sat out the making of X&Y, was back on board as the band’s creative director. Even more crucial to Viva la Vida…’s artistic process was the inclusion of Brian Eno on co-production duties. The former Roxy Music man and Bowie collaborator brought an experimental approach to album sessions and helped Coldplay redefine what a stadium-rock record could be just as he had done with U2 two decades earlier. Eno encouraged a spirit of collaboration between band members and took them out of their comfort zones. It made for an extraordinary album, one where Coldplay ditched the idea that bigger and more bombastic was the only way to go for a group of their stature. There are exhilarating sing-alongs on Viva la Vida…—can you get more exhilarating than the outro to the title track?—and there are indelible, irresistible melodies, but there is a delicacy too, a confidence to let these songs breathe. To that end, Viva la Vida… often sounds like a Coldplay we hadn’t heard before. On the cosmic crash of instrumental opener “Life in Technicolour”, the Afropop and highlife-indebted sway of “Strawberry Swing” (a song later covered by Frank Ocean) or the airy art rock of “Lovers in Japan”, here was a band rejuvenated. Released in June 2008, Viva la Vida… went on to sell over 11 million copies, its freedom of expression giving Coldplay the belief to try anything going forward. That Coldplay went on to be a band who could collaborate with both Noel Gallagher and Beyoncé, both Femi Kuti and BTS, can be traced back here. Making Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends taught Coldplay that anything was possible.

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