Viva la Vida

"Viva la Vida" (/ˈvvə lə ˈvdə/, Spanish: [ˈbiβa la ˈβiða]; Spanish for "Long Live Life") is a song by British 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"
Single by Coldplay
from the album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
B-side"Death Will Never Conquer"
Released25 May 2008 (2008-05-25)
GenreBaroque pop[1]
Coldplay singles chronology
"Violet Hill"
"Viva la Vida"
"Lovers in Japan"
Music video
"Viva La Vida" on YouTube
"Viva La Vida" (Alternative Version) on YouTube

The lyrics to the song contain historical and Christian references, and the track is built around a looping string section in unison with a digital processed piano, with other layers gradually being added as the song builds.

The song was released on 13 June 2008 as the album's second single, debuting to critical acclaim 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 U.S. and U.K. The song won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards in 2009. The song became the sixth song to reach the 4 million mark in paid downloads in the United States.[2] It has sold over 7.1 million copies worldwide by 2014, and over 6 million in the U.S. alone by June 2013.[3][4]


The song's Spanish title, "Viva la Vida", is taken from a painting by 20th-century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. In Spanish viva is an expression used to acclaim someone or something,[5] so "Long Live Life" is an accurate translation and the painting reflects the artistic irony of acclaiming life while suffering physically.[6] When asked about the album's title, referring to Frida Kahlo's strength, enduring polio, a broken spine, and a decade of chronic pain, lead singer Chris Martin said: "She went through a lot of pain, of course, and then she started a big painting in her house that said 'Viva la Vida', I just loved the boldness of it."[7]

During the album's production, "Viva la Vida" was one of the songs that had polarised each member's opinion over which version they should choose. In an interview, Martin recalled: "We did quite a few different versions and went round the houses a bit and eventually settled on those treatments for it."[8]


"'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 knows 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 Catholic choirs, and Saint Peter give 'Viva La Vida' an air of intelligence rare in today's most popular pop songs."

—Bill Lamb,[9]

The lyrics to "Viva la Vida" are narrated by a protagonist who says he "used to rule the world". 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."[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 then-typical arrangement of Coldplay songs, in which either the guitar or piano is the prominent instrument, the track mostly consists of a string section and a digital piano playing the song's upbeat riff, along with a steady bass drum beat, percussion (including a timpano and a church bell), bass guitar, and Martin's vocals; there is limited use of electric guitar. All the strings are arranged and conducted by violinist Davide Rossi, who is 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. The prominent chords played by the string section throughout the song (and in the chorus of "Rainy Day," another of the band's songs) are very similar to those used by "Viva la Vida" co-producer Brian Eno in his piece "An Ending (Ascent)," meaning they could have been suggested partially for the song by Eno.[12]

The song is written in the key of A-flat major. Its main chord progression is D♭/E♭/A♭/Fm. Time signature is 4/4 and the tempo is 138.

Release and promotion

"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.[13] 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.[14]

The song was used as part of Apple Inc.'s iPod + iTunes advertisement campaign.[15][16] Coldplay performed the song live for the first time at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards.[17][18] 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,[19] 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 had been shown.[20] In 2009, Solange Knowles covered the song.[21] Lady Gaga also covered the song for BBC Radio 1.[22] A live version of the song appeared on Coldplay's 2009 live album LeftRightLeftRightLeft.[23] Pet Shop Boys also performed the song live on their 2009 Pandemonium Tour and the song appeared on their Christmas EP.[24] 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

The official music video for "Viva la Vida" was directed by Hype Williams and premiered at Coldplay's official website on 1 August 2008.[25] The video depicts the band performing against a blurry, warped version of Eugène Delacroix's painting La Liberté guidant le peuple, ending with the band members crumbling into rose petals. The video currently has almost 585 million views on YouTube.[26]

A second, alternate video was shot in The Hague, the Netherlands, directed by Anton Corbijn and released alongside the first.[27] 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 bandmates surface heading his way, tying in loose ends from the "Violet Hill" video.

Critical reception

"Viva la Vida" received widespread critical acclaim. 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."[15] Josh Hathaway from The Plain Dealer noted "Viva la Vida" as the "catchiest" song on the album.[28] Chris Jones of the BBC noted: "The string/brass mutations that bolster a track like 'Viva La Vida' ... conjure tunes so sweetly melancholy."[29] 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."[30]

"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.[31][32] This song also won the Ivor Novello Award for "Best Selling British Single".[33] The song was included in Rolling Stone's annual "100 Best Songs" of 2008 at number nine;[34] it was also voted number two on Rolling Stone's Readers' Rock List: Best Songs of 2008.[35] "Viva la Vida" was also listed at number five on Blender's 1001 Downloads: The Top 144 Songs of 2008,[36] as well in the number eight position on Village Voice's Pazz and Jop list.[37] According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 455th most celebrated song in popular music history, and the 2nd best song of 2008.[38]

"Viva la Vida" has been sampled in several other songs, including Flo Rida's single "Be on You", Mac Miller's "Cut the Check" featuring Chief Keef (from his GO:OD AM album) and Drake's "Congratulations" from his So Far Gone mixtape.

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 and, to date, only US number-one single and their second top ten on the Hot 100.[39][40] 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 1997.[41] Although the song was initially successful in digital sales,[39][40] 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.[42] It had also become the band's first number-one single on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.[43] 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.[44] The single has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[45] The song also became one of the first six songs to reach the 4 million mark in paid digital downloads. As of January 2014, it had sold 6,131,000 units in the US.[46]

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]

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 one of Coldplay's three highest-charting singles in Australia, reaching number two (both "A Sky Full of Stars" and "Something Just Like This" matched this peak in 2014 and 2017, respectively). In New Zealand, the song was less successful, only peaking at number 16; however, the song stayed in the top 40 for 27 non-consecutive weeks.

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 2008–09 season, the German football club Hamburger SV used "Viva la Vida" as their goal celebration song. It's also the goal celebration song of the German football club Hannover 96. 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 Spanish club in 2009, as they won all six competitions they could possibly be involved in, which no football club has managed before in history. The song was selected by the manager of the club, Pep Guardiola – himself a Coldplay fan – to help motivate and encourage his team. It was often played at the Camp Nou before the start of a Barcelona match. The song was also played during Pep Guardiola's farewell before his final match coaching Barcelona at the Nou Camp, a 4–0 victory against Espanyol on 5 May 2012. UEFA used "Viva la Vida" as the goal celebration song for the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final[49] and Europa League Final.

The National Hockey League's New York Rangers played "Viva la Vida" at Madison Square Garden after victories during the 2011 season.[50] 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. It was also used in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals when the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup on Vancouver Ice. The Kansas City Chiefs play the song at the end of home games in Arrowhead Stadium. Additionally, it is also used by the Kansas City Royals to celebrate home runs and wins at Kauffman Stadium. This was the at-bat music of Scott Rolen, former 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 and in the halftime show of Super Bowl 50 in 2016.

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".[51] Creaky Boards' band member Andrew Hoepfner claimed that Martin had heard them playing the song at a live show in October 2007.[52] The band released a video clip, in which it compares sections of both songs.[52] 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.[53] 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.[52] Creaky Boards later retracted the accusations and speculated that both songs may have been inspired by the video game The Legend of Zelda.[53]

On December 4, 2008, American guitarist Joe Satriani filed a copyright infringement suit against Coldplay in Los Angeles.[54][55] 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?[56] The band has denied the allegation, saying the similarities were "entirely coincidental".[57] On September 14, 2009, the case was dismissed by the California Central District Court, with both parties potentially agreeing to an out-of-court settlement.[58]

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?'"[59] Islam said that any legal action he might take "depends on how well Satriani does."[59] Coldplay drummer Will Champion denied the claim, stating, "We're confident we haven't done anything wrong."[60] 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."[61]

In a documentary for Sveriges Television (2011) American music professor Dr. Lawrence Ferrara showed that the melody structures of "Viva La Vida", "If I Could Fly" and "Foreigner Suite" were very similar to the composition "Se tu m'ami" by the Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, who died in 1736. "Obviously this is a work that we would call in the 'public domain'", Dr. Ferrara said.[62]

Chris Martin once said that the plagiarism allegations were inspiring him and added: "If everyone's trying to take away our best song, then we'd better write 25 better ones!"[63] 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."[64]

Formats and track listings

Digital download
1."Viva la Vida" (New edit)4:04
CD single
1."Viva la Vida"4:01
2."Death Will Never Conquer"1:18
Promotional CD single
1."Viva la Vida" (Radio edit)3:45
2."Viva la Vida" (Album version)4:01

Live version

"Lost+ / Viva la Vida (Live at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards)"
Single by Coldplay with Jay-Z
Released8 February 2009 (2009-02-08)
FormatDigital download
Recorded8 February 2009
VenueThe Staples Center, Los Angeles, U.S.
Coldplay singles chronology
"Life in Technicolor II"
"Lost+ / Viva la Vida (Live at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards)"
"Strawberry Swing"
Jay-Z singles chronology
"Jockin' Jay-Z (Dope Boy Fresh)"
"Lost+ / Viva la Vida (Live at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards)"
"D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)"

The song and "Lost+" were performed live at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, which took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on February 8, 2009. Coldplay performed a medley of "Lost+" and "Viva la Vida" at the ceremony. American rapper, Jay-Z, who was the guest vocalist on "Lost+", performed "Lost+" with Coldplay on stage.

The performance was recorded and released on 8 February 2009, after the release of "Life in Technicolor II"

Track listing

Lost+ (featuring Jay-Z) / Viva la Vida (Live At the 51st Annual Grammy Awards)
1."Lost+ (featuring Jay-Z) / Viva la Vida"5:35
2."Lost+ (featuring Jay-Z) / Viva la Vida" (Video)5:35

Cover versions

Darin version

"Viva la Vida"
Single by Darin Zanyar
from the album Lovekiller
ReleasedOctober 2009
Darin Zanyar singles chronology
"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.[65] 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.[66]

Other versions

  • 2Cellos performed an instrumental cover of "Viva la Vida" in their debut album 2Cellos.
  • Weezer included their cover version of the song on the deluxe edition of their 2010 album Hurley.
  • Electropop artist Joy Electric covered the song on the 2009 album Favorites at Play.
  • Canadian band The Abrams Brothers covered "Viva la Vida" on the album Northern Redemption.
  • Australian singer Mark Vincent recorded a version for his 2013 album The Quartet Sessions
  • Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox recorded a cover on YouTube and on the album Top Hat on Fleek, with Puddles Pity Party as the lead vocalist.
  • DJ Jonathan Hussein included an Trance remix version of "Viva la Vida" under the pseudonym "Trance Winter" in their album I'm Here in 2016.
  • German violinist David Garrett recorded a cover of Viva la Vida, made with a loop station, included on his 2012 album "Music".
  • Famous Minecraft Youtuber CaptainSparklez released a Parody of this song on his YouTube channel titled Fallen Kingdom.
  • Rapper Shawty Lo sampled "Viva la Vida" in his 2009 song "Roll the Dice", which was released to celebrate the ending of his feud with fellow rapper T.I. over the prior year.[67]
  • Boy band supergroup NKOTBSB performed a medley of their songs "Single" and "The One" over the instrumentation of "Viva la Vida" to open each of their concerts during their 2011-12 tour.[68]



Region CertificationCertified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[143] Platinum 70,000^
Belgium (BEA)[144] Platinum 30,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[145] Gold 40,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[146] Platinum 90,000^
Germany (BVMI)[147] Gold 150,000^
Italy (FIMI)[148] 2× Platinum 100,000
New Zealand (RMNZ)[149] Platinum 15,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[150] 3× Platinum 120,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[151] Platinum 30,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[152] 2× Platinum 1,440,000[153]
United States (RIAA)[154] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
sales+streaming figures based on certification alone

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