The Scientist (song)

"The Scientist"
Single by Coldplay
from the album A Rush of Blood to the Head
  • "1.36"
  • "I Ran Away"
Released 4 November 2002
Recorded 2001
Genre Alternative rock
  • 5:09 (album version)
  • 4:26 (radio edit)
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Coldplay singles chronology
"In My Place"
"The Scientist"
Music video
"The Scientist" on YouTube

"The Scientist" is the second single from the British alternative rock band Coldplay's second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002). The song was written collaboratively by all the band members for the album. It is built around a piano ballad, with its lyrics telling the story about a man's desire to love and an apology. The song was released in the United Kingdom as the second single from A Rush of Blood to the Head and reached number 10 in the UK Charts. It was released in the United States as the third single and reached number 18 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and number 34 on the Adult Top 40 chart.

Critics were highly positive towards "The Scientist" and praised the song's piano ballad and falsetto. Several remixes of the track exist, and its riff has been widely sampled. The single's music video won three MTV Music Video Awards, for the video's use of reverse narrative. The song was also featured on the band's 2003 live album Live 2003 and has been a permanent fixture in the band's live set lists since 2002.


Lead singer Chris Martin wrote "The Scientist" after listening to George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass".[1] In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Martin revealed that while working on the band's second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, he knew that the album was missing something.[2] One night, during a stay in Liverpool,[3] Martin found an old piano that was out of tune. He wanted to work on Harrison's song, "Isn't It a Pity", but he could not manage to do so. When the song came to Martin, he asked that the recorder be turned on.[2] He concluded by saying that he came across this chord sequence and noted that the chord was "lovely".[4] Martin recorded the vocals and piano takes in a studio in Liverpool.[5]

When asked about the development of the song, during a track-by-track reveal, Martin said: "That's just about girls. It's weird that whatever else is on your mind, whether it's the downfall of global economics or terrible environmental troubles, the thing that always gets you most is when you fancy someone."[6] The liner notes from A Rush of Blood to the Head, on the other hand, states that "The Scientist is Dan.", with Dan referring to Dan Keeling, the A&R man who signed the band to Parlophone.[6]


"The Scientist" excerpt
From the album A Rush of Blood to the Head. This sample includes a portion of chorus, as well as an allusion to the title.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The song is a piano-driven ballad;[7] the song also contains a piano riff. Chris Martin opens the song and is joined by the rest of the band after the first chorus. The song begins with a four-chord piano melody, with Martin singing. The track also includes a string arrangement.[8] Towards the end of the song, an electric guitar can be heard.

The lyrics to the song allude to a man's powerlessness in the face of love.[9][10] His helplessness is exemplified in the first line of the chorus, as Martin cries "nobody said it was easy".[11] The song implies that he wants to go "back to the start."[12] The first lines of the first verse emphasise an apology: "Come up to meet you/tell you I'm sorry/you don't know how lovely you are."[11] The song's title also alludes to science in question in verse three: "I was just guessing at numbers and figures/pulling the puzzles apart/questions of science, science and progress/do not speak as loud as my heart."[11]


Chris Martin playing "The Scientist" on his piano during the band's 2005 Twisted Logic Tour

Coldplay released "The Scientist" in Europe on 4 November 2002 as the album's second single. The single was pressed with two B-sides: "1.36" and "I Ran Away."[13] While preparing for the song as the album's second release, the band's US label felt the song failed to "provide enough of a blood rush for American listeners"; instead, they released "Clocks" as the second single in the US.[14] The song was released on 15 April 2003 in the US.[14]

"The Scientist" appeared on Australia Singles Chart at number 40 on 1 November 2003.[15] It appeared on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks at number 18.[16] The song peaked at number sixteen at Canada Singles Chart. The song peaked at number 10 in UK Top 75 on 17 November 2002.[17][18]

The single's cover, created by Sølve Sundsbø, [19] as with the album's other singles, features a band member, which in this case is drummer Will Champion.


"The Scientist" received widespread critical acclaim. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone, in his review of the album, wrote: "The fantastic piano ballad 'The Scientist' ... [has] a cataclysmic falsetto finale that could raise every hair on the back of your neck."[20] Nick Southall of Stylus magazine wrote: "The piano that chimes through 'The Scientist' is captured perfectly, the warm depression of each individual key caught rather than a shrill ringing as is so often the case."[21] Ian Watson of NME wrote: "'The Scientist' is a song inexorably linked with the endless night sky and the secret hopes and regrets of a hundred thousand strangers."[22]

In October 2011, NME placed it at number 37 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[23] In 2009, Rolling Stone ranked it number 54 on its "100 Best Songs of the Decade" list.[24] In April 2013, A Rush of Blood to the Head triumphed in a poll of Radio 2 listeners in the United Kingdom and was named the "favourite album of all time" beating out albums composed by artists like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.[25]

Other versions

In 2003, "The Scientist" was featured on Coldplay's live album Live 2003.[26] The song was covered live by Aimee Mann and released on a special edition of her album Lost in Space.[27] Natasha Bedingfield, Alex Band, Eamon, and Avril Lavigne covered the song on Jo Whiley's Live Lounge radio show.[28][29][30] Also, Belinda Carlisle did a live rendition on the ITV1 reality show Hit Me Baby One More Time.[31][32] The British female quartet All Angels did a choral arrangement of the song on their album Into Paradise which was released in 2007.[33] The chords to this song are replicated by Sum 41 in their song "Pieces."[34] In addition, the American television show MADtv did a parody of the video, called "The Narcissist."[35] Coldplay's original version plus a cover of the track performed by Johnette Napolitano and Danny Lohner were featured in the 2004 film Wicker Park.[36][37] Allison Iraheta and Kris Allen performed an acoustic duet of the song at Oprah Winfrey's "No Phone Zone" rally in Los Angeles, California.[38]

In 2011, Willie Nelson covered it for a Chipotle Mexican Grill-sponsored short film titled "Back to the Start", highlighting the problems of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.[39] It also appears as the last cut on his 2012 album Heroes. Nelson's version plays during the closing credits of the 2014 movie The Judge.[40]

In 2012, Glee cast covered it in season 4, episode 4, titled "The Break Up". The song was performed by Cory Monteith, Darren Criss, Naya Rivera, Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Heather Morris and Jayma Mays.[41]

The Voice (U.S.) contestant Holly Henry performed the song for her blind audition in 2013, which led to all four coaches wanting her on their team.[42]

In 2014, actress/singer Miley Cyrus covered the song at selected stops of her Bangerz Tour.[43]


Music video

The popular music video for "The Scientist" was notable for its distinctive reverse narrative, which employed reverse video. The same concept had been previously used for Spike Jonze's 1996 music video for The Pharcyde's "Drop." The reverse video style had first been seen in 1989 for the video for the song "The Second Summer of Love" by Scottish band Danny Wilson. In order for Martin to appear to be singing the lyrics in the reversed footage, he had to learn to sing the song backwards, which took him a month.[44] The video was filmed at various locations, including London and at Bourne Woods in Surrey, before the first leg of the A Rush of Blood to the Head tour.[44] It was directed by Jamie Thraves.[44] The video was shot between 30 September – 3 October 2002, premiering on 14 October.[45]

The video opens, looking down on Martin who is singing, as he lies on his back on a mattress. As the camera shot pulls back, the mattress is revealed to be outside. A cyclist cycles past in reverse and Martin leaps up from the mattress. He walks in reverse through a city, out into the suburbs and eventually crossing a railway line and into woods, picking up his suit jacket as he goes. Upon arriving at his car, a black BMW,[46][47] he gets in and briefly passes out. A woman, at first shown lying unresponsive on the ground in front of the car, is shown flying back in through the shattered windscreen. The car rolls back up a hill in the woods and through a broken fence, which joins back together as the car passes through it. As the video closes, the couple is shown driving back up the road. It is revealed that Martin's passenger had removed her seat belt, in order to put her jacket on, just before the car accident, causing her death.[44] Irish actress Elaine Cassidy portrays the female passenger.[44]

In 2003, "The Scientist" won multiple MTV Video Music Awards for Best Group Video, Best Direction, and Breakthrough Video.[48] It was also nominated at the 2004 Grammy Awards for Best Short Form Music Video but lost to Johnny Cash's video for "Hurt".[49]

Track listing

  1. "The Scientist" – 5:11
  2. "1.36" – 2:05
  3. "I Ran Away" – 4:26
  1. "The Scientist" (Edit)
  2. "The Scientist" (video running backwards)
  3. "Lips Like Sugar" (Live, Echo & the BunnymenCover)
  4. Interview with band members

Charts and certifications

Peak positions

Chart (2002–03) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[50] 40
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[51] 8
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[52] 6
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[53] 10
Canada (Nielsen SoundScan) [54] 16
France (SNEP)[55] 96
Germany (Official German Charts)[56] 26
Hungary (Single Top 40)[57] 18
Ireland (IRMA)[58] 15
Italy (FIMI)[59] 23
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[60] 20
Polish Singles Chart[61] 1
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[62] 10
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[63] 56
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[64] 28
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[65] 10
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[66] 18
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[67] 34


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[68] Gold 5,000^
Italy (FIMI)[69] Gold 15,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[70] Gold 373,000[71]
United States (RIAA)[72] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

See also


  1. "Coldplay — Going Out of My Head". VH1. 2002-08-13. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  2. 1 2 Scaggs, Austin (2005-06-16). "Q&A: Chris Martin". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 1 September 2009. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  3. Oldham, James (July 2002). "Coldplay Yellow Fever". Auckland, New Zealand Newspaper.
  4. "ShakenStir Interview about A Rush of Blood to the Head (September 2002)". ShakenStir. Archived from the original (Internet Archive) on 28 October 2009. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  5. "Coldplay — The Scientist". BBC Music. BBC. 2002-11-18. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  6. 1 2 "Coldplay E-Zine: Issue 6" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  7. Parker, Nigel (2002-08-23). "Coldplay's Rush is near-flawless". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  8. Denning, Adrian. "Coldplay album reviews". Adrian Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  9. Gray, Christopher (2002-10-04). "Phases and Stages — Record Review". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  10. "The State of Coldplay". Q. August 2002.
  11. 1 2 3 "The Scientist Lyrics". MTV. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  12. Cheal, David (2006-10-12). "Perfect Playlist: Coldplay". The Daily Telegraph: 030.
  13. "Coldplay Scientist B-Sides". Yahoo! Music. Yahoo!. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  14. 1 2 Wiederhorn, Jon (2002-10-15). "Coldplay Singer Questions Whether He's The Devil". MTV News. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
  15. "Coldplay — The Scientist at Top40-Charts". Top 40-Charts. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  16. "Artist Chart History — Coldplay". Billboard. Archived from the original on 5 April 2013. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  17. Jones, Alan (2008-03-12). "The 20 biggest selling albums of the 21st century". Music Week. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  18. "Official UK Top 75: 17/11/02". Vibe Waves. 2002-11-17. Archived from the original on 14 November 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  19. "Sølve Sundsbø's best shot". The Guardian. 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  20. Sheffield, Rob (2002-08-26). "A Rush Of Blood To The Head". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  21. Southall, Nick (1 September 2002). "Coldplay — A Rush Of Blood To The Head Review". Stylus. Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  22. Watson, Ian (2002-10-31). "Coldplay: The Scientist". NME. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  23. NME.COM. "150 Best Tracks Of The Past 15 Years". NME.COM.
  24. "100 Best Songs of the 2000s". Rolling Stone. 17 June 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  25. "Coldplay Strikes a Chord with Listeners as Album Voted Best Ever". The Herald. 2 April 2013.
  26. Magill, Jeff (2003-11-21). "Review: Mighty rush from world's best band". Europe Intelligence Wire. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
  27. "Blender:The 500 greatest songs since you were born". Blender. Archived from the original on 13 July 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  28. "Natasha Bedingfield "The Scientist"". Imeem. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  29. "Run For Cover(s): Letters A to E". Feedshow. 2005-07-02. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  30. "Avril Lavigne "The Scientist" – Coldplay Cover". Mixtape Maestro. 2007-07-09. Archived from the original on 20 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  31. "Living Legends Music: Belinda Carlisle". Living Legends. Archived from the original on 10 January 2009. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  32. Semioli, Tom (2007-05-29). "Johnette Napolitano — Running Scarred". Amplifier Magazine. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  33. Jewers, Jack (2007-11-21). "All Angels, Into Paradise". BBC Music. BBC. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  34. "Coldplay vs. Sum 41 ANTI-plug". Newmoanyeah. 2005-01-24. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  35. "MADtv (season 9)". Mad TV. Season 9. Episode 905. 2003-11-01. 60 minutes in. Fox.
  36. Wicker Park (DVD). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 2005.
  37. "The Scientist by Coldplay". Song Facts. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  38. "Kris Allen & Allison Iraheta Don't Phone It In On 'Oprah' Duet". Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  39. "Willie Nelson Covers Coldplay's 'The Scientist'". Taste of Country. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  40. "'The Judge' Ends With A Willie Nelson Coldplay Cover". The Huffington Post. 6 September 2014.
  41. "[VIDEO] Cory Monteith + Glee cast perform Coldplay's 'The Scientist'". 103.5 KTU.
  42. Andrea Swensson. "Hopkins High grad Holly Henry is latest local to compete on 'The Voice'". Local Current Blog - The Current from Minnesota Public Radio.
  43. 1 2 3 4 5 Kaufman, Gil (2006-08-01). "The Story Behind Coldplay's 'The Scientist'". MTV News. Retrieved 2009-09-21.
  44. "Coldplay — The Scientist". Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  45. Though it was filmed in England, the car driven in the music video features a Wyoming license plate which had a design that was in use from 1983 to 1988 (although the car itself is right-hand drive). The vehicle in the video was a BMW E28 5-series, manufactured from 1982 to 1988.
  46. "The Scientist" at
  47. "Old and new battle for MTV awards". BBC News. BBC. 2003-07-27. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
  48. Sal Cinquemani and Eric Henderson. "Forecast: 46th Annual Grammy Awards". Slant. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
  49. " – Coldplay – The Scientist". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
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  55. " – Coldplay – The Scientist". GfK Entertainment Charts.
  56. "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége.
  57. "Chart Track: Week 46, 2002". Irish Singles Chart.
  58. "Hits of the World - Italy". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 7 December 2002. p. 78. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  59. " – Coldplay – The Scientist" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  60. "Polish Singles Chart |".
  61. "Archive Chart: 2002-11-23". Scottish Singles Top 40.
  62. " – Coldplay – The Scientist". Singles Top 100.
  63. " – Coldplay – The Scientist". Swiss Singles Chart.
  64. "Archive Chart: 2002-11-23" UK Singles Chart.
  65. "Coldplay – Chart history" Billboard Alternative Songs for Coldplay.
  66. "Coldplay – Chart history" Billboard Adult Pop Songs for Coldplay.
  67. "Certificeringer |". IFPI Denmark. Retrieved 2015-05-07.
  68. "Italian single certifications – Coldplay – The Scientist" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 21 February 2014. Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter Coldplay in the field Filtra. The certification will load automatically
  69. "British single certifications – Coldplay – The Scientist". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 21 February 2014. Enter The Scientist in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
  70. Myers, Justin (6 February 2016). "Coldplay's Official Top 20 biggest selling songs revealed!". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  71. "American single certifications – Coldplay – The Scientist". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 21 February 2014. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH


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