Viva la Vida

This article is about the song. For the album on which it appears, see Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. For other uses, see Viva la Vida (disambiguation).
"Viva la Vida"
Single by Coldplay
from the album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
B-side "Death Will Never Conquer"
Released 25 May 2008 (2008-05-25)
Recorded 2007–08
Genre Baroque 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

"Viva la Vida" (/ˈvvə lə ˈvdə/; Spanish: [ˈbiβa la ˈβiða]) is a song by the British 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), 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 is Spanish for "Long Live Life" or "(May) Life Live". It can also mean "Live (the) Life".

The lyrics to the song contain historical and Christian references, and the track is built around a repeating string section in unison with a digital processed piano with a timpani background.

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 US and UK. The song won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year at the 51st 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 US 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, 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 polarized each member's opinion over which version they should choose. In an interview, vocalist Chris 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"
The sample contains the beginning snippet of the song

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"'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]

Will Champion with the timpani and church bell used in the song

The lyrics to "Viva la Vida" are narrated by a protagonist who says he "used to rule the world". They contain many Biblical references.[10] For example, "pillars of sand" is a reference to the biblical parable given by Jesus about the fool who built his house on sand, and the wise man who built it on solid rock, while "pillars of salt" is a reference to Lot's wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt. The words 'Be my mirror, my sword and shield' may be a reference to the Bible as it is referred to as a sword in Ephesians 6:17 and as a mirror in James 1:23. "I know Saint Peter won't call my name" refers to the popular belief of St. Peter guarding the gates of Heaven. He is often depicted in art as holding the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven per the Petrine doctrine and the Biblical reference in Matthew 16:19. He is also commonly depicted with the book of life reading off the names of those individuals who had believed in Jesus Christ as per Revelation 20. The phrase "my head upon a silver plate" refers to the beheading of St. John the Baptist when Salome demanded his head delivered to her upon a platter. The church bells and background vocals are given away in the chorus' first two lines "I hear Jerusalem bells a'ringing" and "Roman cavalry choirs are singing",[11] respectively. The protagonist's lament of St. Peter not calling his name because "there never was an honest word" when he "ruled the world" is suggestive of the popular belief that the unsaved will be condemned to eternity in Hell.

People have claimed that the song may be about many subjects, such as the French Revolution[12] or even the experiences and feelings of the doomed English Queen Anne Boleyn on her downfall after losing her last child.

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,"[13] 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."[14]

Unlike the typical arrangement of Coldplay songs, in which either the guitar or piano is the prominent instrument, the track mostly consists of a string section playing the song's upbeat riff, along with a steady bass drum beat, percussion (including a timpani 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.[15]

The song is played in the key of A major at a tempo of 138 beats per minute, while the vocal range spans E3–A4.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

The song was used as part of Apple Inc.'s iPod + iTunes advertisement campaign.[19][20] Coldplay performed the song live for the first time at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards.[21][22] 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,[23] 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 been shown.[24] In 2009, Solange Knowles covered the song.[25] Lady Gaga also covered the song for BBC Radio 1.[26] A live version of the song appeared on Coldplay's 2009 live album LeftRightLeftRightLeft.[27] Pet Shop Boys also performed the song live on their 2009 Pandemonium Tour and the song appeared on their Christmas EP.[28] 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.[29] The video depicts the band performing against a blurry, warped version of Eugène Delacroix's painting La Liberté guidant le peuple. Since its release, the video has received over 330 million views on YouTube.

Chris Martin as the king in the Anton Corbijn video

A second, alternate video was shot in The Hague, the Netherlands, directed by Anton Corbijn and released alongside the first.[30] 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 band mates surface heading his way, tying in loose ends from the "Violet Hill" video.


Critical response

"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."[19] Josh Hathaway from The Plain Dealer noted "Viva la Vida" as the "catchiest" song on the album.[31] Chris Jones of the BBC noted: "The string/brass mutations that bolster a track like 'Viva La Vida' ... conjure tunes so sweetly melancholy."[32] 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."[33]

Will Champion performing "Viva la Vida" during the Viva la Vida Tour

"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.[34][35] This song also won the Ivor Novello Award for "Best Selling British Single".[36] The song was included in Rolling Stone's annual "100 Best Songs" of 2008 at number nine;[37] it was also voted number two on Rolling Stone's Readers' Rock List: Best Songs of 2008.[38] "Viva la Vida" was also listed at number five on Blender's 1001 Downloads: The Top 144 Songs of 2008,[39] as well in the number eight position on Village Voice's Pazz and Jop list.[40]

"Viva la Vida" has been sampled in several other songs, including Flo Rida's single "Be on You".

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.[41][42] 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.[43] Although the song was initially successful in digital sales,[41][42] 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.[44] It had also become the band's first number-one single on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.[45] 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.[46] The single has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[47] 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.[48]

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.[49]

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.[50] 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 on the Spanish radio stations.

Sporting usage

Chris Martin performing "Viva la Vida" during the band's 2008 Viva la Vida Tour

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[51] 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.[52] 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 is the at-bat music of Scott Rolen, 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".[53] Creaky Boards' band member Andrew Hoepfner claimed that Martin had heard them playing the song at a live show in October 2007.[54] The band released a video clip, in which it compares sections of both songs.[54] 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.[55] 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.[54] Creaky Boards later retracted the accusations and speculated that both songs may have been inspired by the video game The Legend of Zelda.[55]

On December 4, 2008, American guitarist Joe Satriani filed a copyright infringement suit against Coldplay in Los Angeles.[56][57] 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?[58] The band has denied the allegation, saying the similarities were "entirely coincidental".[59] 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.[60]

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?'"[61] Islam said that any legal action he might take "depends on how well Satriani does."[61] Coldplay drummer Will Champion denied the claim, stating, "We're confident we haven't done anything wrong."[62] 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."[63]

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.[64]

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!"[65] 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."[66]

Track listing

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
Released 8 February 2009 (2009-02-08)
Format Digital download
Recorded 8 February 2009
The Staples Center, Los Angeles, U.S.
Length 11:10
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+" was performed live at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on February 8, 2009. Coldplay performed a medley of "Lost+" and "Viva la Vida" on the ceremony. American rapper, Jay-Z, who was the featured vocals of "Lost+", performed "Lost+" with Coldplay in the 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
Released October 2009
Recorded 2009
Genre Pop
Length 4:36
Label UNI
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.[67] 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.[68]

Other recorded cover versions

Cover performances


Weekly charts

Chart (2008–09) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[76] 2
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[77] 6
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[78] 4
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[79] 7
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[80] 4
Czech Republic (Rádio Top 100)[81] 1
Denmark (Tracklisten)[82] 8
Europe (European Hot 100 Singles)[83] 3
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[84] 10
France (SNEP)[85] 7
Germany (Official German Charts)[86] 5
Italy (FIMI)[87] 2
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[88] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[89] 3
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[90] 9
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[91] 16
Norway (VG-lista)[92] 5
Polish Singles Chart[93] 1
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[94] 2
Slovakia (Rádio Top 100)[95] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[96] 7
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[97] 5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[98] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[99] 1
US Adult Alternative Songs (Billboard)[100] 1
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[101] 1
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[102] 1
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[103] 1
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[104] 12
Venezuela Pop Rock (Record Report)[105] 4
Chart (2012) Peak
South Korea International Singles (Gaon)[106] 76

Year-end charts

Chart (2008) Position
Australia (ARIA)[107] 33
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[108] 33
Belgium (Ultratop Flanders)[109] 16
Belgium (Ultratop Wallonia)[110] 40
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[111] 9
Europe (European Hot 100 Singles)[112] 15
France (SNEP)[113] 43
Germany (Official German Charts)[114] 26
Ireland (IRMA)[115] 20
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[116] 2
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[117] 16
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[118] 16
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[119] 25
US Billboard Hot 100[120] 13
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[121] 18
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[122] 8
Chart (2009) Position
Australia (ARIA)[123] 92
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[124] 75
Belgium (Ultratop Flanders)[125] 40
Belgium (Ultratop Wallonia)[126] 48
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[127] 21
Germany (Official German Charts)[128] 87
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[129] 10
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[130] 55
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[131] 31
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[132] 126
US Billboard Hot 100[133] 55
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[134] 5
Venezuela Pop Rock (Record Report)[135] 1
Chart (2011) Position
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[136] 196

Decade-end charts

Chart (2000–2009) Position
Australia (ARIA)[137] 71
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[138] 31
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[139] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[140] 49

All-time charts

Chart Position
Belgium (Ultratop Flanders)[141] 75
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[142] 10
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[143] 44
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[144] 39

Chart successions

Preceded by
"Singin' in the Rain" by Mint Royale
UK Singles Chart number-one single
22 June 2008 – 29 June 2008
Succeeded by
"Closer" by Ne-Yo
Preceded by
"Lollipop" by Lil Wayne featuring Static Major
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
28 June 2008
Succeeded by
"I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry
Preceded by
"Let It Die" by Foo Fighters
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks number-one single
30 August 2008 – 6 September 2008
Succeeded by
"Believe" by Staind
Preceded by
"It's Not My Time" by 3 Doors Down
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks number-one single (first run)
16 August 2008
Succeeded by
"It's Not My Time" by 3 Doors Down
Preceded by
"It's Not My Time" by 3 Doors Down
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks number-one single (second run)
13 September 2008 – 11 October 2008
Succeeded by
"I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz
Preceded by
"The Time of My Life" by David Cook
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks number-one single
7 February 2009
Succeeded by
"I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz
Preceded by
"I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry
Dutch Top 40 number-one single
4 October 2008 – 18 October 2008
Succeeded by
"Show Me Love 2008" by Robin S.


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia Platinum[145]
Belgium Platinum[146]
Brazil Platinum[147]
Denmark Platinum[148]
Finland Gold[149]
Germany Gold[150]
Italy Multi-Platinum[151]
New Zealand Platinum[152]
Spain 3× Platinum[153]
Switzerland Platinum[154]
United Kingdom Platinum[155] 828,000[156]
United States 6× Platinum[157]

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

See also


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