Coldplay’s “Clocks” Lyrics Meaning

“Clocks” is a song by one of the most successful British rock bands of all time Coldplay. The song appears to be about being in a tumultuous, heart-breaking relationship yet being deeply in love while time painfully ticks away. The singer, who can’t seem to conceptualize living without this love, is stricken powerless as all he seems to be able to do is watch as his relationship deteriorates. The song’s main theme is love. But is this really what the lyrics of “Clocks” are about? 

Multiple Interpretations of the Meaning of “Clocks”

To be honest, “Clocks” is painfully-ambiguous. That is not to diss it in anyway, as many have derived pleasure and their own understandings from it. But the explanation of its lyrics can easily vary.

A song about Romance

On one hand, it is said to be one of Coldplay’s romantic tracks. So if that is the case, then the addressee would logically be the singer’s sweetheart. Moreover it would seem that their relationship has its issues. And under such circumstances, the title would likely allude to the idea that they only have a finite amount of time available to rectify the situation.

A song that talks about existential issues

But perhaps the most-popular understanding of “Clocks” is that it transcends the realm of amorous love and rather deals with general existential matters.  And once again, the entire situation is presented as having its challenges. So perhaps the simplest way of describing the entire scenario is one where the narrator questions whether or not he is using the life he has been granted in a constructive – or let’s ideal – manner.

Lyrics of "Clocks"

A spiritual song

And yet another interpretation may be that this song is spiritual in nature. Indeed Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, is recognized as being someone who openly believes in a Higher Power. So an alternate explanation of the lyrics may be that they recount his frustration in life due to deeming himself an unworthy and defeated individual, which is a consistent theme in Christianity. Such is definitely the disposition of the narrator in the first verse, no matter how you cut it. But then, as illustrated in the bridge, he is appreciating the addressee (i.e. God) as being an example the most-excellent part of existence. But potentially most-telling is the fact that the chorus, “you are”, is the third-person in relation to the phrase “I am”, which is how God often refers to Himself in the Bible.

In Conclusion

But regardless which understanding a listener may adhere to, the bottom line is that the singer is having a hard time. Thus he wants to go “home”, with the addressee, though what home actually represents is once again up to debate.  And throughout it all, the addressee, whomever this entity may be, is someone the singer looks up to as a relief from his discontents.

Facts about “Clocks”

  • “Clocks” was written by all four members of Coldplay (C. Martin, G. Berryman, W. Champion and J. Buckland).
  • The production, on the other hand, was done by English record producer Ken Nelson.
  • The song, which is arguably the most successful song from Coldplay’s 2002 second studio album “A Rush of Blood to the Head” almost did not make it onto the album.
  • According to Chris Martin, the song was inspired by the works of fellow British rock band Muse.
  • At the 2004 Grammy Awards, “Clocks” was honored with the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. In winning the award, it beat such famous songs as Eminem’s “Lose Yourself ” and Beyoncé & Jay Z’s “Crazy in Love”. During his acceptance speech at the Grammys, Martin dedicated the award to the legendary American singer Johnny Cash and American politician John Kerry. It should be noted that at that time, Kerry had been running for the position of President of the United States.
  • In 2010, the song was placed at the 490th position on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time“.
  • The song is widely regarded by music critics as one of the best works of Coldplay.

Which movies and television shows has “Clocks” appeared?

The song has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows over the years. And some very notable ones include the following:

  • Crime drama TV series “The Sopranos
  • Medical drama TV series “ER
  • Animated sitcom “Family Guy
  • 2003’s crime drama film “Confidence
  • 2003’s fantasy adventure film “Peter Pan

Which artists have sampled or released cover versions of “Clocks”?

“Clocks” has been sampled and remixed by a number of famous musical acts such as the popular Norwegian musical duo Röyksopp (who remixed it) and American singer Brandy (who sampled it in her song “Should I Go”).

Also, it is worth noting that David Guetta’s 2009 hit song “When Love Takes Over” (ft. Kelly Rowland) has a piano introduction that is very similar to the famous piano melody of “Clocks”.

12 Responses

  1. Brian Gray says:

    It has been said that the departed attempt to contact us in several ways, but music is one of the most prevalent – Therefore, I submit the following:

    My Brother and best friend recently died from inoperable Brain Cancer. Everything about this song fits perfectly within his existence. Clocks was a song that I had heard many time over the years and always identified it as my brothers favorite song. He as a aspiring piano player, and love this song for its keyboard playing. I heard it for the first time as were driving down a toll road in Orlando back in 2004. Thats how vivid the memory of it is because my brother raved about how awesome this group, Coldplay was. I never bothered to know or understand the words until just now (Jan 2020). My brother was diagnosed and deceased within 5 months. Several things about this song and his death are so familiar that it’s unreal for me to finally understand or know the lyrics, 16yrs later. First of all, my brother deeply regretted that he had an ‘unfinished life”. He had invented a golf swing training device that was hailed as the best since Medicus came on the market. One famous golf instructor actually said it was 10 times better than Medicus! This newly manufactured device was just coming to market and years of anticipation were about to happen, when he was diagnosed. Life went downhill very fast over the next 5 months.

    “Am I part of the disease or cure”, totally floors me because my brother wanted to be donated to science so that others in the future might be given a longer time to live or a cure be found. Wow! Then there was the constant agony of trying to understand the “why me” part of having his life end at such an early age (he turned 66 in hospice and died 2 weeks later)

    “Come out of the things unsaid” – My brother seemed to agonize over the things that he had not said to myself and others. It was very important to him that I let others know these things and clarify the situations if necessary.

    “Shoot and apple off my head” – In the final weeks as he was coming to terms with his death, he mentioned things that he wished he had gone ahead and done in life ie: Skydiving (as if it matters now), considering he would have rather gone out like that than lying in a hospice bed.

    “A tigers waiting to be tamed” – I recognize as him meeting his comeuppance with our Lord and Savior. Yes, he was a believer and I pray that he is playing golf in Heaven on days when he isn’t working his grape vineyards, surrounding by his mansion.

    “Confusion that never stops” – he just couldn’t figure our the “why now” part of this horrible disease.

    “Come back and take you home
    I could not stop, that you now know – My brother wanted to make sure that I was a believer and that I would eventually be taken home to heaven and play golf with him again.

    After 16 years I finally read the lyrics to this song and recognize that it has my brothers life laid out so significantly. No one else will be able to see what I have envisioned as the meaning of these lyrics. They certainly mean different things to different people, but I am forever convinced that that day in 2004 when I first heard it and my brother told me how great it was – was for a reason!

    • Anonymous says:

      Brian, what a beautiful story!! I appreciate (and I’m sure your brother does too!) that you remember a song during a visit with him! Most people don’t pay that much attention! And that you are putting it all together now, wow! Just beautiful!

    • Randy James says:

      One of my favorite songs too…..Glad a few of us got to hear you story about the song relating to your brother. Very touching .

    • Metrox says:

      Hello. I got married last june (2021), life was a beaty and i thought that now everything is going to be just perfect. After 3 months of marriage, wife told me that she is having affair with another man. I was destroyed, loving her but hating at the same time. About month ago she commit suicide. “Clocks” was a great song when it came, but now its a masterpiece. Keep on living!

    • Thelma Garcia Bucklin says:

      I’m reading this nearly 3 years after your writing so eloquently about your brother. I was browsing though lyrics that mention time and clocks to help me work through a personal situation with my grandson (also a musician). I hope that you have found peace restarting your brothers passing. Peace that comes with …time

    • Anonymous says:

      Brian, thank you for sharing. I am reading this nearly 3 years later. Your explanations are very relatable to me as well. Loss, regret, urgency and then “home”. My father passed away in 2003 from cancer and before he passed said nothing in life is more precious than time. He willed me his grandfather clock.

  2. Ken Z. , California, 10/18/2020 says:

    I like this interpretation because it describes vividly the strong, poignant emotion of loss and regret contained in the piano riff, which is relentless and marches forever, for all of us, into eternity. The Power of Love transcends time itself, which we all know, personally, simply, finally.

  3. Allen Connor Krause (not my real name) says:

    This song reminds me of all the people and pets I’ve lost, and how no other pain compares.

  4. Kilroy says:

    It reminds me of a person in the present pondering a time in their past as the rhythmic piano riff works as a ticking clock relentless rushing to the future.

  5. Derek C. says:

    For me, the song brings me a feeling of nostalgia. While I wasn’t a fan of Coldplay when the song came out, this song was so popular that you couldn’t help but hear it. Being a musician, the melody and general feel of the song always caught my attention, catchy and what you want a good pop song to do, get in people’s heads. So I guess I would say I enjoyed it. But it’s only in my older years that I’ve realized the impact it had on my conscious, as I was 18 when it came out, it was popular during a time in my life when I was living, hanging with friends everyday, making those core life memories you long for as you age. For whatever reason a few years ago I heard it and it just had a different feel. I lost my best friend not long before, and it brought a sense of nostalgia that I had never experienced. Now, it’s a song that when I hear it, honestly, there’s a very slight chance I might get emotional. And it really can be the lyrics or just the music that can get to me. Not sure why, but it does that for me. So I interpret as a song just about the sadness that can be life in general. I just want to go home, where there are no worries or cares, peace is all I will know. 🙂

  6. Lost in the sound of Clocks says:

    When Clocks was first released my life was very different. As was I. Back then I was in the automotive industry, a General Sales Manager at a new car franchise. Financially I was very successful but the marriage to my three children’s Mom was decorating fast. She was addicted to pain meds and it didn’t seem like it was ever going to stop. She eventually overdosed after leaving us and staying with a person she met in a rehab facility. She came home but soon was gone from us for good.
    I believe that was for the best. For my three young children, I thought it would be better to have No Mom instead of a bad one. To this day I wonder it that was true. We struggled with our lives as a single dad with a 3, 5 and 6 year old in thr beginning. The different women that were in there young life weren’t right for what any of us needed. My life went down hill as well. After losing my job, having the American dream so to speak. The big house fancy cars, all the toys the children could ever want. I went to prison for a 6 year sentence.
    5 and a half years later I was finally home with my almost adult children. That was 5 years and one month ago almost to the day.
    A few months before I was released off work release, That I was fortunate to be able to do for my last 4 months. I meet the woman of my dreams. I saw a short video of her dancing around with her the dogs on her deck. This sweet, beautiful girl was someone from my long ,long ago past. We were in high school together. We actually sat in the same home room each morning for 4 years. She said she remembers me form back then but, I’m sure it was no different then remembering a stranger you’ve seen somewhere and don’t think of them when their gone.
    I fell for this little sweet lady from the day I first saw the video of her dancing with her dogs on the deck of her home. Physically she seemed to be exactly what I thought of as the perfect girl. She’s petite, she’s got the most beautiful smile with a small gap in her front teeth. Intellectually she’s perfect too. Smart, crazy funny and playful. My dreams finally care true……
    A year and a half ago I felt things were changing. Not for me or how I felt but for her. Shr either has grown tired of my lack of ability to maintain a steady income or at least one that’s enough to make her happy with me. She’s been on her job for 25-30 plus years recently getting a promotion that she deserved years ago.
    I’m still madly in love with my wife, my dream girl, my little Ninja Rockstar Princess. I’m sure she has close to zero feelings for me. Either because she feels we’re not equals in the financial aspect of our relationship or maybe she’s just not attracted to me any longer. I’ve heard cold plays Clocks many times along with other songs. Being a music lover I’ve associated so many songs to our relationship. From the beginning. So many said exactly how much I loved this girl ,how perfect she was for me and myvthen teenage children.
    Its been 5 years now and I feel every day might be out last. The pain or heart ache consumes me some days. I’m not a weak person. Physically I’m 6’3″ 275lbs. I spend 5.5 years in prison. Even in my mid fiftes I feel like I can take on anyone. But this little 4′ 10 3/4″ girl can break me in half with only a few words. Almost once a day our conversation turns to arguments. About nothing. I feel as if she stays because she either hasn’t found anything worth going through the trouble to have to go through the separation, divorce, selling of properties etc. Or, she’s really complacent with how things are and can continue to live in a relationship without physical attraction or much touch of any kind. Even with counseling that’s about to end after over two years. That reason we originally started going to counseling has never changed. Originally it was my feelings that things were changing for the worse. She was never initiating any kind of physical relationship. I had to start to make love or “ask” for it. I was so naive back then. When I thought her not coming on to me was so terrible. I had no idea what it would feel like having her avoid any intimacy at any cost.
    Rhe lights have gone out and it can’t be saved. Have brought me down upon my knees Oh,I beg,I beg and plead. Trouble that can’t be named. Confusion that never stops closing walls and ticking clocks. Gonna come back and take you home.
    Thats what I wish thr most, is being able to believe she feels the way she says she feels. Being able to take her home. To our home. Where ever that makes her happy. Home for me is in her arms, feeling like I once did when she was so different to me. I know life goes on. Bills and children, mine and hers and grand children and even brothers, sister and parents can all put stress on a relationship.
    From May 16th, 2017 when we first text I felt her love through the words she wrote. I’m lost without the old version of her from when I came home and the look in her eyes where nothing but happiness to see “me”.
    All of our past relationships have gone by like the time ticks off the clock. It won’t stop for anyone. The clock will tell where we’ll end up. Either apart or happy hand and hand like I used to dream and believe we would be some day…every day. Holding my girl, my one true love.

    Lost in the sound of Cold Plays Clocks and the sound of time slipping away from us. I pray in strong enough to win her heart back. Every day and every night. ❤

  7. Anonymous says:

    Vejo essa música como um arrependimento um pedido de perdão. Muitos tem a oportunidade do perdão e não o valorizam. E outros clamam pelo perdão através dos séculos e parece que não são ouvidos.

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