Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” Lyrics Meaning

For a mega hit pop song, Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” deals with some relatively-complex subjects such as missionaries, revolutionaries and the Bible. Also, unlike most other pop tunes, it is sung from the perspective of a king.

The beginning of the track finds this royal individual looking at his life as a dichotomy. For instance, while he once ‘ruled the world’, now he finds himself sweeping the streets. When at one point it looked like his entire life was in front of him, “now the old king is dead”. He has also come to realize that he has established his authority “upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand”, insinuating that the foundations they were built upon are indeed unstable.

And the second verse begins by giving us an allusion into how he gained his authority, which seems to have been through violent action during a tumultuous era in general. But now in the present, it is rather other “revolutionaries” who want to see this king dethroned, indeed desiring his head in the process.

Later he presents himself as “just a puppet on a lonely string”, referencing not only internal discontent but in a roundabout way his own powerlessness. Then he questions why someone would actually desire to be king.

Despite these two deep verses, it is actually the chorus which is the most-intricate part of the song. Again this king makes references to military conflicts. And he sees himself as someone who has basically been a liar and is unworthy of entrance into heaven. However, “that was when I ruled the world”, insinuating that he is indeed a better person when not burdened with the lofty position of king.

Different translations for the title of this song – such as “long live life”, “live the life”, “the life lives”, etc. – have been given. But whichever interpretation an individual may subscribe to, the meaning is basically the same, which is an expression of appreciation of life. The title was actually derived from a painting by a prominent Mexican artist named Frida Kahlo which greatly inspired Chris Martin of Coldplay. However, how this heading directly fits into the narrative of this king is unspecified. Ultimately, while “Viva La Vida” references different time periods and figures, historically-knowledgeable listeners have concluded that the track is primarily about King Louis XVI of France.

What Coldplay has said about “Viva La Vida”

Guy Berryman, the bassist of Coldplay, in an interview with Q magazine, shed light on the meaning of the song’s lyrics. According to him, the lyrics basically tell the tale of a king who has lost his throne.

Guy Berryman explains the meaning of "Viva La Vida"

Facts about “Viva La Vida”

  • Coldplay (Chris Martin, Will Champion, Guy Berryman, and Jonny Buckland) wrote this song.  
  •  “Viva La Vida” was released on the 25th of May 2008 via Capitol Records and Parlophone Records. It is the 8th song on the band’s 4th album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends.
  • Certain portions of this track, according to American rock guitarist Joe Satriani, bear likenesses to his track “If I Could Fly”. Owing to this, he sued the band for plagiarism. The case was later resolved out of court.
  • This song has been sampled severally. Some of the tracks that have sampled this song include: 2009’s “Congratulations” by Drake, 2008’s “United State of Pop 2008 (Viva La Pop)” by DJ Earworm, 2011’s “Pop Culture” by Madeon and 2018’s “Fire la Flies” by JoeyVfX.
  • The production of this tune was done by Brian Eno in collaboration with Rik Simpson, Markus Dravs, and Jon Hopkins.
  • Hype Williams directed this song’s music video. This track has an alternate music video, which was directed by Anton Corbijn.
  • “Viva La Vida” was used as the global soundtrack for the Brazilian drama – A Favorita.
  • It also claimed the prize for the Song of the Year at the 2009 Annual ASCAP Awards.

Artists who have covered this song

Some of the musicians who have covered this tune include:

  • Solange Knowles in 2009
  • Darin in 2010
  • Weezer in 2010
  • Lady Gaga in 2009
  • One Direction in 2010
  • Taylor Swift in 2011

Did “Viva La Vida” win a Grammy Award?

Yes. In 2009, the song was honored with the Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or a Group awards at the 51st edition of the Annual Grammy Awards.

Coldplay performing “Viva La Vida” live in São Paulo, Brazil. This performance is widely regarded as one of the most memorable live performances of the song.

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