11 Years Ago: Coldplay’s ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’ Album Released
Coldplay’s ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’ marks the moment when the band dove headfirst into international pop stardom — paparazzi fights, tabloid headlines, famous wives, weirdly named children, questionable fashion choices, etc. — and never looked back.
After the somewhat surprising transatlantic success of 2000’s ‘Parachutes,’ bolstered by the hit singles ‘Yellow’ and ‘Trouble,’ the band approached their sophomore effort, ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head,’ with eyes on the prize.
Released 11 years ago today, ‘Rush of Blood’ is a much bigger-sounding album than ‘Parachutes,’ in part because of a larger studio budget, but also because the group realized it needed to build on the sonic groundwork of their early work. As drummer Will Champion said in a 2003 Drum! magazine interview, “We wanted to progress in every way possible, and it just seemed to happen with hard work.”
One way Coldplay achieved this was by switching the spotlight from Jonny Buckland’s twinkling lead guitars to singer Chris Martin’s piano — which, as musicians say, contains the sound of the entire orchestra. That is, it’s a fuller-sounding and more versatile instrument, and throughout music history, from Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis to Elton John and Billy Joel to Ben Folds Five, audiences have responded to piano-led rock songs.
Chris Martin’s growth as a songwriter also fueled Coldplay’s progression, and a handful of his ‘Rush of Blood’ songs feature more grown-up themes, such as political fairness (‘Politik’); religion, at least in terms of song title (‘God Put a Smile Upon Your Face’); and the effects and passage of time (‘Clocks’). Martin didn’t abandon his meat and potatoes, though, and the disc still has plenty of unabashed love songs (‘The Scientist,’ ‘Green Eyes,’ ‘Warning Sign’). He simply made them clearer. Whereas ‘Yellow’ was obviously a love song, there was something abstract about the lyrics. ‘Green Eyes,’ by contrast, is about as direct as you can get — Martin is describing his head-over-heels love for a green-eyed member of the opposite sex (future wife Gwyneth Paltrow, perhaps, though she doesn’t have green eyes).
In a 2002 Crud magazine interview, Martin noted that he wrote lead single ‘In My Place’ at the conclusion of the ‘Parachutes’ sessions, hence its old-play vibe. Releasing it as the first single on ‘Rush of Blood’ was kind a brilliant decision, as fans who wanted to hear more of the same got it, while the headier, deeper follow-ups ‘Clocks’ and ‘The Scientist’ broadened their fan base. Sheer marketing genius.
Not surprisingly, ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’ was a huge success, hitting No. 1 in the U.K. and reaching No. 5 in America — always a tougher market to crack. It also earned Coldplay three Grammys, including ‘Record of the Year’ for ‘Clocks,’ and in 2012, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 466 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.