In the world of popular music lyrics, “rock your body,” and “yeah, baby!” are king and queen. And oftentimes, we can’t complain. Who doesn’t love a good dance song with simple, feel-good lyrics? But every now and then, you end up with a band whose songwriting happily surprises you in its uniqueness. And as the art of writing creative lyrics experiences a resurgence (with artists like Lady Gaga, Mumford & Sons, and Kanye playing with the poetic), tuning into the words behind your favorite radio songs is becoming more interesting by the day.
One of our favorite bands with thought-provoking lyrics is Coldplay. The band, led by front man Chris Martin, formed in 1996 and hit household-name status by 2000 with their popular single, “Yellow.” As they’ve developed musically since, they’ve provided listeners with albums full of intriguing lyrics. Here are some of our favorites.
“Oh no I see
A spider web it's tangled up with me
And I lost my head
The thought of all the stupid things I’d said
Oh no what's this
A spider web and I'm caught in the middle
So I turned to run
The thought of all the stupid things I've done
And oh I never meant to cause you trouble
And oh and I never meant to do you wrong
And oh well if I ever caused you trouble
Oh no I never meant to do you harm”
The band co-wrote this song, and Martin cites a period of time when he felt he was “behaving badly towards people he loved,” – adding that this included his band mates. The spider web imagery Martin sings of underscores the idea of getting stuck in a mess you create yourself – a bunch of problems you’ve spun yourself into. It’s effective, and only adds to the remorseful musical accompaniment.
The band’s second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, was anything but a typical sophomore album. The songwriting reached an even higher level of notability. “Clocks,” the second U.S. single, won Record of the Year at the 2004 Grammy Awards. We like the song because the lyrics are a bit vague, and therefore mysterious, without being generic.
“The lights go out and I can't be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
Have brought me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead, singing
Come out of the things unsaid
Shoot an apple off my head and a
Trouble that can't be named
A tiger's waiting to be tamed, singing
You are, you are
Confusion that never stops
The closing walls and the ticking clocks gonna
Come back and take you home
I could not stop, that you now know, singing
Come out upon my seas
Cursed missed opportunities am I
A part of the cure
Or am I part of the disease, singing”
So… the song is a bit quirky, too. A lot of the thoughts feel unfinished, incomplete. Which is exactly what the song seems to be about. A tiger has yet to be tamed. It’s impossible to swim against the tide. There’s pleading for something that has yet to be seen. Opportunities are missed. Something’s going to come back to take you home, but has yet to arrive. The song hints at a longing, and the piano fades at the end of the song – it, too, unfinished.
“SPEED OF SOUND”
This is a lyric-heavy song. The singing is so rhythmic that it acts as a secondary beat to the song. Because of that, there’s very little white space (purely instrumental moments). And yet, surprisingly, there’s only a tiny bit of repetition. The lyrics are all unique, save for the chorus which only repeats towards the end.
“How long before I get in?
Before it starts, before I begin
How long before you decide?
Before I know what it feels like
Where to? Where do I go?
If you've never tried then you'll never know
How long do I have to climb
Up on the side of this mountain of mine?
Look up, I look up at night
Planets are moving at the speed of light
Climb up, up in the trees
Every chance that you get is a chance you seize
How long am I gonna stand
With my head stuck under the sand?
I'll stop before I can stop
Or before I see things the right way up
All that noise and all that sound
All those places I got found
And birds go flying at the speed of sound
To show you how it all began
Birds came flying from the underground
If you could see it then you'd understand”
The theme repeated over and over throughout the song seems to be ascension. It’s about the future – growing, progressing, climbing, flying. But it’s also about waiting for it all to happen, rendering the tone of the song hopeful. It’s poetically, and musically, hopeful. We like it.