A Rush of Blood to the Head

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A Rush of Blood to the Head
Studio album by Coldplay
Released 26 August 2002 (2002-08-26)
Recorded September 2001 – May 2002, Mayfair, AIR, Parr St.
Genre Alternative rock, post-Britpop, piano rock
Length 54:08
Label Capitol, Parlophone
Producer Coldplay, Ken Nelson
Coldplay chronology
Mince Spies
(2001)
A Rush of Blood to the Head
(2002)
Coldplay Live 2003
(2003)
Singles from A Rush of Blood to the Head
  1. "In My Place"
    Released: 5 August 2002
  2. "The Scientist"
    Released: 4 November 2002
  3. "Clocks"
    Released: 10 December 2002
  4. "God Put a Smile upon Your Face"
    Released: 14 July 2003

A Rush of Blood to the Head is the second studio album by British alternative rock band Coldplay. Released on 26 August 2002 in the UK through the label Parlophone, the album was produced by the band and British record producer Ken Nelson. Recording started after the band became popular worldwide with the release of their debut album, Parachutes, and one of its singles in particular, "Yellow".[1] Attitudes to songwriting were affected by the September 11 attacks in the United States, which occurred the week before recording started.[2] The songs featured in the album have a greater use of electric guitar and piano than its predecessor.

The album was made available in August 2002, two months after its original planned release date.[3] It was released on 27 August in the United States through Capitol Records. Capitol released a remastered version of the album in 2008 on a 180-gram vinyl record as part of the "From the Capitol Vaults" series. The album debuted and continued their huge commercial legacy, an ongoing pattern that began with Parachutes which made Coldplay one of the best-selling bands worldwide. It topped the UK Album Charts upon its first week of release in the United Kingdom, and became the eighth biggest-selling album of the 21st century in the UK.[4] The British Phonographic Industry has since certified the album 8x platinum for its accumulated sales of over 2.4 million units in Britain and over 15 million worldwide. The album spawned the hit singles "In My Place", "The Scientist", and "Clocks". "God Put a Smile upon Your Face" was also released, but was significantly less successful.

A Rush of Blood to the Head has been critically acclaimed, and the band won the 2003 Grammy for Best Alternative Album for the second year in a row, and the 2004 Grammy for Record of the Year for the song "Clocks". In 2012 it was ranked number 466 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It was also voted the best album of all time by the listeners of BBC radio 2 in a poll conducted in 2013.[5]

Background[edit]

Recording[edit]

The band started recording the album in London a week after the September 11 attacks in the United States, during which their "poignant songs ... garnered larger audiences".[2][6] Coldplay had never stayed in London for an extended period before and were bombarded by problems focusing on the production process. They decided to relocate to Liverpool, where they had recorded some of the songs on Parachutes. Vocalist Chris Martin said that once there they "became obsessed with recording".[6] "In My Place" was the first song recorded for the album and the one that the band released as the album's lead single "because it was the song that made us want to do a second album. It kept us going and made us think we could still write songs", following "a strange period of not really knowing what we were doing" three months after the success of Parachutes.[6]

The band wrote more than 20 songs for the album and some of those new tracks, including "In My Place" and "Animals", were performed live during the tours promoting Parachutes.[2][7] The album's title was revealed through a post on the band's official website.[8]

During initial recording sessions in Liverpool, vocalist Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland worked alone, and only on weekends. Each Monday, they would present the song ideas that they had developed to their bandmates.[6] With A Rush of Blood to the Head nearly completed, Martin went into the studio late one night and wrote a piano riff that he has stated "just came out". The band recognised that this early version of the song, that would become "Clocks", was special the first time Martin played it to them. Reasoning that it was too late to include the song on the album, they recorded a demo version and included it on a CD marked "Songs for #3", featuring unfinished tracks they intended to work on for their third studio album.[3][9]

By June 2002, the band had completed A Rush of Blood to the Head, but thought their output sounded "rubbish" and reached an agreement with the label to postpone the release of the album until they were completely satisfied.[3][9] Subsequently, many songs were discarded because they sounded like they could have been on Parachutes. Martin has claimed that it would have been uninteresting: "It would have shown that we're happy to sit back on what we'd done, and we're not. For us, it was important to progress and try to improve upon our abilities as musicians." Such ambitions put the band under strain: "sometimes practice sessions ended abruptly with one or more members of Coldplay threatening to quit".[10]

After headlining the 2002 Glastonbury Festival, Coldplay returned to the studio and worked on some tracks from the "Songs for #3" they had produced earlier. Phil Harvey, the band's manager, heard "Clocks" and urged them to rework it immediately: "No, you must do that song now 'cause you're going on [in the lyrics] about urgency, and you're talking about keeping this song back. That doesn't make sense."[3][9]

Cover art[edit]

The album cover for A Rush of Blood to the Head was designed by photographer Sølve Sundsbø. Sundsbø had been hired by fashion magazine Dazed & Confused in the late 1990s to produce something with a "technological feel, something all white". As an artist, he tried to do "stuff that hasn't been done before, which is virtually impossible"; he suggested taking shots using a three-dimensional scanning machine.[11]

The model for the shot Alex Xavier Mora Plaza [12] wore an all-white makeup because it produces the "best results"; for the image, the model wore a twill-coloured cape. The computer could not read the colours so it was replaced with spikes, and the head in the image was chopped because the machine only scanned 30 centimetres.[13] The editor of the magazine liked the image and eventually featured it in one of their publications. Martin saw the image in the magazine and approached Sundsbø for permission to use the image as the cover of A Rush of Blood to the Head. For the album's singles, Martin asked Sundsbø what he could do; the latter suggested scanning the head of each member of the band (Sundsbø also did artwork duties for the Live 2003 home video).[11]

The booklet contains only two photos; One with Coldplay in a location that was rumoured to be a forest, and one with the same band in the studio. The album cover was among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of "Classic Album Cover" postage stamps issued in January 2010.[14][15]

Composition[edit]

The music for "Clocks" is mainly built around a piano riff.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Recording the album after 11 September attacks gave the band a fresh perspective: "The new songs are reflective of new attitudes. [They tell listeners] not to be frightened. Anybody can achieve whatever they want to."[2] Most of the song lyrics are about urgency. Martin has commented that previous songs were more relaxed since they were in a comfortable state of mind: "Perhaps there's a bit more urgency on some of these songs. And that's born from all the places we've been and the things we've experienced." Martin has explained, in relation to the theme of urgency, that the album's title means "doing something on impulse".[10] Several songs on the album are about relationships. These tracks are based on reality, but according to Martin, they were written with a fictional twist: "Songs are like fairy tales: they have a beginning and an end and you can make it all work perfectly. Real life doesn't work like that".[6]

The album includes ballads and acoustic songs featuring extensive use of guitar and piano. The U2-esque "epic rock" of the album's opening track "Politik", the piano-driven "Clocks", and the loud guitars of "A Whisper" were seen as an extension of the band's musical range.[16] Chris Martin has stated that the album's title track is an homage to American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, whom he considered one of "the greatest ... men with just guitars".[17]

The song "Green Eyes" was written by Chris Martin for two people: an "American friend" and bandmate, Jonny Buckland.[18]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 80/100[19]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[20]
Billboard Positive[21]
Entertainment Weekly A[22]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[23]
NME (9/10)[24]
Pitchfork Media (5.1/10)[25]
PopMatters positive[26]
Q 4/5 stars[27]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[28]
Spin (7/10)[29]

Critical response[edit]

Upon release, A Rush of Blood to the Head received strong reviews from critics. Review aggregating website Metacritic reports a normalised score of 80% based based on 25 reviews.[30] Many felt that it built upon their previous album, Parachutes.[19] Alexis Petridis of the newspaper The Guardian wrote that the band's "new assurance is everywhere ... the timidity of Parachutes is nowhere to be found". He concludes, "It sounds like an album ready to take on the world, and win."[23]

Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times praised the album, commenting that it is "one of the year's best albums" and describing it as "sparser, stranger and even catchier than its predecessor".[31] Rolling Stone magazine's Rob Sheffield, said that "A Rush of Blood to the Head is a nervier, edgier, thoroughly surprising album", adding, "where Parachutes was the clumsy diary of a high-strung kid, A Rush of Blood sounds more like a band with the confidence to test its own limits."[28] MacKenzie Wilson of Allmusic echoed the above comments, saying that it is a "strong album". Wilson, who compliments Martin for his "sharpened" falsetto and refined "haunting delivery" and Buckland for his "riveting guitar work", notes that "regardless of the band still being in their mid-twenties, they've made an amazing record".[20] Emma Pearse of the American newspaper The Village Voice has the same sentiments, stating that it is "a little edgier, trancier, and more conversational" compared to Parachutes.[32] Robert Christgau gave the album a one-star honourable mention ((1-star Honorable Mention)) and quipped, "Let Green Eyes dump him for real and we'll see how long he hums in the void."[33]

Sales and chart positions[edit]

Coldplay promoted A Rush of Blood to the Head with a tour of the same name.

A Rush of Blood to the Head made an entrance into the UK Albums Chart upon its debut week, entering at number 1 and moving 273,924 copies.[34] The British Phonographic Industry has since certified the album eight times platinum for its accumulated sales of over 2.4 million copies.[35] With the subsequent release of "Clocks" and "The Scientist", the album spent over one year on the chart. A Rush of Blood to the Head has been placed at number seven on the list of United Kingdom's 20 biggest-selling albums of the 21st century, published by the British trade paper Music Week.[34] In July 2011, A Rush of Blood to the Head climbed from No. 176 back to No. 44 in the album's 250th charting week there.[36] As of February 2012, the album had sold 2,804,606 copies in the UK making it the best selling Coldplay album.[37]

In the United States, A Rush of Blood was Coldplay's first venture into the top 5 with 144,000 copies sold initially, stronger than its predecessor, Parachutes, which debuted at number 189 in December 2000.[38] It has since been certified four times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America with sales of over 4,822,000 copies as of March 2012.[39] It has been certified seven times platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association, having accumulated shipments of over 490,000 units,[40] and four times platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association for shipments of over 400,000.[41]

Awards and accolades[edit]

A Rush of Blood to the Head has earned the band several awards from both the domestic and international music press. In 2002 it was awarded Best Album at the Q Awards.[42] In the same year, the band won two Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the song "In My Place".[43] In 2003 A Rush of Blood to the Head won Best British Album at the BRIT Awards, and the following year the band earned their first Grammy Award for Record of the Year for the song "Clocks"[43][44] for a total of 3 Grammys for this album. The band won 3 VMAS at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Group Video, Breakthrough Video and Best Direction in a Video for "The Scientist" and its music video on YouTube has over 49 million views. The same year, they won the awards best NME album of the year, and best album of the year at the NME awards.

The album was chosen in 2002 as Billboard magazine's Critics' Choice.[45] In 2012, it was ranked number 466 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[46] It was also ranked 21st on Rolling Stone's list of top 100 albums of the 2000s.[47] In 2007 The National Association of Recording Merchandisers and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released a list of what they term "The Definitive 200 Albums of All Time"; A Rush of Blood to the Head ranks at number 65 on the list.[48] The album was nominated for the BRITs Album of 30 Years at the 2010 BRIT Awards.[49]

In a BBC Radio poll in 2013, the album topped the list ahead of Hopes and Fears by Keane, Rio by Duran Duran and The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.[5]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion and Chris Martin.

No. Title Length
1. "Politik"   5:18
2. "In My Place"   3:48
3. "God Put a Smile upon Your Face"   4:57
4. "The Scientist"   5:09
5. "Clocks"   5:07
6. "Daylight"   5:27
7. "Green Eyes"   3:43
8. "Warning Sign"   5:31
9. "A Whisper"   3:58
10. "A Rush of Blood to the Head"   5:51
11. "Amsterdam"   5:19
Total length:
54:08

Personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Imagine by Eva Cassidy
Elephant by The White Stripes
UK number one album
7 September 2002 – 20 September 2002
26 April 2003 – 2 May 2003
Succeeded by
Feels So Good by Atomic Kitten
American Life by Madonna
Preceded by
Escape by Enrique Iglesias
Australian ARIA Albums Chart number-one album
2 September 2002 – 8 September 2002
Succeeded by
ELV1S: 30#1 Hits by Elvis Presley