|Single by Coldplay|
|from the album A Rush of Blood to the Head|
|B-side||"Crests of Waves"
|Released||10 December 2002 (US)
24 March 2003 (UK)
|Format||7", 12", CD, DVD|
|Genre||Alternative rock, piano rock|
|Length||5:07 (Album Version)
4:10 (Radio Edit)
|Producer(s)||Ken Nelson, Coldplay|
|Coldplay singles chronology|
"Clocks" is a song by British alternative rock band Coldplay. It was written by all members of the band for their second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head. Built around a piano riff, the song features cryptic lyrics of contrast and urgency themes. Several remixes of the track exist and its riff has been widely sampled.
"Clocks" debuted to critical and commercial success, with critics mainly commenting on the song's piano melody. It was released in the United Kingdom as the third single from A Rush of Blood to the Head, where it reached number nine in the UK Singles Chart. It was released in the United States as the album's second single, it reached number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 9 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. It won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year.
Background and writing
"Clocks" was composed during the late stages of production of Coldplay's second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head. A riff popped into Chris Martin's mind late one night in Liverpool when he came in to the studio, where he then developed it on piano. According to Martin, "Clocks" was inspired by the English rock band Muse. Martin presented the riff to the band's guitarist Jonny Buckland who then added a layer of guitar chords to the basic track: "He picked up his guitar [a sure sign that he likes a song] and played these brilliant chords ... It was like a chemical reaction process." (The syncopated piano arpeggio that gives the song its signature sound also bears a similarity to a syncopated arpeggio that is repeated several times in Alex De Grassi's 1981 instrumental "Clockwork.")
Before writing "Clocks", the band had already made 10 songs for the album. They thought it was too late for the song's inclusion in the album since it was nearing completion. So they recorded a demo and saved it with other unfinished tracks, labeling it "Songs for #3"; the band projected these tracks for what would be their third album.
By June 2002, Coldplay were ready to present the album to their record label Parlophone. However, Martin felt it was "rubbish"; they were not completely satisfied with the album. So, the band and Parlophone delayed the release. After a headlining tour, Coldplay went on working "Songs for #3". Phil Harvey, a friend of Martin and the band's manager, heard it and egged him on to rework "Clocks" immediately. With lyrics that speak of urgency, Harvey pointed out that its meaning would contradict Martin's idea of stashing the track. Martin was persuaded by Harvey and then further developed "Clocks" while other band members supplemented their ideas based on the main piano track, adding bass and drums. Coldplay recorded the song very quickly, since they were running after the postponed schedule of A Rush of Blood to the Head, which was released two months later.
"Clocks" has a repeating piano melody, and features a minimalist soundscape of drums and bass guitar. Martin applied an ostinato, with emphasis that imitates a three against two polyrhythm, as well as a descending scale on the piano chord progression, which switches from major to minor chords. The music of "Clocks" is also provided using synthesizers and a sparse string arrangement.
The song's themes include contrast, contradictions and urgency. According to Jon Wiederhon of MTV News, "Martin seems to address the helplessness of being in a dysfunctional relationship he doesn't necessarily want to escape." The lyrics are cryptic; the ending lines of the second verse emphasize contradicting emotion: "Come out upon my seas/Cursed missed opportunities/Am I a part of the cure/Or am I part of the disease?". The song's title also "metaphorically alludes" to its lyrics, "pushing one to wonder about the world's obsession with time while connecting it to the theory: make the best of it when we’re here, present and alive".
The song is in the key of E flat Mixolydian, with a main chord progression of E♭ - B♭m - Fm.
Release and music video
Coldplay released "Clocks" in Europe on 24 March 2003 as the album's third single. The single was issued with two B-sides: "Animals", which was one of the band's favourite songs performed on tour but was not included in the album, and "Crests of Waves". The single's cover, created by Sølve Sundsbø as with the album's and its other singles, is a portrayal of Martin. Across the United States, while preparing "The Scientist" as the album's second release, Coldplay's US label felt the song failed to "provide enough of a blood rush for American listeners"; instead, they released "Clocks" as the second single in the US.
A music video was filmed in support of the song. It was directed by British film maker Dominic Leung, and shot at Docklands' ExCeL Building in London. It features the band performing the song, with a laser show, in front of a staged audience, mostly local college students. Stage effects and blue-red light transitions give the video a surreal feel, while a stoic crowd make up the audience.
Throughout 2003, "Clocks" was featured in various commercials, movies and television programs: from the BBC using a sample to advertise Freeview TV, WWE promos featuring the return of American professional wrestler Kurt Angle, to the 2002 Irish drama film In America, and an episode of the American medical drama television series ER. The song was played in its entirety during the ending credits for the 2003 film Confidence, and was also featured in the American television drama series The Sopranos and Third Watch. In late 2003, the song was used in a trailer for the movie Peter Pan. This song was also used in the 2006 Disney film, The Wild and Family Guy.
The song was also critically acclaimed. Rob Sheffield, in his review of the album for Rolling Stone magazine, said: that "[guitarist] Buckland shines in excellent psychedelic rockers such as ... 'Clocks'". David Cheal of The Daily Telegraph said that "Clocks" features a "hypnotic piano riff, a pounding, almost frantic rhythm, and a contagious tune, all building to a gorgeously serene climax with Martin's floaty voice singing". Scott Floman, music critic for Goldmine magazine, described the song as "a stunningly pretty piano rocker, absolutely perfect and is simply one of the finest songs of the decade".
"Clocks" won the Record of the Year at the 2004 Grammy Awards. It was nominated for Best Single at the 2003 Q Awards. "Clocks" was ranked at number 68 on Pitchfork's Top 100 Singles of 2000-04. It was ranked at number 155 on Pitchfork Media's 500 Greatest Songs of the 2000s list. In October 2011, NME placed it at number 148 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years". In February 2013 the song was voted by listeners of BBC Radio 6 Music as the greatest song released during the 10 years the station had been broadcasting.
The single was successful in radio throughout 2003 and appeared on several singles charts worldwide. In the United Kingdom, the song peaked at number nine and in the United States rose to number 29. It also reached number seven in Canada and number 28 in Australia.
"Clocks" has been regarded as one of the finest achievements of Coldplay; the song's piano progression remains the band's signature creation. According to The New York Times, the opening piano arpeggios of "Clocks" have been widely sampled. Also, many of the songs in X&Y feature influences from "Clocks". Brian Cohen of Billboard magazine noted that "Clocks" served as a "launching pad" for songs featured in X&Y, "several of which echo that track either in structure or feel". "Speed of Sound", the first single from Coldplay's third album, X&Y, is similar to "Clocks", in that the two songs have the same descending chord progression. According to The New York Times, American singer Jordin Sparks' 2008 single "No Air" "breathes life into the overfamiliar piano line" from "Clocks". The song "Should I Go" by American singer Brandy, off her album Afrodisiac, samples the piano riff of "Clocks", as does Mexican singer Alejandro Fernández's 2007 single "Te Voy A Perder". In 2009, French DJ David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland released the song "When Love Takes Over" that has a piano introduction like "Clocks". A riff similar to "Clocks" was also used for the 2009 song "Shining Down" by Chicagoan hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco and featuring Matthew Santos. An analogous riff can also be heard in the DJ Cahill Remix of the Agnes song I Need You Now. Rolling Stone ranked it #490 of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2010.
Reworked version and remixes
A number of versions and remixes of "Clocks" exist.
- Norwegian duo Röyksopp made a remixed version of the song, pressed on 1000, limited-edition 12" vinyl records, 100 of which were made available through the band's official website. The issue features a remixed version of "God Put a Smile upon Your Face" by Def Inc featuring Mr Thing. The version placed fifth in the Triple J Hottest 100, 2003 (the original version of the song placed 69th the previous year).
- There exist several dance remixes of "Clocks", including those by Clokx (Ron van den Beuken) and Deep Dish plus a mashup from Gabriel and Dresden's 2003 Essential Mix, and a mashup from Alexsed USA's 2012 Trance in Progress radio show which appeared on various P2P networks.
- In 2004, Contemporary R&B-singer Brandy, together with producer Timbaland, created a song called "Should I Go" which uses "Clocks" as a sample. The song is featured as the last track on her fourth studio album Afrodisiac.
- A remixed cover of the song is included on the soundtrack of the 2007 video game Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party for the Wii console.
- The female Chinese group Twelve Girls Band also covered the song, released on their 2004 album Eastern Energy.
- A salsa version created by Buena Vista Social Club featuring Cuban music instruments was released in 2006 on the Rhythms del Mundo album which was a non-profit album that included many other prominent UK, US and Irish artists.
- In 2003, the song was featured on Coldplay's live album Live 2003.
- Another live version appeared on the 2009 live album LeftRightLeftRightLeft.
|7", 12", CD|
|2.||"Crests of Waves"||3:39|
|1.||"Clocks" (video edit)||4:18|
|2.||"Politik" (live and photo gallery)|
|3.||"In My Place" (live)|
|Japan Enhanced EP|
|2.||"Crests of Waves"||3:39|
|5.||"In My Place" (Live)||4:03|
|8.||"In My Place" (Video)||3:48|
|Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)||2|
|Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)||7|
|Canada (Nielsen SoundScan)||7|
|Germany (Media Control AG)||50|
|Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)||2|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||13|
|Polish Singles Chart||4|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||71|
|UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)||9|
|US Billboard Hot 100||29|
|US Billboard Adult Top 40||4|
|US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks||9|
|US Billboard Mainstream Top 40||21|
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