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Clocks (song)

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Clocks single.jpg
Single by Coldplay
from the album A Rush of Blood to the Head
  • "Crests of Waves"
  • "Animals"
  • 4 November 2002 (U.S.)
  • 24 March 2003 (U.K.)
RecordedMay 2002
  • 5:07 (album version)
  • 4:10 (radio edit)
Coldplay singles chronology
"The Scientist"
"God Put a Smile upon Your Face"
Music video
"Clocks" on YouTube

"Clocks" is a song by British rock band Coldplay. It was written and composed as a collaboration among all the 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 concerning themes of contrast and urgency. Several remixes of the track exist, and its riff has been widely sampled.

The record debuted in 2002 to critical and commercial success, with critics praising the song's piano melody. It was initially released in the United States as the album's second single, reaching number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 9 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. In the United Kingdom the song was released as the third single from A Rush of Blood to the Head, where it reached number nine in the UK Singles Chart. It went on to win Record of the Year at the 2004 Grammy Awards.

Considered to be one of Coldplay's signature songs, "Clocks" continues to garner critical acclaim, and is often placed on lists ranking the greatest songs of the 2000s and of all time, including being ranked 490th on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list in 2010.[1]

Background and writing[edit]

"Clocks" was written and 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 into the studio, where he then developed it on piano. According to Martin, "Clocks" was inspired by the English rock band Muse.[2] Martin presented the riff to the band's guitarist, Jonny Buckland, who then added a layer of guitar chords to the basic track:[3] "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."[4]

Before writing and composing "Clocks", the band had already written 10 songs for the album.[3] However, because A Rush of Blood to the Head was nearing completion, they thought it was too late to include the new song on it.[4] Hence, they recorded a demo and saved it with other unfinished tracks, labelling it "Songs for #3"; the band intended these tracks for what would be their third album.[3]

By June 2002, Coldplay were ready to present the new album to their record label Parlophone. However, Martin felt it was "rubbish"; they were so far from being completely satisfied with the album that both the band and Parlophone delayed the release.[4] After a headlining tour, Coldplay went on working on "Songs for #3." Phil Harvey, the band's manager and a friend of Martin, heard it and pressed him to rework "Clocks" immediately. Harvey pointed out that, with its lyrics that speak of urgency, its meaning contradicted Martin's idea of stashing the track.[3][4] Thus persuaded by Harvey, Martin then further developed "Clocks", while other band members supplemented his work with their ideas based on the main piano track, adding bass and drums. Coldplay recorded the song very quickly[2] because the schedule of A Rush of Blood to the Head had already been delayed; the album was released two months later.[4]


"Clocks" is an alternative rock song that is viewed by some as featuring elements of psychedelic rock.[5] It features a repeating piano melody and a minimalist, atmospheric soundscape of synthesizer pads, drums, electric guitar, and bass guitar.[6] Martin applied an ostinato, as well as a descending scale on the piano chord progression, which switches from major to minor chords.[7][8]

The themes of the lyrics include contrast, contradictions and urgency.[4] 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."[3] The lyrics are cryptic; the ending lines of the second verse emphasise contradicting emotion: "Come out upon my seas/Cursed missed opportunities/Am I a part of the cure/Or am I part of the disease?"[3] 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."[9]

The song is written in the key of E-Mixolydian which has all the same notes as A major but has E as tonic note. The main chord progression of E - Bm - Fm.[10][11]

Release and music video[edit]

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 and its other singles—is a portrayal of Chris Martin.[12] 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.[13]

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.[12] 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.


Coldplay performing "Clocks" on the Twisted Logic Tour

The song received acclaim from music critics. Rob Sheffield, in his review of the album for Rolling Stone magazine, said that "[guitarist] Buckland shines in excellent psychedelic rockers such as ... 'Clocks.'"[5] 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."[14] 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."[15]

"Clocks" won the Record of the Year at the 2004 Grammy Awards.[16] It was nominated for Best Single at the 2003 Q Awards.[17] "Clocks" was ranked at number 68 on Pitchfork's Top 100 Singles of 2000-04.[18] It was ranked at number 155 on Pitchfork Media's 500 Greatest Songs of the 2000s list.[19] In October 2011, NME placed it at number 148 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[20] 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[9] and appeared on several singles charts worldwide. In the United Kingdom, the song peaked at number nine[21] and in the United States rose to number 29.[22] It also reached number seven in Canada and number 28 in Australia.


"Clocks" has been regarded as one of the finest achievements of Coldplay.[23] The song's piano progression remains the band's signature creation.[24] According to The New York Times, the opening piano arpeggios of "Clocks" have been widely sampled.[8] 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."[25] "Speed of Sound", the first single from Coldplay's third album, X&Y, is similar to "Clocks",[24][26] in that the two songs have the same descending chord progression.

According to The New York Times, American singer Jordin Sparks's 2008 single "No Air" "breathes life into the overfamiliar piano line" from "Clocks".[27] The song "Should I Go" by American singer Brandy, from her album Afrodisiac, samples the piano riff of "Clocks",[28] as does Mexican singer Alejandro Fernández's 2007 single "Te Voy A Perder". In 2009, French DJ David Guetta in collaboration with Kelly Rowland released the song "When Love Takes Over", which has a piano introduction like that of "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.

Bono of U2 named Clocks as one of 60 songs that saved his life.[29]

Rolling Stone ranked "Clocks" No. 490 of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2010.[1]

Reworked version and remixes[edit]

"Clocks" was remixed several times. Norwegian duo Röyksopp made a remixed version of the song, pressed on the 1000 limited-edition 12" vinyl records; 100 of which was made available through the band's official website. The release features a remixed version of "God Put A Smile Upon Your Face'" by Def Inc featuring Mr Thing.[30] The version placed at number five in the Triple J Hottest 100, 2003 (the original version of the song placed at number 69 the previous year).[31][32] In addition, there have been several other dance remixes of "Clocks", including those by Clokx and Deep Dish plus a mashup from Gabriel and Dresden's 2003 Essential Mix which appeared on various P2P networks. A remixed version of the song is included on the soundtrack of the video game Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party for the Wii console.

Track listings[edit]

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) 
4."Interview footage" 
Japan Enhanced EP
1."Clocks" (Edit)4:13
2."Crests of Waves"3:39
5."In My Place" (Live)4:03
6."Yellow" (Live)5:13
7."Clocks" (Video)4:18
8."In My Place" (Video)3:48
Netherlands CD1
1."Clocks" (Edit)4:12
2."Politik" (Live)6:53
3."Shiver" (Live)5:26
4."Daylight" (Live)5:48
Netherlands CD2
1."Clocks" (album version)5:10
2."Trouble" (Live)5:43
3."The Scientist" (Live)5:18
4."Green Eyes/Mooie Ellebogen" (Live)5:16
Netherlands CD3
1."Clocks" (Live)5:31
2."In My Place" (Live)3:51
3."Everything's Not Lost" (Live)8:47
4."Yellow" (Live)4:44
Official remixes


Charts and certifications[edit]


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External links[edit]