Violet Hill (song)
|Single by Coldplay|
|from the album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends|
|B-side||"A Spell a Rebel Yell"
|Released||9 May 2008|
|Format||Digital download, CD, 7"|
|Genre||Alternative rock, nu gaze, post-punk revival|
|Length||3:49 (Single version)
3:42 (Album version)
3:20 (Radio edit)
|Label||Parlophone, EMI (UK)
Capitol Records (US)
|Coldplay singles chronology|
"Violet Hill" is a song by British alternative rock band Coldplay. It was written by all members of the band for their fourth album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008). Built around a repeating guitar sound, it utilises a marching tempo, supported by the pianos and rhythms that accompany the song's lyrics. The song was initially made available as a free download on the band's website and was downloaded more than two million times.
Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin revealed that the song had been in development for a number of years, with the first line and the first little melody of the song written, prior to its completion in 2007. "Violet Hill" is the first anti-war protest song from the group. The single was received with positive reviews. The track was released worldwide as the lead single from Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, reaching number nine on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart and number eight on the UK Singles Chart.
It was featured as a downloadable song for the 2007 music video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, as well as being featured in Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits and the documentary Warren Miller's Children of Winter. The song was nominated at the Q awards in the category for Best Track and received two Grammy Award nominations for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group. The music video for "Violet Hill" was nominated for Best Special Effects at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. The single has been widely sampled, with different covers and sounds.
Background and writing
Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin revealed that the band wrote the first line and the first little melody of the song years prior but did not finish it until 2007. Martin told Rolling Stone magazine that lyrics from the song about "a carnival of idiots on show" and how a "fox became God" were a commentary on Fox News. "One day I was watching Bill O'Reilly, and I was like, 'I know how to finish that song. My best friend, Tim ... was having trouble with his boss, and it made me think that so many people spend their lives being told what to do by people that they just don't like. So it was that idea, and watching Bill O'Reilly, and all these words just came out."
During an interview with MTV News, bassist Guy Berryman revealed that the song was one of the older songs that the band had been working on and that they had to move it to one side from the list of songs that were going to appear in the album. Phil Harvey, the band's manager, urged them to include the track in the album, which led to the band to drag it back to the shortlist.
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"Violet Hill" features an atmospheric synthesizer intro, which gives way to a piano melody played by Martin. The rest of the band then joins in and the song's prominent guitar riff, characterized by a jagged, fuzzbox distortion effect, enters. Martin sings about medieval imagery of carnivals, cathedrals, religion and war, culminating in a soaring chorus with an anthemic theme. The momentum of the song builds around guitarist Jonny Buckland, who plays a solo.
The lyrics start off with Martin recalling: "Was a long and dark December/From the rooftops I remember/There was snow". Martin emphasizes towards the thoughts of a soldier going into battle. The line "If you love me, why'd you let me go?", talks about a man's love of a woman, who does not reciprocate his love. The song ends with Martin playing the piano and singing, and pleading in nearly spoken-words: "If you love me, won't you let me know?" In live performances of the song, he plays the piano part on his acoustic guitar.
According to Neil McCormick of The Sydney Morning Herald, he writes that the lyrics "I don't want to be a soldier", is a way that Martin can conjure John Lennon into the song's melody. McCormick, however, notes that Martin "adds his own poetic twist" to the lyric "Who the captain of some sinking ship would stow, far below/So if you love me, why'd you let me go?".
Musically, it is one of Coldplay's more diverse pieces, featuring many different time signatures. While the majority of the song is in common time, or 4/4, the interlude of "if you love me, won't you let me know?" is in 6/4, preceding two bars of 4/4 before going back into the verses. The outro, consisting of Chris Martin's vocal accompanied by a piano switches from 4/4, 3/4, 5/4 and 6/4.
Release and promotion
The band announced on 28 April 2008 that the single would be released on the official Coldplay website on 29 April 2008 for free for one week before the paid download on 6 May. The song was downloaded for free by over 600,000 people in the 24 hours since it was made available at 12:15 p.m. on 29 April. In the subsequent week, the single was downloaded 2 million times from the Coldplay website.
Coldplay released "Violet Hill" in the US on 9 May 2008 as the album's first single. A promotional 7" vinyl release of the single was given away free in the 10 May issue of NME, including non-album track "A Spell a Rebel Yell" on the B-side. On subsequent physical releases, "Lost?", an acoustic recording of album track "Lost!" serves as "Violet Hill"'s B-side instead.
The single debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100 on 24 May 2008 at number 40. The song stayed in the peak position from its release. Three weeks after its release, the track entered at the number nine position on Hot Modern Rock Tracks. The song peaked at number six in Canada Singles Chart and number eight in the UK Singles Chart, making it the second single to reach the Top 10 to have not having a single released physically. "Violet Hill" was certified Platinum by Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Discos (ABPD).
Critics were positive towards the song. In the Los Angeles Times review of the album, critic Todd Martens wrote: "The song's first guitar crush arrives after a lengthy ambient intro, and brings an electrifying jolt to the striking piano melody. Martin brings a booming confidence to his vocals that has been more evident in Coldplay's live shows than on record." Simon Vozick-Levinson from Entertainment Weekly wrote: "'Violet Hill' opens with a thin synth wash that's very Music for Airports, and proceeds from there to some droning, stabbing guitar textures that sound cooler than most any Coldplay tunes I can think of." Kristina Feliciano of Paste magazine wrote: "You know you're in for a different kind of Coldplay experience when Chris Martin ditches his anguished falsetto for a deep, doomy basso profundo, as he does on 'Violet Hill'". Mikael Wood of Spin magazine wrote: "'Violet Hill' pulls a similar fake-out, bludgeoning a delicate Eno-style soundscape with big Black Sabbath guitars." Darcie Stevens of the Austin Chronicle wrote: "While the band's fourth LP begins light and pretty, its power breaks late-album with Old West tangent 'Violet Hill'". The song appeared on Rolling Stone 's Hot List for May 2009, with the magazine calling it "a (relatively) hard-rocking attack on Fox News' America".
After the song's release, "Violet Hill" was featured in the music video games Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, as downloadable content, and in Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits. The single was covered by Pendulum, when they were guests in BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge. The song has been mixed by Michael Brauer, who also mixed Coldplay's debut album, Parachutes. It was also featured on an episode of the UK soap opera, Hollyoaks.
The official video for "Violet Hill" was nominated for Best UK Video as well as Best Special Effects for the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. The track was also nominated for two Q awards in the categories of Best Track and Best Video; the song lost in both categories to Keane's "Spiralling" in Best Track and Vampire Weekend's "A-Punk" in Best Video, respectively. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards in the categories of Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group.
A music video was filmed in support of the song, which was released 18 May. It was directed by visual artist Asa Mader, and parts were shot at Mount Etna and filmed in Catania, Sicily. An alternative music video, named 'Dancing Politicians', was posted on Coldplay's official website on 17 May, directed by Mat Whitecross. The video is made up of clips, sometimes looped, featuring various politicians and scenes of war, along with clips of the band in Mader's version of the video, as well as firework displays at the end. It prominently features George W. Bush, presenting clips of him in a mocking manner. Prominent personalities, such as Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon, Hugo Chávez, Robert Mugabe, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Boris Yeltsin, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Tony and Cherie Blair, and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are featured in this alternate video. The second version of the video begins at a hill where the band are playing in a quiet town. Then, the next scene passes through the band playing their instruments circling around and Chris Martin walking on the purple snow. At the end of the video, Martin falls to the snow and the final scene shows the band walking away from the town. This video is shown on a small on-stage television screen at live shows, including the band's 2008 Viva la Vida tour.
|Promotional CD Single|
|1.||"Violet Hill" (Radio edit)||3:21|
|Promotional 7" (free with NME)|
|2.||"A Spell a Rebel Yell"||2:46|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||200,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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- Official website
- Coldplay.com info page for promotion with NME
- on YouTube
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics