If you’ve listened to the radio at all since 2000, you’ve heard a Coldplay track—likely hundreds of times. The British rock group has been one of the most acclaimed and influential bands of the 21st century. Though they are best remembered for hits such as Viva La Vida, Yellow, The Scientist, Paradise, and more, earning countless accolades along the way. Here are the top 21 Coldplay songs that should be on everyone’s playlist.
Yellow was one of Coldplay’s first major hits, coming out on their 2000 album, Parachutes. It has widely been considered the band’s breakthrough, which propelled them to international popularity.
The song was inspired by a late-night recording session in Wales, during which they stepped outside during a break to admire the stars. Inspiration struck, and they returned to the studio to start recording what would become the track. Chris Martin later said that the title was inspired by a copy of the yellow pages in the studio.
2. X & Y
Coldplay released X & Y in 2005 on their third album of the same name. The album was dedicated to Martin’s late father-in-law, Bruce Paltrow, who died less than a month before he met his future wife.
The track is about helping his wife navigate her grief and how it can be daunting to be a support person to someone who is mourning. There just never seems to be anything to say, Martin points out, but you nevertheless jump in and try to navigate the storm with the person that you love.
Shiver was a single from Coldplay’s debut album, Parachutes. Lyrically, the song was inspired by a woman—though frontman Martin has never revealed her identity—but musically, it drew heavily on inspiration from the late singer, Jeff Buckley.
Martin later said that he wrote the song during a time when he was frustrated with his love life and worried that he would never find a meaningful relationship; the track was therefore less inspired by romance and more by his own bitterness and dissatisfaction as a young man.
4. Lovers In Japan
Lovers In Japan was a single on Coldplay’s third album, Viva La Vida, released in 2008. Though it was somewhat overshadowed by the popularity of the title track, the song did well in its own right. On the album, it was combined with the track Reign Of Love, and the two songs are played without a break, as the band wanted to keep their track listing concise and curated.
They continued to play the two songs together during concerts. Martin said that Lovers In Japan was inspired by the band’s time touring in that country. Though most people don’t associate Japanese culture with romance, he found it to be a very romantic country and wanted to write a track commemorating that.
5. The Scientist
The Scientist is one of Coldplay’s most famous and enduring songs, released on their second album, A Rush Of Blood To The Head. It was praised for its slow ballad-inspired musicality, but it became particularly famous because of the music video, which used reverse motion to tell the story of a man and a woman who were in a fatal car accident.
The video won several MTV music video awards. Martin has said that the track was inspired, musically, by George Harrison, particularly his album, All Things Must Pass.
6. Hurts Like Heaven
For the 2012 track Hurts Like Heaven, Coldplay guitarist Jonny Buckland took an uncharacteristic lead on the composition and arrangement. He chose to draw significant inspiration from rock bands of the 1980s, including Echo And The Bunnymen and The Cure. The song has also been compared to the music of LCD Soundsystem, a tribute that the band has said was intentional. Hurts Like Heaven was a moderate success, peaking at number 27 on the Billboard alternative charts.
7. Strawberry Swing
Strawberry Swing was released in 2008 as one of the final tracks on Viva La Vida. Initially set to be scrapped, frontman Martin insisted that it remain on the album. The Spanish- and African-influenced folk rock song was a nod to his mother’s Zimbabwean heritage and a deliberate attempt to draw on musical influences from around the world. The track was praised for its gentle funk style and has been called one of the most calming songs of all time.
8. Don’t Panic
Don’t Panic is one of Coldplay’s oldest songs, having been composed as early as 1998. It was first recorded in 2000 as part of their first album, Parachutes. During the early 2000s, it was a favorite track of their live performances.
The song was based on a disastrous date that Martin had during the 1990s, with the lyrics describing his frantic internal monologue. The title comes from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
9. Speed Of Sound
For 2005’s Speed Of Sound, the members of Coldplay all pitched in and composed the song together. They used a guitar and piano riff as a foundation and constructed the rest of the track on a synthesizer melody.
Martin has said that the song was inspired musically by Kate Bush’s track Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God), which was not widely known in mainstream music at the time. Speed Of Sound was widely acclaimed and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Paradise, released in 2011, was a massive hit, becoming only second to Viva La Vida as Coldplay’s biggest song of all time. It has become one of the band’s best-known tracks and remains a staple of their live concerts.
It marked a change of pace for them, incorporating heavier percussion and a more poppy, upbeat vibe than much of their previous music. It has been called one of the most influential songs of the early 2010s.
11. In My Place
In My Place was featured on Coldplay’s second album, A Rush Of Blood To The Head, which was released in 2002. It was initially written for their debut album but scrapped for a time before Martin insisted on including it on their second. It was a good thing he did, as it would go on to win a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal.
Clocks is often considered one of Coldplay’s most iconic tracks—and even more, one of the most important songs of the 2000s. Released in 2002, the track won a Grammy Award for Record Of The Year. But in actuality, it was a last-minute addition to their second album, with the band drawing inspiration from Muse—one of the biggest indie rock groups of the early 2000s.
Though Martin hesitated on including it on the album, their manager pointed out that the song’s whole message was about seizing the right opportunity.
Talk was included on Coldplay’s 2005 album, X&Y. It was based on a melody line from the 1981 song Computer Love by Kraftwerk, which the band requested permission to use.
They adapted the original synthesizer music as a guitar track, with extensive other edits— so extensive, in fact, that the song almost didn’t make it onto the album. However, they managed to complete it in time; it was a success in the US but a massive hit in Europe, reaching number one in the Netherlands.
14. Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall
Coldplay released Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall in 2011. Upon its release, it was criticized for supposed plagiarism of I Go To Rio by Peter Allen. The band later clarified that they had used a similar chord progression, with permission, from a song that was itself based on Allen’s track.
Critics have called it one of their best songs, seamlessly marrying unabashed emotion and an appealing arena rock sound. It has been widely covered by a variety of artists.
Everglow was recorded in 2014 while Martin was still married to Gwyneth Paltrow, who provided uncredited backup vocals for the track. However, it wasn’t released for several years, until after Martin’s and Paltrow’s divorce.
The title of the song was inspired by a surfer who Martin had met who described his experience on the ocean as an “everglow.” He chose to end the track with a clip of a speech from Muhammed Ali in 1977.
16. Fix You
Fix You was released in 2005, a sweet, hopeful ballad that has become one of Coldplay’s best-known songs. Martin composed it three years earlier for Gwyneth Paltrow, whom he met mere weeks after her father passed away; they got married in 2003.
The track expresses his wish that he could help make everything better, but all he could do was simply be present. When Steve Jobs—a famous Coldplay fan—passed away in 2011, Coldplay performed the song at his memorial service.
Coldplay continued to release enduring music after the peak of their career in the late 2000s. Their sixth studio album, Ghost Stories, was released in 2014. It featured, among others, the single Magic, which was praised for its unique instrumentalization. Martin, meanwhile, was given accolades for his vocal performance on the track, in which he sang in falsetto throughout. The song uses references to classic stage magic acts, such as card tricks and sawing a person in half, to describe a special relationship between two people.
18. Death And All His Friends
Death And All His Friends was featured as the final track on Coldplay’s 2008 album, Viva La Vida—though it segued into a hidden final song, The Escapist. Martin said he looked at the track as a way of acknowledging the harder, darker parts of life—such as mortality—without letting them become overwhelming. The song compares the different seasons of life to seasons of the year and challenges people to break free from the human cycles of violence, vengeance, and anger.
Trouble is an underrated gem in the Coldplay discography, having enjoyed almost no time in the spotlight in the US and becoming overshadowed by the more successful Yellow. Nevertheless, it was a hit in the band’s native country, the UK, where it climbed to number 10 on the charts.
Despite it not charting in the US, music critics praised it highly, calling it on par with Yellow in terms of musicality and lyrics. The soft rock song is about making amends after hurting someone that you love; Martin said that it was based on his own behavior during a difficult period of his life.
20. A Sky Full Of Stars
Coldplay headed on a new journey with the 2014 single, A Sky Full Of Stars, which was produced in a collaboration with DJ Avicii. The song, which combined house music with progressive rock, was the band’s first exploration into dance music—and as it turned out, it was a highly successful one.
Throughout 2014, this topped dance charts around the world. They are known for drawing on musical influences from specific songs, and this one was no exception; the chord progressions were inspired by Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, while other elements were inspired by the music of Katy Perry. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Group Performance.
21. Charlie Brown
It might seem strange to hear a rock band play a song called Charlie Brown, but there’s an even more confusing twist in that the track doesn’t mention cartoons, Peanuts comics, or Charlie Brown at all.
The background explanation is pretty simple, however: earlier versions of the song referenced the beloved Peanuts character by name, mostly as a placeholder. However, the band eventually removed the reference altogether. They couldn’t think of another name, so the title remained as is. It was released on Coldplay’s 2011 album Mylo Xyloto and has become a favorite of audiences at the band’s concerts.
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