Coldplay's 20 greatest ever songs, ranked

22 May 2024, 14:37

Watch the trailer for Coldplay film 'A Head Full Of Dreams'

By Mayer Nissim

Coldplay are one of the biggest bands in history.

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Few would have thought when Coldplay first Parachuted into our lives at the turn of the century that they'd quickly become one of the biggest bands in history, but that's just what happened.

They're also one of the most enduring, having released nine studio albums in just under a quarter of a century, with every single one of them topping the UK chart.

That's not all though.

Coldplay have become the de facto house band of the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, with 2024's appearance being the record FIFTH time they've topped the bill (after 2002, 2005, 2011 and 2016), having already performed at the New Tent in 1999 and The Other Stage in 2000.

They've released over 40 singles, with most peaking somewhere in the upper reaches of the charts, and we've whittled down that list to 20 of the very best.

  1. Don’t Panic

    Coldplay - Don't Panic (Official Video)

    The opener from Parachutes – and also a fourth single in some territories – put the rubber stamp on what was a remarkable debut album campaign for Coldplay, with the very clever "paper cutouts" video from Tim Hope doing its bit to help make it a hit.

    The song dates back to the band's very first gig in Camden way back in 1998 and an earlier version appeared on their Blue Room EP. The song is also notable for guitarist Johnny Buckland pitching in with some vocals on the second verse.

  2. Shiver

    Coldplay - Shiver (Official Video)

    After their lo-fi early EPs and the 'Brothers & Sisters' single for indie Fierce Panda, Coldplay released 'Shiver' –  their first single for Parlophone.

    The song set the template for the sort of tender love 'n' heartbreak tales the early Coldplay would make their own ("So I look in your direction / But you pay me no attention, do you?").

    It nestled at just 35 in the UK singles charts, but went on to go Silver with over 200,000 copies sold.

  3. Hymn for the Weekend

    Coldplay - Hymn For The Weekend (Official Video)

    Did you know that Chris Martin originally wrote the refrain for 'Hymn For The Weekend' as "drinks on me, drinks on me"?

    "I presented it to the rest of the band and they said, 'We love this song, but there's no way you can sing 'drinks on me'," Martin said.

    "So that changed into 'drink from me' and the idea of having an angelic person in your life. Then that turned into asking Beyoncé to sing on it."

    Yup, that's an (uncredited) Beyoncé singing on the track, the second single from the massive A Head Full of Dreams album, helping it become a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

  4. Midnight

    Coldplay - Midnight (Official Video)

    Coldplay were planning to strip things down after the excesses of Mylo Xyloto but you can't take the melody out of Chris Martin and the boys, and despite the stark sleeve, 2014's follow-up Ghost Stories was packed with minimalist pop gems.

    Not technically a proper single, the album was trailed by the ambient, folky, electronic mashup of 'Midnight', which put Martin's voice through a vocoder to get that quirky sound.

    It even got a dance remix from electronic music icon Giorgio Moroder.

  5. Talk

    Coldplay - Talk (Official Video)

    Speaking of electronic music icons, you don't get more legendary than Kraftwerk, who are also famed for being prickly and protective of their back catalogue.

    Nevertheless, the German legends gave permission to Coldplay to borrow the riff from their classic 1981 track 'Computer Love' for 2005 single 'Talk', albeit swapping synths for guitars.

    Apparently, Ralf Hütter appreciated that the band actually bothered to ask, though it's worth noting that it was ex-member Karl Bartos who actually came up with the melody.

    It didn't do quite as well as 'Fix You' and 'Speed of Sound', but it still went top 10 – no small feat given that most fans already had the song on the by-then all-conquering X&Y.

  6. God Put a Smile Upon Your Face

    Coldplay - God Put A Smile Upon Your Face (Official Video)

    One of the early(ish) songs by Coldplay that showed that there was more to them than straight-down-the-line indie songs about love and loss.

    'God Put a Smile Upon Your Face' married its intertwining guitars with unsettling combo up-tempo drum patterns and bassline and an unconventional lead melody line and more quirky lyrics ("Where do I go to fall from grace?").

    "We came up with just this kind of groove, which stays on the same note as opposed to change," said bassist Guy Berryman.

    "It's quite technical but it kind of added a bit of bounce to the song and it made it roll along in a much more fluid way."

  7. Something Just Like This

    The Chainsmokers & Coldplay - Something Just Like This (Lyric)

    The Chainsmokers had already scored hits with Halsey, Rozes, Phoebe Ryan and others when they hooked up with Coldplay for this absolutely massive single in 2017.

    Coldplay had already long leant into electronic music by this point, but 'Something Just Like This' is a proper bit of EDM that shows that Coldplay really can get down and dance when they want to.

    It's one of the most-streamed songs of all time and has gone quadruple platinum in the UK and DIAMOND in the US based on sales and streams combined.

  8. Adventure of a Lifetime

    Coldplay - Adventure Of A Lifetime (Official Video)

    The CGI 'n' Chimps video for 'Adventure of a Lifetime' is what grabbed all the attention at the time (it's still pretty striking today) but the lead single from A Head Full of Dreams also stands on its own as one of the best examples of Coldplay's broadening musical palette.

    The album was produced and co-written by Stargate (Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel S. Eriksen), helping the group achieve the funked-up sound of this single and more.

  9. Princess of China

    Coldplay - Princess Of China ft. Rihanna (Official Video)

    At the time, and since, it's simply one of the biggest collaborations in pop music.

    One of the biggest nominally "rock" acts of the century joined forces with one of THE pop/R&B stars of the era.

    Oh, and the song was co-written by Coldplay and the actual Brian Eno (along with the rest of the Mylo Xyloto album). We're still picking apart the narrative of the music video today.

    How did it all come together?

    "In like a dream scenario, we had a song that I'd secretly kind of written to see if Rihanna would want to sing it," said Chris Martin.

    "And then the rest of the band wanted to keep it, so we came up with the idea of asking her to sing it with us, and, to our great surprise, she said okay"

  10. A Sky Full of Stars

    Coldplay - A Sky Full Of Stars (Official Video)

    The second single from Ghost Stories was a full-on house-inspired banger, co-written and co-produced by EDM superstar Avicii, who even pitched in on the piano.

    Its full-on upbeat vibe has made it a quasi-sporting anthem, with everyone from Liverpool FC to Roma borrowing it at various points. It also went top ten in the UK and US.

  11. In My Place

    Coldplay - In My Place (Official 4K Video)

    This lead single from the second album A Rush of Blood to the Head was actually left over from the Parachutes writing session.

    That second album was completed when this song resurfaced, and it was rightly decided that they had to include it.

    "That's about where you're put in the world, and how you're given your position, and the way you look, and how you have to get on with it," said Martin of the track.

  12. Speed of Sound

    Coldplay - Speed Of Sound (Official Video)

    Around 343 metres per second, if you were wondering...

    This lead single from X&Y showed immediately that Coldplay were taking a massive leap forward with their third album. This was a brand-new Coldplay.

    Massive synths, massive chorus, and a perhaps unlikely debt to Kate Bush.

    "We were listening to a lot of Kate Bush last summer, and we wanted a song which had a lot of tom-toms in it," said Chris Martin.

    "I just had my daughter up also, and was kind of feeling in a sense of awe and wonderment, so the song is kind of a Kate Bush song about miracles."

  13. Paradise

    Coldplay - Paradise (Official Video)

    Another song of wonder, Mylo Xyloto's most joyous moment was a slow burn to number one, having originally been bundled with album pre-orders, but it reached its rightful place at the summit as the second single proper from the album.

    Like the rest of the album, it was a Brian Eno co-write and co-production, and you can sense the touch of the glam-turned-ambient genius without losing any of that overwhelming Coldplay bombast and grandiosity.

  14. The Scientist

    Coldplay - The Scientist (Official 4K Video)

    One of Coldplay's most beautifully understated moments, with a brilliant, barmy, backwards video that wittily played on the lyrics ("Oh, take me back to the start").

    Coldplay had already explored the regret of love lost in the past, but – capped by Martin's falsetto – never quite so tenderly as on this piano-led ballad from A Rush of Blood to the Head.

  15. Magic

    Coldplay - Magic (Official Video)

    After the shock of 'Midnight''s electronics, the first proper single from Ghost Stories was a bit more classic Coldplay in feel, but still showed the band pushing things forward.

    A hit in the UK, US and elsewhere, it's maybe the ultimate example of Coldplay wrestling complete emotion out of the most basic of lyrical sentiments ("Call it magic / Call it true / I call it magic / When I'm with you").

  16. Yellow

    Coldplay - Yellow (Official Video)

    Coldplay had released a fair bit of music before 'Yellow', but there's an argument that here was where it all really happened for the band.

    With their second single for a big label, Coldplay became (almost) overnight superstars. It was written at the studio during the Parachutes sessions, with the band inspired by the actual night sky ("Look at the stars...").

    Chris Martin originally wrote the melody as a Neil Young parody, but it was too good to waste as a comedy bit – despite the place marker of unifying it around "Yellow" apparently being borrowed from a nearby Yellow Pages.

    It was a top five UK hit, and as impressive for a relatively unknown Brit guitar act, entered the US top 50.

  17. Trouble

    Coldplay - Trouble (Official video)

    After the shock success of 'Yellow', it was vital that the follow-up kept people interested, so it was a good job that Coldplay had 'Trouble' in their back pocket.

    "There were some bad things going in our band," Chris said of the lyrical content.

    "The song is about behaving badly towards somebody you really love and I was certainly doing that to some members of the band."

    At least something good came out of it - the band's second top ten single helping the continued success of Parachutes.

  18. Viva La Vida

    Coldplay - Viva La Vida (Official Video)

    Coldplay had already been stretching their wings by this point, but it was on the fourth album that they started getting a little conceptual, as evidenced by its title Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends.

    Its title was borrowed from a painting by Frida Kahlo (literally "Long live life"),

    "She went through a lot of pain, of course, and then she started a big painting in her house that said 'Viva la Vida'," said Martin of Kahlo. "I just loved the boldness of it."

    The song itself was built around Davide Rossi's strings, co-production from Brian Eno and lyrics that touch on religion and spirituality ("I know St Peter will call my name...").

  19. Clocks

    Coldplay - Clocks (Official Video)

    "Rage is the river running under most rock formations. Coldplay’s music has a different source and I think it’s best revealed in this song 'Clocks',' said Bono, and we're not going to argue with Bono.

    "It just sort of sticks to you, tighter than time itself. The clock face of one band sharing a moment in time… I remember when I first heard it, punching the air in a manly but not aggressive way, and then the feeling of, 'Oh, this is just better than anyone else’s song at the moment’."

    A song built around a cascading piano riff that still refuses to leave our head after all these years that was apparently influenced by Muse, it was done very late in the day – so much so it was actually being considered for the band's third album.

    Manager Phil Harvey quite rightly pointed out that it would go against the message of the lyrics if they held it back.

    "No, you must do that song now 'cause you're going on about urgency, and you're talking about keeping this song back. That doesn't make sense."

    They listened, and A Rush of Blood to the Head had another of its standout moments.

  20. Fix You

    Coldplay - Fix You (Official Video)

    With its cast of guest producers and lead single 'Speed of Sound', Coldplay's X&Y at times felt like the band making a self-conscious choice to escape their inherent Coldplay-ness.

    But you absolutely can't escape yourself, and the second single from the album is perhaps the ultimate Coldplay song.

    'Fix You' was written for Chris Martin's then-wife Gwyneth Paltrow following the death of her father Bruce. Appropriately, he used a synthesizer given to Paltrow by her father on the song, in lieu of a church organ.

    He's described it as "probably the most important song we've ever written", and while it isn't technically the band's biggest charting hit, it went on to go quadruple platinum in the UK, triple platinum in the US, and a radio, TV and movie mainstay.