[12] Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’

When the Pet Shop Boys covered this in their Pandemonium show – Neil Tennant in crown and gown, natch – it fostered the biggest singalong of the night. I’d swear, somewhat insultingly (for whoever), half the audience assumed the song was Tennant and Lowe’s – and wised up too late. Otherwise, I’m not sure there’s a natural overlap between the bands, but the point for me is ‘Viva La Vida’ has fast become an anthem and, I’ll wager, the Noughties hit that will last. At least in the sort of Absolute Radio pantheon that will forever rate Bohemian Rhapsody and Stairway To Heaven the standout peaks of our popular culture.

Obviously I think this is a great record, and while much of that is down to its immediacy and bursting pride, there’s also the question of its surprising birth. After all, X&Y had pretty much clawhammered the joy out of the soul of anyone who listened. It was a flatulent album, stretching its reserves of hot air over a dozen lifeless rhyming-dictionary clods of half-songs. They barely deserved their Brian Eno moment. However, he turned up anyway and has to take a hefty slice of credit for the alert Coldplay that emerged. But credit to Martin and co for actually bothering their arses this time.

Like Doctor Who, this is a family favourite. Actually, Doctor Who’s too scary for Junior. Let’s call this a mainstay of our automobile glee club.

Junior says: “WOAH-OH-OHH-OH-OHHH-OHHH. That’s the best bit.” And probably the only bit not pilfered from Joe Satriani, Cat Stevens, ‘Papa Don’t Preach’… – ah, we’re all the sum of our influences, aren’t we? Whatever cobbles this together, it gets Junior smiling every time. Maybe she’s got some publishing rights too.

Best bit: Well, what she said.

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[6] Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’

Coldplay

As the opening strings stab, Junior vouches, “It’s my song,” which just about crowns a vexing couple of weeks for Chris Martin. That’s Junior and Joe Satriani on his tail. Joe’s beef is that the melody of the verse borrows a widdly guitar part of his, and while you can’t deny the similarities it’s tough to call it a steal. At any rate, ‘Viva La Vida’’s strength is a pulsating string sound and a chorus you can shine your shoes with.

After the complacent, sloppy muck of X&Y, I wasn’t expecting great things of Coldplay, and Viva La Vida’s lead single ‘Violet Hill’ wasn’t exactly a curveball – but, once you got past the throwback mis-step of ‘Cemeteries Of London’, the album turned out to be a real gem. There’s a switch halfway through fourth track ‘42’ where the band relaxes, tries on some new threads for size and bangs out beauties to the end. It’s tempting to call it the work of Brian Eno and, even if his hand was only a guiding one, he can take some credit that the album is succinct, moving, interesting and brave – in relative terms, at least. The title track is its beating heart (albeit a heartbeat after some mild exercise), a stirring tale of a great leader fallen and shamed. Neil reckons it’s about Tony Blair.

Junior is “woah-oh-OH-OH-oh”ing within a bar or two, pre-empting the chant before the final chorus. Perhaps it was at the start in her first draft.

[19] Mika, ‘Grace Kelly’

Mika, ‘Grace Kelly’

Before being overtaken by Rihanna and the unstoppable Leona Lewis juggernaut in recent weeks, this was the biggest-selling single of the year. It’s a disturbing and divisive record, but – how shall we put it? – one of the more memorable No.1s of the year.
 
I had the misfortune to review its parent album Life In Cartoon Motion, a ghastly concoction of wildly derivative showtunes and blatant rip-offs, with the most disingenuous lyrics this side of Coldplay’s X&Y. That said, ‘Grace Kelly’, for all its irritating quirks, has the kind of fantastic showboating chorus that only a churl could deny. I won’t argue with those who hate it – it’s just one of those songs.
 
Mika is so eager to please that one resolutely refuses to be pleased. “Why don’t you like me, why don’t you like me…?” – well, where to start? Credit where it’s due, though: nothing could have stopped this going to the top of the chart. “So I tried a little Freddie” – make that “a lot”, and please leave it now.
 
Gracing this with her cheeky chappy, bustly dance, Junior gave it short shrift in the end. It was the ultimate confirmation that small doses of Mika are quite enough. I don’t particularly want to hear ‘Grace Kelly’ anymore, but I’ll stand by his right to be recognised for one inventive song.

[1] U2, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’

I was given my first CD player for my birthday that year and had to choose one CD. A friend suggested I replace my favourite album. The Joshua Tree had been out for three months, ample time for me to decide – briefly – that it was the greatest record ever released, so that was the one. How fickle our young selves are.

I forgot about it for a few years, when chest-beating stadium behemoths were painted as the devil incarnate, but have come back to it a bit now, and it’s not too harsh a shock to see this song at the top of the pile. U2’s plodding and patchy recent efforts, and the “will this do?” likes of Coldplay’s vapid X&Y are giving impassioned, crowd-pleasing rock a bad name again, though, and the superior quality of The Joshua Tree is shown in stark relief.

Not everyone’s cup of tea, of course, and not really my favourite stuff these days. Some songs break through. I like the yearning and insistent chords, and the way it builds, shown to more obvious effect on Rattle & Hum’s gospelified version. The Chimes’ fantastic soul cover a few years later takes it even further, bringing out the potential Bono hoped it had.

Of course, it could just be a load of cod-religious, bombastic, empty posturing. Hey, that’s why we love them, right? Junior tried to get with the questing theme by working out how to sit up unaided. Didn’t quite manage it, but she put on a decent performance. Acting baby.