Coldplay: A Rush of Blood to the Head

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Coldplay - Rush of BloodA Rush of Blood to the Head is the second studio album by British alternative rock band Coldplay. Released on 26 August 2002 in the UK through the label Parlophone, the album was produced by the band and British record producer Ken Nelson. Recording started after the band became popular worldwide with the release of their debut album, Parachutes, and one of its singles in particular, “Yellow”. Attitudes to songwriting were affected by the September 11 attacks in the United States, which occurred the week before recording started. The songs featured in the album have a greater use of piano and electric guitar than its predecessor.

The album was made available in August 2002, two months after its original planned release date. It was released on 27 August in the United States through Capitol Records. Capitol released a remastered version of the album in 2008 on a 180-gram vinyl record as part of the “From the Capitol Vaults” series. The album debuted and continued their huge commercial legacy, an ongoing pattern that began with Parachutes which made Coldplay one of the best-selling bands worldwide. It topped the UK Album Charts upon its first week of release in the United Kingdom, and became the eighth biggest-selling album of the 21st century in the UK. The British Phonographic Industry has since certified the album 9x platinum for its accumulated sales of over 2.7 million units in Britain and over 15 million worldwide. The album spawned the hit singles “In My Place”, “The Scientist”, “Clocks”, and “God Put a Smile upon Your Face”.

A Rush of Blood to the Head has been critically acclaimed, and the band won the 2003 Grammy for Best Alternative Album for the second year in a row, and the 2004 Grammy for Record of the Year for the song “Clocks”. In 2012 it was ranked number 466 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It was also voted the best album of all time by the listeners of BBC radio 2 in a poll conducted in 2013.

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The band started recording the album in London a week after the September 11 attacks in the United States, during which their “poignant songs … garnered larger audiences”. Coldplay had never stayed in London for an extended period before and were bombarded by problems focusing on the production process. They decided to relocate to Liverpool, where they had recorded some of the songs on Parachutes. Vocalist Chris Martin said that once there they “became obsessed with recording”. “In My Place” was the first song recorded for the album and the one that the band released as the album’s lead single “because it was the song that made us want to do a second album. It kept us going and made us think we could still write songs”, following “a strange period of not really knowing what we were doing” three months after the success of Parachutes.

The band wrote more than 20 songs for the album and some of those new tracks, including “In My Place” and “Animals”, were performed live during the tours promoting Parachutes. The album’s title was revealed through a post on the band’s official website.

During initial recording sessions in Liverpool, vocalist Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland worked alone, and only on weekends. Each Monday, they would present the song ideas that they had developed to their bandmates. With A Rush of Blood to the Head nearly completed, Martin went into the studio late one night and wrote a piano riff that he has stated “just came out”. The band recognised that this early version of the song, that would become “Clocks”, was special the first time Martin played it to them. Reasoning that it was too late to include the song on the album, they recorded a demo version and included it on a CD marked “Songs for #3”, featuring unfinished tracks they intended to work on for their third studio album.

By June 2002, the band had completed A Rush of Blood to the Head, but thought their output sounded “rubbish” and reached an agreement with the label to postpone the release of the album until they were completely satisfied. Subsequently, many songs were discarded because they sounded like they could have been on Parachutes. Martin has claimed that it would have been uninteresting: “It would have shown that we’re happy to sit back on what we’d done, and we’re not. For us, it was important to progress and try to improve upon our abilities as musicians.” Such ambitions put the band under strain: “sometimes practice sessions ended abruptly with one or more members of Coldplay threatening to quit”.

Upon release, A Rush of Blood to the Head received generally strong reviews from critics, and it is commonly considered today to be Coldplay’s best album. Review aggregating website Metacritic reports a normalised score of 80% based based on 25 reviews. Many felt that it built upon their previous album, Parachutes. Alexis Petridis of the newspaper The Guardian wrote that the band’s “new assurance is everywhere … the timidity of Parachutes is nowhere to be found”. He concludes, “It sounds like an album ready to take on the world, and win.”

Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times praised the album, commenting that it is “one of the year’s best albums” and describing it as “sparser, stranger and even catchier than its predecessor”. Rolling Stone magazine’s Rob Sheffield, said that “A Rush of Blood to the Head is a nervier, edgier, thoroughly surprising album”, adding, “where Parachutes was the clumsy diary of a high-strung kid, A Rush of Blood sounds more like a band with the confidence to test its own limits.” MacKenzie Wilson of Allmusic echoed the above comments, saying that it is a “strong album”. Wilson, who compliments Martin for his “sharpened” falsetto and refined “haunting delivery” and Buckland for his “riveting guitar work”, notes that “regardless of the band still being in their mid-twenties, they’ve made an amazing record”. 

A Rush of Blood to the Head made an entrance into the UK Albums Chart upon its debut week, entering at number 1 and moving 273,924 copies. The British Phonographic Industry has since certified the album eight times platinum for its accumulated sales of over 2.6 million copies. With the subsequent release of “Clocks” and “The Scientist”, the album spent over one year on the chart. A Rush of Blood to the Head has been placed at number seven on the list of United Kingdom’s 20 biggest-selling albums of the 21st century, published by the British trade paper Music Week. In July 2011, A Rush of Blood to the Head climbed from No. 176 back to No. 44 in the album’s 250th charting week there. As of February 2012, the album had sold 2,804,606 copies in the UK making it the best selling Coldplay album.

In the United States, A Rush of Blood was Coldplay’s first venture into the top 5 with 144,000 copies sold initially, stronger than its predecessor, Parachutes, which debuted at number 189 in December 2000. It has since been certified four times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America with sales of over 4,822,000 copies as of March 2012.  It has been certified seven times platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association, having accumulated shipments of over 490,000 units,  and four times platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association for shipments of over 400,000.

A Rush of Blood to the Head has earned the band several awards from both the domestic and international music press. In 2002 it was awarded Best Album at the Q Awards. In the same year, the band won two Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the song “In My Place”. In 2003 A Rush of Blood to the Head won Best British Album at the BRIT Awards, and the following year the band earned their first Grammy Award for Record of the Year for the song “Clocks”. The same year, the won the awards best NME album of the year, and best album of the year at the NME awards.

The album was chosen in 2002 as Billboard magazine’s Critics’ Choice. In 2012, it was ranked number 466 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was also ranked 21st on Rolling Stone‘s list of top 100 albums of the 2000s. In 2007 The National Association of Recording Merchandisers and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released a list of what they term “The Definitive 200 Albums of All Time”; A Rush of Blood to the Head ranks at number 65 on the list. The album was nominated for the BRITs Album of 30 Years at the 2010 BRIT Awards.

In a BBC Radio poll in 2013, the album topped the list ahead of Hopes and Fears by Keane, Rio by Duran Duran and Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.

Track listing

All songs written by Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion and Chris Martin.

No. Title Length
1. “Politik” 5:19
2. “In My Place” 3:48
3. “God Put a Smile upon Your Face” 4:57
4. “The Scientist” 5:09
5. “Clocks” 5:07
6. “Daylight” 5:27
7. “Green Eyes” 3:43
8. “Warning Sign” 5:31
9. “A Whisper” 3:58
10. “A Rush of Blood to the Head” 5:51
11. “Amsterdam” 5:19
Total length:
54:08