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The Viva La Vida (song) meaning thread!

Faith Akiyama

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While I think that there are some very religious phrases and undertones to this song, I don't think they are meant religiously at all. Given the broader scope of the song and the fact that there are several phrases that just don't fit in with the religious interpretations, I think that it is more likely a morality tale about power.

It's about absolute power corrupting absolutely. Taking power violently and by force ends with it being taken from you violently and by force. Abuse of power and desire for more end in revolution and violence. Childoftheunderworld I think said it beautifully. There are elements in here that refer to a host of historical figures that held great power and sway and all of them were swept aside in their turn.

It is interested when taken in light of world events at this time. Gordon Brown coming replacing Tony Blair as Prime Minister of England. The elections here in the United States where Bush will be replaced by someone and the general unhappiness of the public at how he ran things. Political turmoils surrounding the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. There are many places right now where the "old king is dead" and "long live the [new] king" is being played out.

Throughout it there is the feeling of the fickleness of the masses and how quickly they can turn on you. The care that is needed as a ruler, especially if you got your power through violent means.

There also seems to be the idea of sorrow at ones past actions and forgiveness. The 2 final repetitions of the chorus are identical except that in the first one he knows that St. Peter WON'T call his name. Then in the 2nd repetition he says that St. Peter WILL call his name. It seems that this person has come to understand that the things they have done were wrong in some way and they feel sorry for that. This could go back to Napoleon and several kings mentioned who were exiled or imprisoned after their defeat and had plenty of time to think about things. This person became penitant. It's almost as if they are approaching their death and they are realizing that their life may not have been this great thing and they are asking forgiveness for it. Could this be a final prayer, recounting their life and trying to change their heart?

The music is incredible and no matter the true meaning of the lyrics, this is indeed a very powerful song.
What you said is absolutely perfect.

I am religious myself and do interpret the song to have particular connotations, but in order to incorporate/connect all the words together, it's more sensible that there is a much broader meaning at hand. There's so much social context within this that every time I hear it I am reminded of something different in current and historical times...I almost believe that it was the band's original purpose in writing the song in this fashion.

But for me, the point after all these thoughts is that humanity has thrived onward time and again, even when rulers and nations rose and fell...thus -- Viva La Vida!
 

Bobby Dylan

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I'm still adamant he says "will call my name".

Why would you not be able to explain non-admission to Heaven, after not speaking an honest word?
It's wont. And you explained it to yourself, if you don't speak an honest word why would you get into heaven?

The song is more about power in general, the thoughts behind it and everything it causes (corruption, revolution, etc.), religion plays into that, but its not the main focus of the song
 

Knotty

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Precisely, so why would it be preceded by "FOR SOME REASON I CAN'T EXPLAIN?'

Despite your obvious lack of basic comprehension, you're actually right, as the lyrics on the Extras Album Art on coldplay.com indicate the lyrics are 'won't' for at least one of the choruses. That doesn't stop you being daft though ^^
 

Bobby Dylan

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Where are you hearing him say will?

I could be wrong but I really don't think he ever says will, and even if he does it doesn't matter in what you're arguing . And I don't think you're understanding the lyrics, or me, you're the one not making any sense.

When he first says for some reason I can't explain I think it is in relation to losing his power after losing his love.. "Once you'd gone there was/ Never an honest word/ And that was when I ruled the world". He can't explain it but as soon as the person he loved left he stopped ruling well, and went from "owning the streets, to sweeping them"... from "King to pawn". "People couldn’t believe what I’d become"

He says it again in relation to St. Peter and heaven, still says won't, but he can't explain because he doesn't feel as if everything was entirely his fault. He knows he made mistakes, but he thinks he should still get in and forgiven. But, he knows he won't be for some reason he can't put his finger on. It's too late and he won't be

Even if he says will (I'm assuming you're hearing it in the last chorus) then it's the same reasoning, he'll get in because it wasn't all his fault and he'll just be forgiven.

Won't makes more sense, he can't explain because he feels he should get in, and he can't understand why he wouldn't be forgiven. If he says will then for some reason he can't understand he'll get in? Doesn't make sense to me, either way I don't know what you're talking about when you say I can't comprehend

Think whatever you want, but don't call me daft when you can't even comprehend what I'm saying. You didn't have to be such a douche bag
 

Faith Akiyama

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I think mycroft is right. The FIRST time (Chorus after the second stanza) Chris sings "Won't," but the in the last repetition of the chorus he sings "Will." That might've caused the confusion :)
 

Bobby Dylan

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I've listened to it closely, and I really don't think he does. It doesn't matter in what he was trying to say anyway. I was trying to explain that even he says won't/will he still might not understand why, so both could work, whether he is forgiven or not doesn't matter in that way
 

CTruth

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to be completely honest you guys are getting way to religious about this its, simply about a powerful king who was at the top, got betrayed and now he's at the bottom, and he thinks saint peter won't call his name because the things he's done "blew down the doors to let me in" and what he was when he got power, "people couldn't believe what i'd become". and on the chorus h talks about the good things that happened when he ruled the world (was the king).it was also in the roman times
 

CTruth

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to be completely honest you guys are getting way to religious about this its, simply about a powerful king who was at the top, got betrayed and now he's at the bottom, and he thinks saint peter won't call his name because the things he's done "blew down the doors to let me in" and what he was when he got power, "people couldn't believe what i'd become". and on the chorus h talks about the good things that happened when he ruled the world (was the king).it was also in the roman times
but he was betrayed because how much he had changed and how he was a cruel person now that he's the king "blew down the doors to let me in".
 

CTruth

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not to mension the fact that he says saint peter will call his name at the end becuase he realizes what was is in the past, "never an honest word, but that WAS when i ruled the world."
showing that he knows he can still change and be a good person
 

CTruth

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not to mension the fact that he says saint peter will call his name at the end becuase he realizes what was is in the past, "never an honest word, but that WAS when i ruled the world."
showing that he knows he can still change and be a good person
actually he says will every time, if you think about it it doesn't make since for him to say "for some reason i can't explain" if he say's i know saint peter won't call my name"
 

Bobby Dylan

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Read my post from before, on the previous page I think. It still makes sense with won't, which is what he says, every time
 

Coldway

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Viva la Vida

I think this song is about St. Paul...a model for turning away from materialistic possessions and turning towards Christ.

Paul was originally a Roman citizen who turned away from his Roman heritage to embrace Christ. Originally he hid behind his Roman citizenship anytime he got into trouble. He rolled the dice, etc.

Supposedly, Paul never met Jesus before Jesus' crucifixion. Which also makes sense with the lyrics.

It can also be taken to be generic and for everyone. It uses a lot of references which can be alluded to different historical figures. The Revolution can refer to the French Revolution and the head on a platter is John the Baptist and it goes on and on...

If it is about one historical figure I believe it is Saint Paul (Saul of Tarsus)

If it is more superficial it's a reference to figures throughout history and is just a "those who are rich now and abuse their power may not be rich at all, and surely will not be rich when it comes to the afterlife."
 

rashan

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Biblical References do not equal being deluded/religious (synonymous).

They are populist ways of getting across a point.

In 'Viva La Vida' the point is that power and control corrupts.
you took the words out of my mouth (err.. fingers?)!!
 

JPB

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i think you are right that is about jesus christ, but you are judging it wrongly the escapist... the correct is to say that is a a Christian one, you obviously say that is a catholic one because you have been grown as a catholic, am i right?

the religious differences are not that distant imo, but the correct is to say christian and more that the song is speaking about jesus christ.


and i like that they do it, if the album is about rebelion an social movements, out of being or not a christian or a believer, just taking into account jesus from nazaret as a human being, he was a revolutionary man, that's why he was accused and sentenced, romans feared his powers, his human powers of make many people follow and do what he thinks.

recently i've been thinking that the heroe for any social movement, the first one should be Jesus of Nazaret, no matter of the religious side, i think he would had been an interesting person to meet just for this rebel thing he did.

i'm glad that at least a band recognize it. :)
Oh man, I just started to read your piece and the line "grown as a Catholic" really made the image of millions of people sprouting out of flower pots the world over. Who knew!
 

FlU213

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What r the thoughts on Violet Hill?? Is anyone familiar with the poem by Browning called Porphyria's Lover?? In it, the narrator has killed his girlfriend and he sits with her all night long without saying a word. Read it and compare.
 

JPB

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What r the thoughts on Violet Hill?? Is anyone familiar with the poem by Browning called Porphyria's Lover?? In it, the narrator has killed his girlfriend and he sits with her all night long without saying a word. Read it and compare.

Oh my God I haven't seen Gwyneth the last few days...you don't think...do you?????????
 

JPB

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Ha! I didn't mean it in that way....

Hmm...yes, I'm sure...:sneaky:

I think VH is just like one night Chris was watching CNN/FOX/ABC/BBC News or whatever, saw lots of images of people dying and pain and suffering, leapt up, roared "F*CK IT!!" ran to the piano and belted it out. The lyrics are both oblique and angry. He's telling it like it is!!
 

busybeeburns

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What’s Coldplay Getting at in “Viva La Vida”?

I enjoy listening for spiritual/religious themes in pop culture, especially music. Mostly because its all over the place, and often in surprising places.

Coldplay has long been very fertile ground for this. Though I don’t believe they’ve made any particular profession of faith (like members of U2) much of Coldplay’s lyrics are absolutely DRENCHED in spiritual themes/imagery: Substitute “Jesus” for “Green Eyes” and you’ve got a worship song ready for many Christian settings (and I’ve heard it sung that way!). I believe that “In My Place” is about the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s death on the Cross for humanity’s sin. (Maybe I’m reading into that a bit, but not much. And I’m not alone). And my personal favorite, pointed out to me by my 4-year-old Samuel: “Swallowed in the Sea” is about Jonah. Think about it: “You belong with me/not swallowed in the sea.” Makes total sense if God is singing this to Jonah. That song is known AS “the Jonah song” in our family, and played repeatedly on car trips.

So it’s been with real interest that I’ve listened to the first two tracks from the new Coldplay album “Viva La Vida” (no, Ricky Martin is not involved, but I’m waiting for the mash-up. How funny/weird would that be?). The title track doesn’t lack for Christian imagery:

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sweep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand


My first instinct is that this is an oblique protest song, and a commentary on the decline of American prestige abroad because of failed attempts at regime change (”the old king is dead”) and the resulting fallout. The first stanza may be a reference to Katrina–the seas didn’t obey that day, and left behind a big mess.

Who’s speaking? It’s in first person. I imagine Chris Martin putting these words in Dubya’s mouth. The whole song makes much more sense that way.

Despite the self-assuredness (in some sectors) that the US was carrying out God’s plan, we discovered that our castles were built on sand (allusion to Jesus’ parable in Matthew 7:24-29) and salt (Lot’s wife in Genesis 19:26).

Then we have what seems to be religious veneer covering up for unjust actions:

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter will call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world
Oooooh Oooooh Oooooh




It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn’t believe what I’d become


Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter will call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world
(Ohhhhh Ohhh Ohhh)

http://stevelutz.wordpress.com/2008/05/13/whats-coldplay-getting-at-in-viva-la-vida/
 
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