Violet Hill


Violet Hill single cover

Violet Hill is a track included on Coldplay’s fourth album, Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends and the album’s first single, released on May 5, 2008.

One of the strongest of the new songs, the band was considering giving it away as a special promotion in coming weeks and then leaving it off the album. However it was later revealed that not only would Violet Hill end up being on the album, it would be the first single. Opening with a jagged distorted guitar riff, the song announces a new template: The stalking, bluesy beat fits nicely with Chris Martin’s earthy vocals and plaintive lyrics: “If you love me, won’t you let me know?”

The band also announced on April 28, 2008 that the single would be released from the official Coldplay website on April 29 for a week free of charge before the paid download on May 5. The song received its first radio play on April 29, 2008, on BBC Radio 1 at 12:13. Coldplay’s new single ‘Violet Hill’ was downloaded for free by over 600,000 people in the 24 hours since it was made available at 12.15pm on April 29.

Chris Martin described the song as having a “chalky, pastel feeling” which he said reminds him of his childhood. “Imagine a pseudo guitar-like circus music with a pinch of Chicago… It’s something new from us and you will be impressed.”


  1. “A Spell A Rebel Yell” – 2:46

European release (CD)

  1. “Lost?” – 3:39

First Release Of Violet Hill Causes Websites To Crash

Coldplay’s new single ‘Violet Hill’ was downloaded for free by over 600,000 people in the first 24 hours when it was made available online at 12.15pm on Tuesday April 29, 2008. In the first 12 hours it was downloaded by 300,000. This figure doubled overnight as other countries logged on to, the source of the free download. The single was made available free for a week and then released as a paid-for digital single on May 6, 2008.

Meanwhile, were keen to point out that the Coldplay figures are a record, exceeding even the most popular track from the Radiohead album, In Rainbows, that was streamed for free back in October. That notched up 22,000 listens in 12 hours.’s figures are based, obviously, on the traffic that is scrobbled among users, so these are only a minimum figure. But in 23 hours, there have already been 33,523 listens of Violet Hill – equivalent to 1 listen every 2.4 seconds. That’s despite Coldplay’s server wobbling about a bit under the weight of requests yesterday. has already claimed a significant 119% rise in the number of click-throughs to Amazon’s retail site since it introduced free streaming for the big four music labels.

Trending of Violet Hill

During Coldplay’s headlining performance on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury festival on 25th June 2011, Violet Hill trended on Twitter worldwide after the song had been played.


Critics were positive towards the song. In the Los Angeles Times review of the album, critic Todd Martens wrote: “The song’s first guitar crush arrives after a lengthy ambient intro, and brings an electrifying jolt to the striking piano melody. Martin brings a booming confidence to his vocals that has been more evident in Coldplay’s live shows than on record.”

Simon Vozick-Levinson from Entertainment Weekly wrote: “‘Violet Hill’ opens with a thin synth wash that’s very Music for Airports, and proceeds from there to some droning, stabbing guitar textures that sound cooler than most any Coldplay tunes I can think of.”

Kristina Feliciano of Paste magazine wrote: “You know you’re in for a different kind of Coldplay experience when Chris Martin ditches his anguished falsetto for a deep, doomy basso profundo, as he does on ‘Violet Hill'”.

Mikael Wood of Spin magazine wrote: “‘Violet Hill’ pulls a similar fake-out, bludgeoning a delicate Eno-style soundscape with big Black Sabbath guitars.

Darcie Stevens of the Austin Chronicle wrote: “While the band’s fourth LP begins light and pretty, its power breaks late-album with Old West tangent ‘Violet Hill'”. The song appeared on Rolling Stone’s Hot List for May 2009, with the magazine calling it “a (relatively) hard-rocking attack on Fox News’ America”.

After the song’s release, Violet Hill was featured in the music video games Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, as downloadable content, and in Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits. The single was covered by Pendulum, when they were guests in BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge. The song has been mixed by Michael Brauer, who also mixed Coldplay’s debut album, Parachutes. It was also featured on an episode of the UK soap opera, Hollyoaks.


The official video for Violet Hill was nominated for Best UK Video as well as Best Special Effects for the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. The track was also nominated for two Q awards in the categories of Best Track and Best Video; the song lost in both categories to Keane’s “Spiralling” in Best Track and Vampire Weekend’s “A-Punk” in Best Video, respectively. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards in the categories of Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group.

First ever review messageboard member locust7 [1] revealed on 18th April 2008 that he had already heard Violet Hill, almost two weeks before it was actually released on the internet. Although his sources were not revealed, his review turned out to be true, describing the song precisely. Here’s his review:[2]

I know many of you are not going to believe me, but I’ve already heard Violet Hill. I’m not going to give away many details of how I did it, only that it was via an ipod, and a few days ago. And I see that everybody is so eager to know, that I think you finally deserved to share this with me. Believe or not, I’m going to give my impressions about it. It’s awesome! The lyrics are the part that I can’t remember precisely, because English is not my native language. The chorus is the same that Rolling Stone explained. However, the song does not start with the jagged guitar Rolling Stone said, but with an atmospheric intro of about 15-20 seconds very Eno-esque. Then the guitar and piano begin to sound. Their riffs are heavier, faster and louder than ever. I don’t think I’ve heard Buckland studio work this hard (live you always hear it louder and lower), but it’s very attractive combined with the piano.

Chris voice is his low voice of the Parachutes era, but seems to be just stronger, muscular, not delicate till the end of the song. Not a single falsetto note here. Also, the bass and drum sound different from general past Coldplay songs. Here they define the whole rhythm by themselves, especially Will’s work. It’s very distinctive and it has an intense effect between verses, and especially after every chorus. You think the drums are going to end, but they follow and remark these moments. You’ll recognise very well this part of the song: bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam (six or seven times I think).

There’s an intermediate guitar bridge before the final chorus, a continued riff, in which sometimes I thought of a Pink Floyd Dark Side or Pulse era, atmospheric soundful but at the peaks of the guitar distorted. After the final chorus, there’s the end, a coda of 35-40 with Chris only on the piano and singing low. Here his voice is delicate but not mellow. Seems to express he’s broken inside, sadder and lonelier than ever, and the song slowly fades after the last word and note and dissapears into atmospheric as well, bringing you loneliness but strength. The structure of the song is very Coldplayish, but the general sound is different, in the way of being more mature, stronger and epic without pretending it (unlike some X & Y songs). The instruments are very well integrated, much better than other times, but in many parts, an instrument carries by itself the song. Eno Production makes them sound louder, stronger but not pretentious. It feels both natural evolution, and I hope for the rest of the songs, seems to announce a more adult themed work and the step beyond we were awaiting.

Overall I give it 9,5/10. Ok. That’s all folks. As I said, I know some will believe me and some will not. I’ll be called liar by some, I have no doubts. But when all of you will be able to hear the song, and it’s sooner than you expect, you’ll know it’s true.

And it was.

Music Video announced an exclusive broadcast of Coldplay’s new video for the forthcoming single, Violet Hill. It was due to be broadcast on UK’s Channel 4 on May 13 at 11.05pm, however, this never occured, with the video instead being posted on the band’s official website, along with an alternative Dancing Politicians version by Mat Whitecross, which spliced images of prominent politicians with images of the band taken from the official video.

The official video for Violet Hill was filmed in Sicily, Italy. It was originally thought that only ‘Prospekt’ was present in Italy, but Italian media that it was the whole band, ready to film a video for the first single of the fourth album. The film set was a very restricted area located in Enna (the Italian city at the highest altitude), near Nicoletti lake.

The video itself features the band performing the song with various instruments, dressed in their now familiar military outfits. On occasion, members of the band distort their faces with a magnifying glass. It ends with Chris Martin attempting to walk on snow, and failing somewhat.

Alternative Music Video – Dancing Politicians

An alternative music video, named ‘Dancing Politicians’, was posted on Coldplay’s official website on 17 May 2008, directed by Mat Whitecross. The video is made up of clips, sometimes looped, featuring various politicians and scenes of war, along with clips of the band in Ada Mader’s version of the video, as well as firework displays at the end. It prominently features George W. Bush, presenting clips of him in a mocking manner. Prominent personalities, such as Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon, Hugo Chávez, Robert Mugabe, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Boris Yeltsin, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Tony and Cherie Blair, and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are featured in this alternate video. This video is shown on a small on-stage TV screen at live shows, including the band’s 2008 Viva la Vida tour.


A Spell A Rebel Yell vinyl release

A free Coldplay 7″ vinyl single was given away with the May 7 issue of NME. The vinyl includes Violet Hill and non-album track A Spell A Rebel Yell, and is not available anywhere else.

Krissi Murison, deputy editor at the NME, said Chris Martin contacted them directly: “He called up our editor one night from the studio, he said ‘I have just written this song [A Spell A Rebel Yell] and it’s the pefect song. NME readers are gonna love it, we have to get it out there.'”

A Spell A Rebel Yell is absent from the commercial CD release of Violet Hill however, which includes Lost? as its b-side instead.


Reviews of Violet Hill have in the main been positive, even from those most sceptical of Coldplay’s direction. One read:

Well, they promised us different, and I can confirm that Coldplay have delivered something different. But is it good? Hell yeah. Even speaking as a determined Coldplay hater, Violet Hill sounds dark, foreboding, and heavy. Less of the piano-sturbation, and Chris Martin retires the falsetto in favour of a more earthy vocal tone.

Violet Hill is a song rich in texture: fuzzed-up power chords, wailing string bends in the background, and some very atmospheric drumming from Will Champion. This most definitely rocks. If this is a sampler of Coldplay’s new direction, then it’s certainly enough to persuade me to listen to the album. Unlike other Coldplay songs I’ve heard, this has balls.

Gentlemen… well played. Thumbs up.

You can read many of the reviews at

Song Facts

Lead singer Chris Martin told Entertainment Weekly that this was Coldplay’s first attempt at a protest song. He added that the song is a nod to The Beatles, and Violet Hill is a street near Abbey Road.

After this song was offered as a free download for a week on in April, such was the demand that the site crashed. The week after this song was made available free for download, it still sold sufficient copies for it to debut at #8 on the UK chart and #40 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Drummer Will Champion told Q magazine about this song’s bluesy Lennonesque sound: “We really tried to make it sound like this great big machine that was slightly knackered. Something that’s slow and grinding. I’m sure people won’t get that! A psychedelic title? Violet Hill is a road in St John’s Wood (North-west London).”

Chris Martin revealed to Rolling Stone magazine that this was inspired by self-proclaimed “traditionalist” political commentator Bill O’Reilly. He said: “The first line in that song is the first line of any song we ever wrote. Years ago, when Guy [Berryman, bassist] heard that first line and that first little melody – ‘It was a long and dark December’ – he said, ‘OK, I’ll join the band.’ But we just didn’t have the other 49 lines until last year. And then one day I was watching Bill O’Reilly, and I was like, ‘I know how to finish that song.’ My best friend, Tim, he’s a musician in a band called the High Wire, but he also has to work in a bar. He was having trouble with his boss, and it made me think that so many people spend their lives being told what to do by people that they just don’t like. So it was that idea, and watching Bill O’Reilly, and all these words just came out.”

Guy Berryman explained to MTV News how this came close to being left off the album: “It was one of the older songs we had been working on, and we had sort of moved it to one side from the list of songs that were going to be on the record. And there’s this secret fifth member of the group, [manager] Phil Harvey, and he really championed it, as well as a few other people, so quite rightfully so, we dragged it back into the short list.”

Two videos were made for this song. One of them, which was filmed on top of Mount Etna in Sicily was the first promo ever to receive a simultaneous premiere on VH1, MTV and The N. The other alternative video (named “Dancing Politicians”) was described by Chris Martin to MTV News as “our favorite video we’ve ever made.” He added: “We just thought it was funny that in the run-up to elections, everybody dances. And we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to make a video of just politicians dancing?’ So we did.”

The Oracle on Violet Hill

February 15, 2011 – submitted by Frisby, United States of America

Q. All I’ve got to say is lolwut…?

Please explain…xD

The Oracle replies:

All I’ve got to say is what on earth does lolwut mean? Actually, don’t answer that I really do not wish to know…

Anyway, what’s there to explain? You must have missed this alternative video when the single was released. Two were made and this one was directed by Mat Whitecross – long time friend and collaborator.

August 26, 2010 – submitted by Emmett, Canada

Q. Hey Oracle!

I found this video on the Coldplay YouTube channel from EMI and I was wondering if it’s something that the boys had made, like is it a Coldplay production? Or just something they found they thought was cool and put up?

Thanks! Have a good day! 😀

The Oracle replies:Mat Whitecross met the band at UCL and directed their first video for Bigger Stronger. He has gone on to make some amazing films and at the start of the Viva campaign came up with this alternative video for its first single, Violet Hill.

The EMI/Coldplay YouTube account only shows official videos so this was a commissioned piece.

July 2, 2009 – submitted by Natale, Australia

Q. Hi Oracle

I was wondering apparently there are two videos for Violet Hill and Viva la Vida

Which are the official videos?

Also the other ones were they just jokes or just a tried ideas?

Hope you answer.

The Oracle replies:

There are indeed two videos for both of those tracks and both are official. They were far from jokes, they were just alternative videos. Trouble had two videos for different reasons. To find out why, click Trouble in the tag cloud.

May 27, 2009 – submitted by Mandy, Australia

Q. Dear Oracle,

Was the Violet Hill single with A Spell a Rebel Yell available anywhere outside the UK? I’m desperate and resorting to ebay.

The Oracle replies:

The combination of those two tracks on a physical format (7 inch vinyl) was only available as a free giveaway with the NME; unfortunately they cannot extend the offer outside of the U.K

April 27, 2009 – submitted by jake, United Kingdom

Q. Hey, in one of your interviews on YouTube, the guy interviewing you said that Jonny’s daughter came up with Violet Hill? is that true or was it a joke? ‘Cause my sheet music said written by you four. Violet Hill rocks!

V i v a v i v a!

The Oracle replies:

Given that she was a baby at the time it’s impossible! Her name is Violet, though Violet Hill is a place. You sheet music is correct.

January 27, 2009 – submitted by Ben, United States of America

Q. kk, 2 questions.

1: My dad won’t believe me that the “dancing politicians” version of Violet Hill on youtube is official. Would you mind giving me proof of this so i can win this arguement once and for all?

2 Why is there a delay in posting the LiT ii music video to iTunes? I want to buy it so i can show all my buddies…

The Oracle replies:

1 Yes it is. The same chap who filmed the Bigger Stronger video made it. Seems both band and director have done pretty well. Mat Whitecross also directed the Lost!/Lost? videos amongst others.
2 Although the single isn’t officially released it’s on there. Ah but you’re in the States and it’s not available outside the U.K right now.


Was a long and dark December
From the rooftops I remember
There was snow, white snow
Clearly I remember
From the windows they were watching
While we froze down below
When the future’s architectured
By a carnival of idiots on show
You’d better lie low
If you love me
Won’t you let me know?

Was a long and dark December
When the banks became cathedrals
And a fox became God
Priests clutched onto bibles
Hollowed out to fit their rifles
And the cross was held aloft
Bury me in armor
When I’m dead and hit the ground
My nerves are poles that unfroze
If you love me
Won’t you let me know?

I don’t want to be a soldier
Who the captain of some sinking ship
Would stow, far below
So if you love me
Why’d you let me go?

I took my love down to violet hill
There we sat in snow
All that time she was silent still
So if you love me
Won’t you let me know?
If you love me
Won’t you let me know?