And Nothing Else Compares: Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head at 20

Looking back on one of the best sophomore albums in modern rock

Coldplay A Rush of Blood to the Head poster (Image: eBay)

When it was released on August 26, 2002, A Rush of Blood to the Head provided the rush needed to propel Coldplay to their eventual superstardom.

While their debut album Parachutes was an initial introduction, their sophomore set underscored their innate ability to fuse pop precepts with a progressive posture, which, in turn, assured them the ability to connect commercially.

Coldplay A Rush of Blood to the Head, Capitol Records 2002

More than its predecessor, A Rush of Blood to the Head shared songs that had an emphatic impact from the first encounter. From the emphatic strains of “In My Place” and the ringing resolve of “Clocks,” through to the emotional entanglement of “Warning Sign,” the clarity and commitment of “Amsterdam” and the beautiful balladry of “God Put a Smile on Your Face,” it’s clearly an album that’s built on melody, texture and an assured dynamic which gave each song an anthemic impact. 

 

VIDEO: Coldplay “In My Place”

That in itself made AROBTTH a landmark album, but the accolades that followed further elevated its status overall. It topped the British album charts its first week of release, and went on to become the eighth biggest selling album of the 21st century in the U.K. It’s since gone on to sell some three million copies in Britain alone and approximately 15 million copies worldwide. It also spawned three hit singles — “In My Place,” “The Scientist” and “Clocks.” Equally as impressively — especially for a relatively new band — the album garnered three Grammys — Best Alternative Album, Best Rock Performance (for the aforementioned “In My Place”) in 2003, and a Grammy for Record of the Year the year after. It tallied three VMA Awards as well. In addition, it was nominated for Best British Album of the Past 30 Years at the 2010 Brit Awards.  

 

VIDEO: Coldplay “The Scientist”

Notably, work on the album began on September 17, 2001, less than a week after the events of 9/11. While the tragedy put some uncertainty into the mix, it also began a period of prolonged writing activity that proved remarkably productive. Nevertheless, it was left to singer/keyboardist/composer Chris Martin and guitarist Jon Buckland to work up the original demos, that were then presented to the rest of the band. Ultimately however, several of the songs from those initial sessions were abandoned either due to the fact that they sounded too similar to the material on Parachutes, or simply because Martin and the band didn’t feel they were as good as they could be. The tension at the time was such that one or more members went as far as to threaten to quit entirely.  

 

VIDEO: Coldplay “Clocks”

Again, this was only the band’s second album. Yet they weren’t content simply to rest of the laurels they received the first time around. It was, in fact, an indication of their ambition to build a bigger brand that would go well beyond any commercial credence. “Politik” in particular expressed a distinct world view, just as other songs — “Clocks” and “A Whisper” in particular — shared a certain urgency and a desire to make more than a lingering impression.

Several songs also touch on the usual topics having to do with love and relationships, but it was the band’s arched approach, their ability to make each song sounds like something epic that made the most immediate impression.

In that regard, A Rush of Blood to the Head clearly lives up to its name. 

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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