In the world of contemporary rock and pop music, not many bands have covered the diverse range of sounds like Coldplay has. From their alternative rock days channelling Echo & the Bunnymen, U2 and early Radiohead, to their more recent movements into electronic music and dance, Coldplay are a musical chameleon; they never make the same record twice. While that has led to much criticism for their seemingly ‘hopping-on-a-trend’ style, I find myself drawn to this band for never being afraid at attempting something new. The results of this experimentation have been some of the most creative and gorgeous music of the last decade.
That being said, there is a lot more to this band than their monster hits. To coincide with the release of their seventh record, A Head Full of Dreams, it seems appropriate to examine ten of Coldplay’s hidden gems that in my opinion are cruelly underappreciated. To me, these songs really showcase the depth and creative chops of this band even with their diverse changes in sound and style.
This is written from an audience perspective, just by me as a long-time fan. To any fellow fans reading this, I hope you discover something new, and to any Coldplay haters reading this, I hope that this may sway you a little, hopefully that what you see is not necessarily what you get (I hope).
Introductions made, so let’s get started:
1. ‘Bigger Stronger’- Safety EP (1998), The Blue Room EP (1999)
Where else to start but the opener to their first two official releases? While the clear Radiohead influence is there, what makes this track really work is Jonny Buckland’s ridiculously good guitar playing, as well as Chris Martin’s haunting vocal delivery that was all over their early discography. The simple production brings a serious rawness to the song, something that was seemingly lost by the time the more polished Parachutes came around. But this is Coldplay before they were big, and the talent is seriously there. Old but gold.
2. ‘See You Soon’- The Blue Room EP (1999)
While this song could easily be interchanged with the equally sublime ‘Such a Rush’, this song to me really sums up how Coldplay really developed into making music that is genuinely beautiful. Everything in this track shines: the noodling acoustic guitar, with Martin and Will Champion’s heavenly harmonising, capped off by Buckland’s chiming six string, this song is guaranteed to bring a smile to your day. While the studio version is intimate, this song really comes into its own when played live. YouTube it, the crowds’ response speaks for itself.
3. ‘High Speed’- The Blue Room EP (1999), Parachutes (2000)
If Parachutes was the album that launched Coldplay on their way to superstardom, then ‘High Speed’ was the final nod to their early days. While the album is dominated by the smash hits of ‘Yellow’, ‘Shiver’, and ‘Trouble’, the moment this Radiohead-inspired song arrives as the eighth track it immediately strikes the listener with a brooding power, and Guy Berryman’s excellent bass work gives this song an extra dimensional feel. This is Coldplay stripped back, and what a sound it is!
4. ‘God Put a Smile Upon Your Face’- A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)
Yes, quite a few Coldplay fans have definitely heard of this one… and yes it is still played live…. and yes, it was released as a promotional single… but to me this is the best song Coldplay has ever written. On an album with so many great songs (does ‘Clocks’, ‘The Scientist’ and ‘In My Place’ ring any bells?), this song still stands above the rest to me, channelling the energy of Muse’s early EPs to great effect. The pulsing energy of Champion’s drums, Buckland’s psychedelic guitar, Berryman’s bass that broods in the back with heightening urgency, and Martin’s vocals on the skyrocketing chorus, this song owns the moment, and stays in your head long after its finished. A criminally under-appreciated track with all band members bringing their best to the table.
5. ‘Things I Don’t Understand’- Speed of Sound (2005)
If there is one thing that I don’t understand, it is why this song didn’t make it onto X&Y! While this B-side bears a lot of resemblance to other songs like ‘Low’ and ‘White Shadows’, it channels a sense of mystery, but also a feeling of urgency similar to ‘Clocks’. Buckland’s guitar and Berryman’s bass really come into their own here, adding weight to the ethereal synthesisers that straddle the entire song. Simple, but so effective. This song really shows how great Coldplay were sounding during their X&Y days.
6. ‘Gravity’- Talk (2005)
With X&Y, songs like ‘Fix You’ and ‘Speed of Sound’ laid the foundation for much of what was to come in Coldplay’s career. However, this B-side piano track to the single ‘Talk’ leaves the listener a staggering, emotional wreck; achieving much through its breathtakingly beautiful simplicity. The piano, combined with the lyrics that leave you feeling small when compared to the sheer size and complexity of our world, and you’ve got something really special. Martin and co. ended up giving this song to the British rock band Embrace for their fourth album (probably because they didn’t want this song to be left unheard). While Embrace’s version is stellar, Coldplay’s version takes the cake. Get ready for the feels on this one!
7. ‘Glass of Water’- Prospekt’s March EP (2008)
To me, Coldplay’s Viva la Vida period was their best; when their music was infused with an alternative rock, baroque pop sound. No song to me personally showed their transformation more than this versatile gem from their extended B-Side collection. The verses sparkle and build up ferociously to one of Coldplay’s loudest choruses ever. Throw in Martin’s amazing piano playing and Buckland’s frantic guitar and you got a song that became a live hit staple during their Viva la Vida Tour. It’s easy to see why.
8. ‘Prospekts March/Poppyfields’- Prospekt’s March EP (2008)
Sticking with Prospekt’s March, this song strikes in complete comparison to ‘Glass of Water’: being a simple, heartfelt guitar piece. This is probably one of the quietest songs Coldplay has written, but when its main crescendo leaps on you, the listener really feels a sense of loss, particularly when referenced to many of the revolutionary themes that are present throughout this EP, and Viva la Vida. The final instrumental, ‘Poppyfields’, a guitar driven piece, leaves you pondering, only adding to those swelling emotions. Its one of Coldplay’s most simple dual tracks, but in its short length leaves much on the mind of the listener.
9. ‘The Goldrush’- Life in Technicolor ii (2009)
Within the discography of Coldplay, ‘The Goldrush’ really stands out. This B-side features drummer Will Champion on lead vocals; and coupled with a southern-inspired piano and heaving drums, this song carries a swagger that few Coldplay tracks do. The choir on the main chorus crackles with imperfections, but is so infectiously fun. There’s so much going on this song, it would not surprise me at all to think that Coldplay would have had a blast recording this. It certainly sounds like they did.
10. ‘Ghost Story’- A Sky Full of Stars (2014), Ghost Stories (Deluxe Edition) (2014)
Of all the songs on this list, this song not being included in Ghost Stories is something that frustrates me no end. Why? Because with the entire album relying on a holistic, gentle, ambient electronic pop sound, did anyone else find it so jarring when the EDM track ‘A Sky Full of Stars’ burst onto the scene? ‘Ghost Story’ on the other hand, brilliantly moulds together that pop sound with a lively electronic drum beat and a gorgeous acoustic sound (a nod to Coldplay’s earlier work). This song puts Buckland’s guitar back on centre stage in its climax, and delivering us one of Coldplay’s best. This song is the epitome of old and new blending together, and it’s an absolute knockout.
‘Brothers & Sisters’- non-album single (1999)
Coldplay’s first official single. Once again Martins ghostly vocals and Buckland’s guitar drives the proceedings, sounding like a younger brother to ‘Shiver’: a hidden early gem.
‘Moses’- Live 2003 (2003)
This song was only ever played live, and as so often during the AROBTTH period, the song really gives Jonny Buckland a chance to shine on his six string. Interestingly this song is actually a tribute to Martin’s ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow… awkies?
‘Green Eyes’- A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)
One of the most tender moments of Coldplay’s sophomore, and actually one of the albums simplest songs in terms of production. Buckland’s guitar really adds a lot to this piece, and although it ain’t no ‘Yellow’, it’s still a cracker.
‘Strawberry Swing’- Viva la Vida or Death And All His Friends (2008)
Ahhh, those gorgeous strings in this song! We can’t get enough of this penultimate track from Viva la Vida. Did you know this song has actually been scientifically proven to make people calmer and more relaxed… lets just say it leaves an impression. And that music video?!
‘Moving to Mars’- Every Teardrop is a Waterfall (2011)
I have to confess I wasn’t as big a fan of Coldplay’s fifth record, Mylo Xyloto. That’s not saying it’s bad, I just prefer the others. But this B-Side piano ballad, with its soaring chorus and building instrumentation, is certainly sweet on the ears, even though it may not have the presence of other ballads like ‘The Scientist.’