Music Analysis

STUDENT SAMPLE 12:30-1:45 October 7, 2010 Contextual Analysis From Protest to Peace In Coldplay’s “Violet Hill,” an anti-war theme unfolds along with opposition of political and social issues. From a relatively obvious perspective of a soldier to subtle remarks regarding modern media, Coldplay pieces together a protest song that steadily speaks out against the flaws of the American government. Quite similarly to Green Day’s “American Idiot,” the concept of a nation being persuaded by mass media and entertainment is heavily focused on.

Coldplay effectively attacks the imperfections and controversies of the American government through their protest song “Violet Hill,” while providing lyrics that are relevant to the majority of Americans. “Violet Hill,” released in 2008 during the second term of President George W. Bush, is a protest against both war and the media’s failure to allow individuals to think for themselves. No particular war is explicitly addressed here; however the media is illustrated as modern, so the meaning can be applied toward the Iraq war. A large portion of this song contains implicit lyrics, which must be analyzed to determine possible implications.

The way in which this song perceived is not directly affected by the lyrics, as the majority of the lyrics are implicit; this requires a more in-depth analysis of the lyrics in order for the perception of the song to be changed. One of the most fundamental pieces of a protest song is its effectiveness, namely how it is taken in by its audience. Coldplay, a British pop group formed in 1997, has released songs that have topped the charts, specifically “Viva La Vida,” released on the same album as “Violet Hill” in the summer of 2008.

By virtue of being on an album that was such a hit and coming from a group that is world-renowned, “Violet Hill” has been able to reach the audience of young adults all the way to middle-aged citizens. Since the release of “Violet Hill” release in 2008, thousands of troops have been withdrawn from Iraq, and Obama has pledged that all US troops will be out by the end of 2011. As well as Coldplay’s “Violet Hill,” Green Day’s “American Idiot” is well-heard because of Green Day’s popularity and timeframe in which it was released. American Idiot” was released 2004 during Bush’s presidency, and both of these songs are effective in persuading the thoughts and actions in our nation’s citizens. An interview of Chris Martin, Coldplay’s lead vocalist, was conducted by Brian Hiatt of Rolling Stone Magazine in 2008. Hiatt picks apart each song in Coldplay’s album, “Viva La Vida. ” During the interview, Hiatt asks, “Was the song inspired by Fox News? ” The lyrics which Hiatt references are “by a carnival of idiots on show,” and “and the fox became God. Martin responds, “No one’s got that before, no one in the band, no one. ” Martin later goes on to say, “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. ” Using the situation of his friend Tim for some inspiration for the song, Martin translates this same situation into the song, only portraying him as a soldier out at war. Martin also notes that the song takes a shot at FOX News.

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He says that after watching Billy O’Reilly on FOX one day, he decided to add focus to the media into this song. In “Violet Hill,” Coldplay sings, “and the fox became God. ” This subtle lyrical metaphor implicitly reflects how American people often act solely on what the news and media tell us to do, or believe what they want us to believe. Green Day’s “American Idiot” relays the same message: “Don’t wanna be an American Idiot / don’t want a nation under the new media…Television dreams of tomorrow / we’re not the ones who’re meant to follow. Coldplay states, “When the future’s architectured / by a carnival of idiots on show / you’d better lie low…” This media is exactly what is shaping the youth’s perspective and outlook on the future, which in turn is the future of the nation. The “idiots on show” are the news stations and media who skew the meaning of different situations to fit what they want you to see. When Coldplay says, “You’d better lie low,” they are referring to the youth, warning the adults of these kids to be careful about what their children’s future is shaped around.

Following the previous lyrics are even more lyrics aimed at the media. Coldplay sings, “If you love me / won’t you let me know? ” This is sung from the viewpoint of the youth, pleading to the media for truth instead of a twisted representation of the world. The anti-war element of “Violet Hill” is presented very implicitly throughout the entire song. The song begins, “Was a long and dark December / from the rooftops I remember / there was snow / white snow. ” It begins with a steady beat of the drum, which gives the sense of soldiers marching into battle.

Later in the song, Coldplay sings, “Priests clutched onto Bibles / hollowed out to fit their rifles / and the cross was held aloft. ” These lyrics represent how many people find ways to validate war, even when there is no need for war at all. The priests, who traditionally reject the idea of war, find a way to justify it by holding on to their Bibles. However, they are only acting, because they carrying a rifle along with a Bible. At the same time, they hold their crosses up for the world to see. These lines represent the hypocrisy in America today.

Another selection from the song states, “Bury me in armor / when I’m dead and hit the ground / a love back home unfolds. ” This represents how many Americans have no problem with war until a loved one dies from battle, and how nobody respects those who fight for their country until they are killed at war. Another stanza is portrayed from the viewpoint of a soldier, “I don’t want to be a soldier / who the captain of some sinking ship / would stow, far below. ” This characterizes a soldier referring to the president, who is represented by the captain of the sinking ship, while America is depicted as the sinking ship.

The president sends off all of the soldiers putting them in the line of battle, and the soldiers are the ones he “would stow, far below” in order to continue the war. Similarly to this call out to the president, “American Idiot” refers to George W. Bush’s controlling campaign: “Well maybe I’m the faggot America / I’m not a part of a redneck agenda / now everybody to the propaganda / and sing along to the age of paranoia. ” The “faggot America” Green Day refers to is Bush’s work against gay and lesbian rights.

The “redneck agenda” is Bush’s southern roots running America’s government. Both songs attack the work of the president and cry out for a change in the government. The subtle implications in “Violet Hill” allow Americans to relate to the world around them and feel as though their opinions actually count toward a greater cause. Whether they are anti-war protest marches that citizens attend or those who simply think we need a new leader, these actions and thoughts are weaved together by Coldplay to produce a song that many can appreciate and relate to.

The personal aspect of “Violet Hill” is one of the keys to the effectiveness of the song, as it allows those who feel speechless and helpless to fell as if they are finally being heard. The cover painting of the album Viva La Vida, in which the song “Violet Hill” is found, has a painting of Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix. This is another strong indication of Coldplay’s anti-war messages presented in “Violet Hill,” as well as the entire album. Violet Hill is a landmark in Hong Kong that played a major role in the Battle of Hong Kong.

Violet Hill was invaded by the Japanese during World War II, but ironically this Violet Hill has nothing to do with the naming of “Violet Hill. ” On the other hand, Martin claims that the title of this song was inspired by the Beatles. Violet Hill is the name of a street in London that intersects Abbey Road, which is the name of one of the Beatles’ albums. The Beatles were one of the first artists to introduce the concept of a protest song, namely “Revolution” and “Bungalow Bill,” which later inspired Coldplay to produce their first protest song.

The themes of anti-war and rejection of modern-day media are intertwined throughout Coldplay’s “Violet Hill” to produce an implicitly elusive protest piece of art. Similar and comparable to other modern protest songs such as “American Idiot” by Green Day, this song provides a relevant and relatable topic for almost anybody. The different perspectives of characters in the song represent those who need attention most, while the subject matter illustrated by the lyrics applies to all Americans.

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