Coldplay achieved worldwide fame with the release of their single "Yellow", followed by their debut album, Parachutes (2000), which was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Its follow-up, A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002), won multiple awards, including NME's Album of the Year. Their next release, X&Y (2005), received a slightly less enthusiastic yet still generally positive reception. The band's fourth studio album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008), was produced by Brian Eno and released again to largely favourable reviews, earning several Grammy nominations and wins. Coldplay have sold over 50 million records worldwide.
Coldplay's early material was compared to acts such as Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, U2, and Travis. Since the release of Parachutes, Coldplay have drawn influence from other sources, including Echo & the Bunnymen, Kate Bush, George Harrison and Muse on A Rush of Blood to the Head, Johnny Cash and Kraftwerk for X&Y and Blur, Arcade Fire and My Bloody Valentine on Viva la Vida. Coldplay have been an active supporter of various social and political causes, such as Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign and Amnesty International. The group have also performed at various charity projects such as Band Aid 20, Live 8, Sound Relief, and the Teenage Cancer Trust.
The members of the band met at the University College London (UCL) in September 1996. Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland were the first members of the band, having met one another during their orientation week. They spent the rest of the college year planning a band, with their efforts culminating in a group called Pectoralz. Later, Guy Berryman, a classmate of the two, joined. By 1997, the group, who had renamed themselves to Starfish, performed gigs for local Camden promoters at small clubs. Martin also had recruited his longtime school friend Phil Harvey, who was studying classics at Oxford, to be the band's manager. (To this day, Coldplay consider Harvey to be the fifth member of the group.) The band's lineup was complete when Will Champion joined the band to take up percussion duties. Champion had grown up playing piano, guitar, bass, and tin whistle; he quickly learned the drums, despite having no previous experience. The band finally settled on the name "Coldplay" which was suggested by Tim Crompton, a local student who had been using the name for his group. By 1997 Martin had also met then Classics student Tim Rice-Oxley. During a weekend on Virginia Water, they asked each other to play off their own songs on the piano. Martin, finding Rice-Oxley to be talented, asked him to be Coldplay's keyboard player but Rice-Oxley refused as his own band (Keane) was already operational. Days after, this event would shape the second line-up of Keane and keep Coldplay's unaltered, thus leaving both bands as quartets.
In 1998, the band released 500 copies of the Safety EP. Most of the discs were given to record companies and friends; only 50 copies remained for sale to the public. In December, Coldplay signed to the independent label Fierce Panda. Their first release was the three-track Brothers and Sisters EP, which they had quickly recorded over four days in February 1999.
After completing their final examinations, Coldplay signed to Parlophone for a five-album contract in the spring of 1999. After making their first appearance at Glastonbury, the band went into studio to record a third EP titled The Blue Room. 5,000 copies were made available to the public in October, and the single "Bigger Stronger", received Radio 1 airplay. The recording sessions for The Blue Room were tumultuous. Martin kicked Champion out of the band but later pleaded with him to return, and because of his guilt, went on a drinking binge. Eventually, the band worked out their differences and put in place a new set of rules to keep the group intact. First, the band declared an all-for-one approach: Coldplay was a democracy, and profits were to be shared equally, taking a page from bands like U2 and R.E.M. Second, the band would fire anyone who used hard drugs.
In March 1999, Coldplay began work on their debut album, recorded at Rockfield Studios with producer Ken Nelson. They also played on the Carling Tour, which showcased up-and-coming acts. After releasing three EPs without a hit song, Coldplay scored their first Top 40 single, "Shiver". Released in March 2000, it reached number 35 on the UK Singles Chart and earned the band their first airplay on MTV. June 2000 was a pivotal moment in Coldplay's history: the band embarked on their first headlining tour, including a showing at Glastonbury. The band also released the breakthrough single "Yellow". The song shot to number four on the UK Singles Chart and placed Coldplay in public consciousness.
Coldplay released their first full-length album, Parachutes, in July 2000, which debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart. "Yellow" and "Trouble" earned regular radio airplay in the UK and US. Parlophone originally predicted sales of 400,000 units of Parachutes; by Christmas, 1.6 million copies had been sold in the United Kingdom alone. Parachutes was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in September 2000.
Having found success in Europe, the band set their sights on North America, and released the album Parachutes there in November 2000. Beginning with a show in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the band then embarked on a US club tour in early 2001, along with appearances on: Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and The Late Show with David Letterman. Although Parachutes was a slow-burning success in the US, it eventually reached double-platinum status. The album was critically well-received and earned a Best Alternative Music Album honours at the 2002 Grammy Awards.
Coldplay returned to the studio in October 2001 to begin work on their second album A Rush of Blood to the Head, once again with Ken Nelson producing. The album was released in August 2002 and spawned several popular singles: the notable "In My Place", "Clocks", and the ballad "The Scientist".
Coldplay toured from June 2002 to September 2003 for the A Rush of Blood to the Head Tour. They visited five continents, including co-headlining festival dates at Glastonbury Festival, V2003 and Rock Werchter. Many concerts showcased elaborate lighting and individualised screens reminiscent of U2's Elevation Tour. During the extended tour, Coldplay recorded a live DVD and CD, Live 2003, at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion.
In December 2003, readers of Rolling Stone magazine chose Coldplay as the best artist and the best band of the year. At that time the band covered The Pretenders' 1983 song "2000 Miles" (which was made available for download on their official website). 2000 Miles was the top selling UK download that year, with proceeds from the sales donated to Future Forests and Stop Handgun Violence campaigns. A Rush of Blood to the Head won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album at the 2003 Grammy Awards. At the 2004 Grammy Awards, Coldplay earned Record of the Year for "Clocks".
Coldplay spent most of 2004 out of the spotlight, taking a break from touring and recording their third album. In May, Chris Martin and his wife, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, celebrated the birth of their daughter named Apple.
X&Y was released in June 2005 in UK and Europe. This new, delayed release date had put the album back into the next fiscal year, actually causing EMI's stock to drop. It became the best-selling album of 2005 with worldwide sales of 8.3 million. The lead single, "Speed of Sound", made its radio and online music store debut on 18 April and was released as a CD on 23 May 2005. The album debuted at number one in 30 countries worldwide and was the third-fastest selling album in UK chart history. Two other singles were released that year: "Fix You" in September and "Talk" in December. The latter is set to the melody of "Computer Love", which was released in 1981 by the German synthpop band Kraftwerk and had in the previous year been revived by Norwegian guitarist Erik Wøllo. Critical reaction to X&Y was less enthusiastic than that of its predecessor, with New York Times critic Jon Pareles describing Coldplay as "the most insufferable band of the decade". Comparisons between Coldplay and U2 became increasingly common. Chris Martin later revealed that the negative remarks made him feel "liberated".
From June 2005 to July 2006, Coldplay went on their Twisted Logic Tour, which included festival dates like Coachella, Isle of Wight Festival, Glastonbury and the Austin City Limits Music Festival. In July 2005, the band appeared at Live 8 in Hyde Park, where they played a rendition of The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" with Richard Ashcroft on vocals. In September, Coldplay recorded a new version of "How You See the World" with reworked lyrics to War Child's Help!: A Day in the Life charity album. In February 2006, Coldplay earned Best Album and Best Single honours at the BRIT Awards. Two more singles were released during 2006, "The Hardest Part" and "What If". "White Shadows" was released in Mexico during June 2007.
In October 2006, Coldplay began work on their fourth studio album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends with acclaimed producer Brian Eno. Taking a break from recording, the band toured Latin America in early 2007, performing in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. The band revealed the album seemed to be shaping up with Hispanic influences, after having recorded in churches and other areas in Latin America and Spain during their tour. The group spent the rest of the year recording, mainly with Brian Eno.
Martin described Viva la Vida as a new direction for Coldplay: a change from their past three albums, which they have referred to as a "trilogy". He said the album featured less falsetto as he allowed his voice's lower register to take precedence. Some songs, such as "Violet Hill", contain distorted guitar riffs and bluesy undertones. "Violet Hill" was confirmed as the first single, with a radio release date of 29 April 2008. After the first play, it was freely obtainable from Coldplay's website from 12:15 pm (GMT +0) for one week (achieving two million downloads), until it became commercially available to download on 6 May. "Violet Hill" entered the UK Top 10, US Top 40 (entering the Top 10 in the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart) and charted well in the rest of the world. The title track, "Viva la Vida", was also released exclusively on iTunes. It became the band's first number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and their first UK number one, based on download sales alone. On 15 June 2008, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends topped the UK album chart, despite having been on sale for only three days. In that time, it sold 302,000 copies; the BBC called it "one of the fastest-selling records in UK history". By the end of June, it had set a new record for most-downloaded album ever. In October 2008, Coldplay won two Q Awards for Best Album for Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends and Best Act in the World Today. The band followed up Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends with the Prospekt's March EP which was released on 21 November 2008. The EP features tracks from the Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends sessions and, as well as being available on its own, was available as a bonus disc with later editions of Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. The song "Life in Technicolor II" was released as a single on 9 February 2009.
On 16 June, Coldplay began their Viva la Vida Tour with a free concert at Brixton Academy in London. This was followed two days later by a 45-minute performance that was broadcast live from outside BBC Television Centre. "Lost!" became the third single from the album, featuring a new version with Jay-Z. During an interview with Zane Lowe for BBC Radio 1 on 16 October, Martin suggested that the band were trying to book Knebworth House in Hertfordshire for a concert in 2009. Coldplay performed the opening set on 14 March 2009 for Sound Relief at the Sydney Cricket Ground and then played a sold-out concert later that same night. Sound Relief is a benefit concert for victims of the Victorian Bushfire Crisis and the Queensland Floods. Appearing with Coldplay at the Sydney concert were Eskimo Joe, Hoodoo Gurus, Icehouse, Josh Pyke, Little Birdy, The Presets, Wolfmother, You Am I and additional artists.
On 20 January 2009, it was announced that Coldplay had been nominated for four BRIT Awards: British Group, British Live Act, British Single ("Viva la Vida") and British Album (Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends). At the 51st Grammy Awards on 8 February 2009, Coldplay won three Grammy Awards in the categories for Song of Year for "Viva la Vida", Best Rock Album for Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, and Best Vocal Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for "Viva la Vida".
On 1 May 2009, the band announced on their official website they would be giving away a live CD, entitled LeftRightLeftRightLeft, at the remaining concerts of their Viva la Vida tour. The album is also available as a free download from their website beginning 15 May 2009. The nine tracks were recorded at various shows during the tour.
At their 20 and 21 June 2009, shows in Vancouver, British Columbia, the band announced that they had chosen the Vancouver shows to film concert footage, the only shows on the tour that would be recorded to create a concert film.
Chris Martin stated in December 2008 that he does not think "bands should keep going past the age of 33", but later rephrased this to say that what he meant was that they must proceed "as if it's our last, because that's the only way to proceed". The band will soon return to the studio. According to Berryman, "We've already got lists of song ideas. We never stop writing. We go into the studio with all the best laid plans then what we end up with is not what we intended. It's just exciting to wonder what will come out the speakers in a year's time. We have very exciting things lined up. It's time to take our music down different directions and really explore other avenues".
Coldplay's musical style has been defined as alternative rock, being compared to Jeff Buckley and Oasis. Lead singer/songwriter Chris Martin once labelled the band's music as "limestone rock". The band's music has been called "meditative" and "blue romantic"; it "[reflects] on their emotions" and Martin "endlessly examine[s] his feelings". Martin's lyrical wordplay has been called feminist, similar to Andrew Montgomery of Geneva.
The tone of the band's first studio album, Parachutes, was described as melodic pop with "distorted guitar riffs and swishing percussion". It was also described as being "exquisitely dark and artistically abrasive". In a review for A Rush of Blood to the Head, the songs were considered to contain "lush melodies and a heartbreak" and that they had a "newfound confidence." The music on X&Y has been considered to be "ruminations on Martin's doubts, fears, hopes, and loves."
They also acknowledge the Scottish alternative rock band, Travis, as a major influence on their earlier material.