Speed of Sound (song)

"Speed of Sound" is a song by British rock band Coldplay. It was written by all members of the band for their third studio album, X&Y (2005). Constructed around a piano and guitar riff, the song builds into a huge, synthesiser-heavy chorus. It was released by Parlophone Records as the lead single from the album. "Speed of Sound" was released in the US and UK on 18 April 2005, and then made its radio premiere on BBC Radio 1 with Lamacq on the day of the release on 19 April.[1] The single was pressed with two B-sides: "Things I Don't Understand" and "Proof". The song premiered in the UK on 23 May.[2]

"Speed of Sound"
Coldplay - Speed Of Sound (Single).jpg
Single by Coldplay
from the album X&Y
  • "Things I Don't Understand"
  • "Proof"
Released18 April 2005 (2005-04-18)
  • 4:49 (album version)
  • 4:23 (radio edit)
  • Danton Supple
  • Coldplay
Coldplay singles chronology
"Speed of Sound"
"Fix You"
Music video
"Speed of Sound" on YouTube

Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin admitted that the song was developed after the band had listened to English art rock singer Kate Bush. Upon the song's release, it charted in the UK Singles Chart in the number two position. In the United States, it debuted at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100,[3] their first top ten hit in the country, and their most successful song until "Viva la Vida" reached number one in 2008.

"Speed of Sound" was recognised Song of the Year by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and it was nominated twice at the 48th Grammy Awards. The song won a Brit Award in the category for Best British Single in 2006. The track's music video was nominated for four MTV Video Music Awards. "Speed of Sound" was also the billionth song downloaded from the iTunes Store.


In an interview, Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin revealed that the song was written in mid-2004 and was inspired by Martin's daughter, Apple, and English alternative rock singer Kate Bush: "That's a song where we were listening to a lot of Kate Bush last summer, and we wanted a song which had a lot of tom-toms in it. I just had my daughter up also, and was kind of feeling in a sense of awe and wonderment, so the song is kind of a Kate Bush song about miracles."[4] The drumbeat of the song was inspired by Bush's 1985 song "Running Up that Hill".[5] In a separate interview, bassist Guy Berryman said: "We were really trying to recreate the drums on that song for this song, and the chords. Some bands are reluctant to admit that they take things from other artists and bands that they listen to and we're shameless in that respect, we don't mind telling."[6]

The band's opinion towards the song, however, has soured. Martin has said that he dislikes "Speed of Sound", saying in a 2011 interview, "We never got it right."[7] During an interview with Howard Stern, Martin said that his dislike of "Speed of Sound" stems from the fact that he "forgot the banana lyric for the song. A banana lyric is a staple in every song we've made and somehow I forgot to write one for Speed of Sound."[8] Due to this, Martin is reluctant to perform the song live, citing his feelings towards the song, noting that "an audience can pick up real fast if something is clearly missing."[9]


"Speed of Sound" is a piano-based song with an upbeat tempo. The song begins with the insistently ornate keyboard melody,[10][11] with a backing synthesizer that is heard throughout the song. The melody then transitions into the first verse being sung by lead singer Chris Martin. It repeats, with the song then transitioning into its second verse. The verses of song feature the rest of the band as the song continues to build. It then climaxes with the anthemic chorus, which features a huge roar of instrumentation that includes electric & bass guitars, drums, and synthesizers. The song then ends with the chorus and its grandiose sound. "Speed of Sound" is written in the key of A Mixolydian.[citation needed]

The lyrics in the song are cryptic; The ending lines of the third verse emphasise belief and assurance: "If you could see it then you'd understand/ah, when you see it then you'll understand," and "Some things you have to believe/others are puzzles puzzling me."[12] The fourth line in the second verse alludes to discovering your place in the world: "How long am I gonna stand/with my head stuck under the sand."[12][13]

In his review of X&Y, Bill White of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper noted that the "slowing ... creative juices" evident in "Speed of Sound" compare to "melodies from both Jeff Buckley ('Last Goodbye') and Keane ('Everybody's Changing')".[14]

Release and critical receptionEdit

Coldplay released "Speed of Sound" in the UK and US on 18 April 2005 as the album's lead single. The single was pressed with two B-sides: "Things I Don't Understand" and "Proof".

The song was met with a polarised response from critics. PopMatters felt that the song "comes close to sounding too safe, almost like the band is on autopilot."[15] Several critics felt that the song resembled Coldplay's earlier single "Clocks". MusicOMH commented that "Speed Of Sound, the lead single, has 'Clocks'-like drumming contrasts with synth sequences that remind more of Enya than rock music" and criticised it for sounding "familiar and far older than it is." Pitchfork Media likewise criticised the song's "uncanny resemblance to 'Clocks'" and continued "Certainly, it rarely hurts to stick with what works, but this is not just a near-exact replica of its successful predecessor; it's also a less memorable song riding a piano hook that has so deeply infiltrated the pop-culture landscape that I've become numb to it." The reviewer did, however, comment that "the track's vocal melody outperforms the one from 'Clocks' by a hair."

The Village Voice felt that the song was "unusually accomplished, fresh, and emotional."[16] Paste Magazine praised the song, saying that it "reveals the hand [Coldplay are] playing: a piano riff as memorable as the one in 'Clocks,' ringing guitars, martial drums, orchestral pomp and, in the center, Chris Martin's keening vocal, so vulnerable and yet forceful enough to stand out from the mass of sonic detail." The New York Times, contrariwise, dinged X&Y for "trying to carry beauty of 'Clocks' across an entire album – not least in its first single, 'Speed of Sound,' which isn't the only song on the album to borrow the 'Clocks' drumbeat." Rolling Stone magazine gave a mixed review, calling it "an appealing but not thrilling song" and noted "...it sounds a bit like...'Clocks' but without the swagger."[17]

Chart performanceEdit

"Speed of Sound" was beaten to the number one spot on the UK Singles Chart by the novelty song "Axel F" by the Crazy Frog,[18][19] instead peaking at number two for a week, although it did stay in the Top 75 for sixteen non-consecutive weeks.[20] However, it became Coldplay's first UK download number one.[18]

It also became Coldplay's first and (at that point) biggest single to chart in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, debuting as well as peaking at number eight,[21][22] making it the band's most successful single until "Viva la Vida" reached number one in 2008.[23] The single marked the first time a British band entered directly in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart since "Say You'll Be There" by the Spice Girls.[20] The song was also the billionth song downloaded from Apple, Inc.'s iTunes Store.[24][25] A ringtone was available from Cingular Wireless, which had a song clip from "Speed of Sound" available a week before it was heard on radio.[26] The song was also included in "Weird Al" Yankovic's polka medley "Polkarama!" from his 2006 album Straight Outta Lynwood.


"Speed of Sound" was nominated for two Grammy Awards in the categories of Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocals at the 2006 Grammy Awards.[27][28] The song won an MTV Europe Music Award in the category for Best Song.[29] In December 2005, "Speed of Sound" appeared at number nine on Q magazine's "100 Greatest Tracks of the Year".[30] In 2006, the song won a Brit Award for Best British Single.[31] That same year, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) named the track Song of the Year.[32][33]

Music videoEdit

The music video has a two-story-high LED display in the background

The video promo for "Speed of Sound" was shot on a Los Angeles sound stage on 22 and 23 April 2005.[34] Shooting took place on large sets backed by large Light-emitting diode (LED) displays developed by Element Labs.[35] The performance-based video was directed by Mark Romanek.[36][37] The video features the band performing in front of a curved ellipse wall that consists of 640 Element Labs' VersaTubes placed on 6-inch (150 mm) centres.[38]

The on-set animations were programmed and performed live during the shoot.[39][40] Romanek wanted the song's stem "split out" and to have the drums, bass, guitar, and vocals on separate tracks, which were then animated, and the lights were synthesised to each of the tracks. In the end, Romanek and Michael Keeling, the lighting designer, opted to use Chris Martin's vocal track to animate "because it had such dynamics. Roughly 75% of the video is driven by voice-activated animation", said Keeling.[38]

The video opens in pitch-black, followed by a light framing Martin as he reaches skyward out of the shadows. The scene then shifts to the band, as they play the song. When Martin spread his hands, the two-story-high LED lights erupt in a colour of rainbow hues. The LED background changes colours as the band continues. The video concludes its ending with the band lined up, one-by-one, and the LED set displaying a white light background.

The video debuted on 23 May 2005 and proved successful on video-chart programs.[41] It debuted on 11 June 2005 on Fuse's No. 1 Countdown Rock, at number six,[42] and retired on 5 August at number seven of the countdown.[42] It also reached number sixteen in MuchMusic's Countdown a month after its debut.[43] At the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, the video garnered nominations in the categories of Video of the Year, Best Special Effects, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography.[35][44] The video was the ranked at number 10 on VH1's Top 40 of 2005.[45]


  • Chris Martin – lead vocals, piano, synthesizer
  • Jonny Buckland – electric guitar
  • Guy Berryman – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Will Champion – drums, backing vocals

Track listingEdit

CD single
1."Speed of Sound"4:51
2."Things I Don't Understand"4:55
  • UK CD CDR6664, 7" R6664, 12" 12R6664, 10" 10R6664
  • Australia CD 872 9862 released 23 May 2005 by Capitol Records
  • Japan CD TOCP-40179 released 11 May 2005 by Toshiba-EMI

Charts and certificationsEdit


  1. ^ Judge Jules (19 April 2005). "BBC — Radio 1 – Zane Lowe — Tracklisting". BBC Radio 1. BBC. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  2. ^ Sherwin, Adam (30 April 2005). "Coldplay's new single breaks sound barrier". The Times. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  3. ^ "Music: Top 100 Songs - Billboard Hot 100". Billboard News. 7 May 2005. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  4. ^ "Coldplay's 'Speed Of Sound' Inspired Partly By Fatherhood". Yahoo! Music News. 31 May 2005. Archived from the original on 15 June 2007. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  5. ^ "Coldplay Premiere 'X&Y' In NYC". Xfm News. 19 May 2005. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  6. ^ "Coldplay Steal Drums From Kate Bush". Contact Music. 10 June 2005. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
  7. ^ Britt, Hannah (31 October 2011). "Interview: Coldplay's Chris Martin". Concrete. The University of East Anglia. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Chris Martin...Previously on the Howard Stern Show". Howard Stern. The Howard Stern Production Company, Inc. Archived from the original on 5 June 2016. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  9. ^ Woomer, Ross (19 February 2015). "10 Songs Hated By Their Own Artists". Vinyl Mag. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  10. ^ Scoppa, Bud (1 June 2005). "Coldplay — X&Y Review". Paste. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  11. ^ Tangari, Joe (7 June 2005). "X&Y". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  12. ^ a b Hendricks, Kevin B. "Coldplay — Speed of Sound Review". Planet Wisdom. Archived from the original on 27 August 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  13. ^ "Speed of Sound Lyrics". MTV. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  14. ^ White, Bill (7 June 2005). "This Week's Hot CD: Coldplays' 'X&Y'". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  15. ^ "Coldplay X&Y". PopMatters. 5 June 2005. Retrieved 22 July 2008.
  16. ^ James Hunter (14 June 2005). "Nothing Little About It". Retrieved 22 January 2008.
  17. ^ "Coldplay X&Y Album Review - Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone.
  18. ^ a b "Crazy Frog 'heading for top spot'". BBC News. BBC. 24 May 2005. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  19. ^ Scaggs, Austin (11 August 2005). "Cover Story: Coldplay's Quiet Storm". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  20. ^ a b Masterson, James (22 June 2008). "Chart Watch — Week Ending 28 June 2008". Yahoo! Music. Archived from the original on 14 July 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  21. ^ Sisario, Ben (2 May 2005). "Arts, Briefly — Pop: Bill Monroe's Return, Coldplay's Entry". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  22. ^ Gundersen, Edna (2 June 2005). "Catch Coldplay". USA Today. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  23. ^ "Coldplay top US Billboard chart". BBC News. BBC. 19 June 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  24. ^ "iTunes Music Store Downloads Top One Billion Songs". Apple Inc. 23 February 2006. Archived from the original on 24 July 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  25. ^ "Apple iTunes sees billionth download". Breaking News English. 27 February 2006. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  26. ^ Potkewitz, Hilary (4 July 2005). "Coldplay Album's Success Proves a Point – and iPod's Dominance". Los Angeles Business Journal. Retrieved 31 August 2008.[dead link]
  27. ^ Susman, Gary (6 December 2005). "All About 'Mimi'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  28. ^ "Grammy Awards 2006: Key winners". BBC News. BBC. 9 February 2006. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  29. ^ Kaufman, Gil (4 November 2005). "Coldplay, Green Day Win Big At MTV Europe Music Awards". MTV News. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  30. ^ Akbar, Arifa (2 December 2005). "Sensitive souls of rock 'n' roll show their strength with album prize". The Independent. Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  31. ^ Grose, Thomas K. (18 February 2006). "Sing When You're Winning". Time. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  32. ^ "Yusuf Islam Named Songwriter of the Year at ASCAP Awards in London". American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. 11 October 2006. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  33. ^ "We Create MusiC" (PDF). American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 January 2009. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  34. ^ Montgomery, James (25 April 2005). "Coldplay Announces Three Club Shows". MTV News. Retrieved 18 June 2008.
  35. ^ a b Montgomery, James (15 August 2005). "Coldplay Were Virtually Blind For 'Sound'". MTV News. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  36. ^ Pytlik, Mark; Marcus Robinson (1 July 2005). "Playlist". Boards. Brunico Communications Ltd.
  37. ^ Montgomery, James; Norris, John (20 May 2005). "Coldplay Announce 'We're Back' New Video". MTV News. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  38. ^ a b Newman, Mark A. (1 July 2005). "The Need For Speed". Lighting Dimensions. Penton Media.
  39. ^ "Element Labs Breaks New Ground on Coldplay's "Speed of Sound"". Alia. Archived from the original on 8 September 2008. Retrieved 8 September 2008.
  40. ^ "Element Labs Breaks New Ground on Coldplay's "Speed of Sound"". Element Labs. Archived from the original on 25 June 2008. Retrieved 8 September 2008.
  41. ^ "Coldplay – "Speed of Sound"". Mvdbase.com. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  42. ^ a b "Fuse No. 1 Countdown: Rock — Archive". Fuse. Archived from the original on 15 May 2009. Retrieved 31 August 2008.[unreliable source?]
  43. ^ "Coldplay — Speed of Sound at Top40". Top40-Charts.com. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  44. ^ Mancini, Robert (25 July 2005). "MTV Video Music Awards Nominations Announced". MTV News. Retrieved 18 June 2008.
  45. ^ O'Neill, Tom (4 December 2005). "VH1's Top 40 of 2005 gives Grammy noms preview". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  46. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Coldplay – Speed of Sound". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  47. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Coldplay – Speed of Sound" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  48. ^ "Ultratop.be – Coldplay – Speed of Sound" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  49. ^ "Ultratop.be – Coldplay – Speed of Sound" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  50. ^ "Coldplay Chart History (Canadian Digital Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  51. ^ "RR Canada Hot AC Top 30" (PDF). p. 49. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  52. ^ "RR Canada Rock Top 30" (PDF). p. 58. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  53. ^ "Danishcharts.com – Coldplay – Speed of Sound". Tracklisten. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  54. ^ "Hits of the World – Eurocharts" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 117 no. 24. 11 June 2005. p. 62. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  55. ^ "Coldplay: Speed of Sound" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  56. ^ "Lescharts.com – Coldplay – Speed of Sound" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  57. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Coldplay – Speed of Sound". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  58. ^ "IFPI Greece Top 50 Singles archive". Archived from the original on 26 August 2005. Retrieved 26 August 2005.
  59. ^ "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Rádiós Top 40 játszási lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége.
  60. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Speed of Sound". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  61. ^ "Italiancharts.com – Coldplay – Speed of Sound". Top Digital Download. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  62. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 23, 2005" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  63. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Coldplay – Speed of Sound" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  64. ^ "Charts.nz – Coldplay – Speed of Sound". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  65. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Coldplay – Speed of Sound". VG-lista. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  66. ^ "Polish Singles Chart |". Archived from the original on 12 March 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  67. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – Coldplay – Speed of Sound" Canciones Top 50. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  68. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Coldplay – Speed of Sound". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  69. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Coldplay – Speed of Sound". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  70. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  71. ^ "Coldplay Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  72. ^ "Coldplay Chart History (Adult Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  73. ^ "Coldplay Chart History (Adult Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  74. ^ "Coldplay Chart History (Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  75. ^ "Coldplay Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  76. ^ "Rádiós Top 100 - hallgatottsági adatok alapján - 2005". Mahasz. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  77. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 2005". Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  78. ^ "End of Year Singles Chart Top 100 - 2005". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  79. ^ "Top 100 Songs of 2005 - Billboard Year End Charts". Bobborst. Archived from the original on 29 June 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  80. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2005 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association.
  81. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Coldplay – Speed of Sound". Music Canada. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  82. ^ a b "Borsadisco 2005. Tutte le classifiche" (PDF). Musica e dischi (in Italian). p. 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  83. ^ White, Jack (29 November 2018). "Coldplay's Official Top 20 biggest songs on the UK's Official Chart". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  84. ^ "British single certifications – Coldplay – Speed of Sound". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  85. ^ "American single certifications – Coldplay – Speed of Sound". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 20 September 2016. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 

External linksEdit