A Rush of Blood to the Head is the second studio album by the British alternative rock band Coldplay. Released on 26 August 2002 in the UK through the label Parlophone, the album was produced by the band and British record producer Ken Nelson. Recording started after the band became popular worldwide with the release of their debut album, Parachutes (2000), and one of its singles in particular, "Yellow". The album makes greater use of electric guitar and piano than its predecessor.
The album was made available in August 2002, two months after its original planned release date. It was released on 27 August in the United States through Capitol Records. Capitol released a remastered version of the album in 2008 on a 180-gram vinyl record as part of the "From the Capitol Vaults" series. The album debuted and continued their huge commercial legacy, an ongoing pattern that began with Parachutes which made Coldplay one of the best-selling bands worldwide. It topped the UK Albums Chart upon its first week of release in the United Kingdom, and became the eighth biggest-selling album of the 21st century in the UK. The British Phonographic Industry has since certified the album 9× Platinum for its accumulated sales of over 2.8 million units in the UK and the album has sold 20 million copies worldwide. The album spawned the hit singles "In My Place", "The Scientist", and "Clocks". "God Put a Smile upon Your Face" was also released, but was significantly less successful.
A Rush of Blood to the Head has been critically acclaimed, and the band won the 2003 Grammy for Best Alternative Album for the second year in a row, and the 2004 Grammy for Record of the Year for the song "Clocks". In 2012, it was ranked number 466 on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It was also voted the best album of all time by the listeners of BBC Radio 2 in a poll conducted in 2013.
The band started recording the album in London a week after the September 11 attacks in the United States, during which their "poignant songs ... garnered larger audiences". Coldplay had never stayed in London for an extended period before and were bombarded by problems focusing on the production process. They decided to relocate to Liverpool, where they had recorded some of the songs on Parachutes. Lead singer Chris Martin said that once there they "became obsessed with recording". "In My Place" was the first song recorded for the album and the one that the band released as the album's lead single "because it was the song that made us want to do a second album. It kept us going and made us think we could still write songs", following "a strange period of not really knowing what we were doing" three months after the success of Parachutes.
The band wrote more than twenty songs for the album and some of those, including "In My Place" and "Animals", were performed live during the tours promoting Parachutes. The album's title was revealed through a post on the band's official website.
During initial recording sessions in Liverpool, lead singer Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland worked alone, and only on weekends. Each Monday, they would present the song ideas that they had developed to their bandmates. With A Rush of Blood to the Head nearly completed, Martin went into the studio late one night and wrote a piano riff that he has stated "just came out". The band recognised that this early version of the song, that would become "Clocks", was special the first time Martin played it to them. Reasoning that it was too late to include the song on the album, they recorded a demo version and included it on a CD marked "Songs for #3", featuring unfinished tracks they intended to work on for their third studio album.
By June 2002, the band had completed A Rush of Blood to the Head, but thought their output sounded "rubbish" and reached an agreement with the label to postpone the release of the album until they were completely satisfied. Subsequently, many songs were discarded because they sounded like they could have been on Parachutes. Martin has claimed that it would have been uninteresting: "It would have shown that we're happy to sit back on what we'd done, and we're not. For us, it was important to progress and try to improve upon our abilities as musicians." Such ambitions put the band under strain: "sometimes practice sessions ended abruptly with one or more members of Coldplay threatening to quit".
After headlining the 2002 Glastonbury Festival, Coldplay returned to the studio and worked on some tracks from the "Songs for #3" CD they had produced earlier. Phil Harvey, the band's manager, heard "Clocks" and urged them to rework it immediately: "No, you must do that song now 'cause you're going on [in the lyrics] about urgency, and you're talking about keeping this song back. That doesn't make sense."
Production of the album began quickly with the writing of the track "Politik", which was a song seen as a reflection of the world at the time, giving the band a renewed perspective on their lives and society. Many of the song lyrics on the album relate strongly to the theme of urgency. Martin has commented that previous songs were more relaxed since they were in a comfortable state of mind: "Perhaps there's a bit more urgency on some of these songs. And that's born from all the places we've been and the things we've experienced." Martin has explained. In relation to the theme of urgency, Martin has also started that the album's title means "doing something on impulse".
Several songs on the album are about the themes of love & relationships. These tracks are based on reality, but according to Martin, they were written with a fictional twist: "Songs are like fairy tales: they have a beginning and an end and you can make it all work perfectly. Real life doesn't work like that".
The album includes ballads and acoustic songs featuring extensive use of guitar and piano. The U2-esque "epic rock" of the album's opening track "Politik", the piano-driven "Clocks", the loud guitars of "A Whisper" and the Crowded House-inspired guitar in "Warning Sign" were seen as an extension of the band's musical range. Chris Martin has also stated that the album's title track is an homage to American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, whom he considered one of "the greatest ... men with just guitars".
According to Martin, the song "Green Eyes" was composed for two individuals: An "American friend" (speculated to be a woman of Chris' romantic desire), and bandmate Jonny Buckland.
The album cover for A Rush of Blood to the Head was designed by photographer Sølve Sundsbø. Sundsbø had been hired by fashion magazine Dazed & Confused in the late 1990s to produce a shot with a "technological feel, something all white", according to himself. As an artist, Sundsbø attempted to do a unique original piece, creating a shot that had never been seen before; He suggested taking shots using a three-dimensional scanning machine to fulfil his vision.
The model for the shots wore all-white cosmetic makeup, along with a twill-coloured cape, to aesthetically produce optimal and desired results. The scanner could not properly identify the colors on the model, so they were replaced with digital spikes, and the head in the image was chopped as the machine was unable scan more than about a foot of the image. The editor of the magazine well-received the image, and eventually featured it in one of the magazine's publications. Martin eventually saw the image in a publication of the magazine, then approaching Sundsbø for proper permission to use the image as the cover of A Rush of Blood to the Head. For the album's singles, Martin asked Sundsbø for any ideas; Sundsbø suggested scanning the head of each member of the band (Sundsbø also did artwork duties for the Live 2003 album cover).
The album booklet contains only two photos; One with Coldplay in a location that was rumoured to be a forest, and one with the band in a recording studio. The album cover was among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of "Classic Album Cover" postage stamps issued in January 2010.
Upon release, A Rush of Blood to the Head received generally favorable reviews from contemporary critics. Review aggregating website Metacritic reports a normalised score of 80 based on 25 reviews. Many felt that it built upon their previous album, Parachutes. Alexis Petridis of the newspaper The Guardian wrote that the band's "new assurance is everywhere ... the timidity of Parachutes is nowhere to be found". He concludes, "It sounds like an album ready to take on the world, and win."
Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times praised the album, commenting that it is "one of the year's best albums" and describing it as "sparser, stranger and even catchier than its predecessor". Rolling Stone magazine's Rob Sheffield, said that "A Rush of Blood to the Head is a nervier, edgier, thoroughly surprising album", adding, "where Parachutes was the clumsy diary of a high-strung kid, A Rush of Blood sounds more like a band with the confidence to test its own limits." Ted Kessler of NME lauded the album, calling it "an album of outstanding natural beauty, an organic, wholesome work." MacKenzie Wilson of AllMusic echoed the above comments, saying that it is a "strong album". Wilson, who compliments Martin for his "sharpened" falsetto and refined "haunting delivery" and Buckland for his "riveting guitar work", notes that "regardless of the band still being in their mid-twenties, they've made an amazing record". Emma Pearse of the American newspaper The Village Voice has the same sentiments, stating that it is "a little edgier, trancier, and more conversational" compared to Parachutes. Robert Christgau gave the album a one-star honourable mention () and quipped, "Let Green Eyes dump him for real and we'll see how long he hums in the void."
A Rush of Blood to the Head has earned the band several awards from both the domestic and international music press. In 2002 it was awarded Best Album at the Q Awards. In the same year, the band won two Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the song "In My Place". In 2003 A Rush of Blood to the Head won Best British Album at the BRIT Awards, and the following year the band earned their first Grammy Award for Record of the Year for the song "Clocks" for a total of three Grammys for the album. The band also won three VMAs at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Group Video, Breakthrough Video and Best Direction in a Video for "The Scientist". The same year, they won the awards best NME album of the year, and best album of the year at the NME Awards.
The album was chosen in 2002 as Billboard magazine's Critics' Choice. Kludge included it on their list of best albums of 2002. In 2012, it was ranked number 466 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was also ranked 21st on Rolling Stone's list of top 100 albums of the 2000s. In 2007 The National Association of Recording Merchandisers and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released a list of what they term "The Definitive 200 Albums of All Time"; A Rush of Blood to the Head ranks at number 65 on the list. The album was nominated for the BRITs Album of 30 Years at the 2010 BRIT Awards.
In a BBC Radio poll in 2013, the album topped the list ahead of Hopes and Fears by Keane, Rio by Duran Duran and The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.
A Rush of Blood to the Head made an entrance into the UK Albums Chart upon its debut week, entering at number 1 and moving 273,924 copies. The British Phonographic Industry has since certified the album 9x Platinum for its accumulated sales of over 2.8 million copies. With the subsequent release of "Clocks" and "The Scientist", the album spent over one year on the chart. A Rush of Blood to the Head has been placed at number seven on the list of United Kingdom's 20 biggest-selling albums of the 21st century, published by the British trade paper Music Week. In July 2011, A Rush of Blood to the Head climbed from No. 176 back to No. 44 in the album's 250th charting week there. As of June 2016, the album has sold 2,909,750 copies in the UK, making it Coldplay's best-selling studio album. As of March 2015, it is the tenth best-selling album of the 21st century.
In the United States, A Rush of Blood was Coldplay's first venture into the top 5 with 144,000 copies sold initially, stronger than its predecessor, Parachutes, which debuted at number 189 in December 2000. It has since been certified 4x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and it has sold sales 4,925,000 copies as of July 2014. It has been certified 7x platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association, having accumulated shipments of over 490,000 units, and 4x times platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association for shipments of over 400,000.
All tracks written by Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman, and Will Champion.
ColdplayChris Martin – lead vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar, synthesizer
Jonny Buckland – lead electric guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals (tracks 1, 6)
Guy Berryman – bass guitar
Will Champion – drums, backing vocals, percussion
Technical and additional personnel