"Is It Any Wonder?" is a song performed and composed by English alternative rock band Keane, released as the second single from their second studio album, Under the Iron Sea. The song is also the first Keane single to be sold in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
The single was released to the iTunes Store on 16 May and to shops on 29 May 2006, and debuted at #15 in the UK Singles Chart on 28 May based on download sales alone but reached #3 with physical sales on 4 June. The song was officially premiered on 17 April on Jo Whiley's BBC Radio 1 show. Soon after this, it was leaked onto the Internet.
The song was featured on the UK compilation Now That's What I Call Music! 64 and in the video games Madden NFL 07 and Dance Dance Revolution Universe 2. The song was nominated for the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal for the 2007 Grammy Awards.
"Is It Any Wonder?" was composed by Tim Rice-Oxley in 2005, being first demoed the same year. The guitar effects originate from Tim's pianos and synthesizers. An early demo appeared on the Under the Iron Sea DVD. It was mainly recorded at The Magic Shop studios, New York City and programmed and engineered by Andy Green.
"Is It Any Wonder?" was composed under an 8-beat 4/4 time signature and a 130 bpm tempo. The main key of the riff is A major, alternating to G major when the bass starts playing.
The song starts with bashing piano notes, leading to Tim-Rice Oxley's deep distortion piano sound that is used to emulate abrasive electric guitar riffs. Bass guitar lines, synthesizers, and drums begin to finally introduce Tom Chaplin with the vocals of the first verse. Rice-Oxley continues to play regular and distortion piano notes throughout the verses of the song. As with almost all Keane songs, it includes a bridge after the second chorus, preceding the outro. Live performances show several differences from the studio version. Firstly, the deep sound is changed for the same synthesizer used for the whole song, which is also quite different from the one of the studio album. During the first verse of the original version, a synthesizer is used as a background for Chaplin's singing. However, on the live performance, Rice-Oxley keeps playing his distorted Yamaha CP70 piano throughout the song, instead of the synthesizer. Finally, drumming on the main riffs is modified, with Hughes beating the crash cymbal again and again.
The song is about the Iraq War:
It's probably the one song on the record that most expresses our dismay and confusion about what it means to be a British citizen, in terms of what our society's contributing to the world at large," Rice-Oxley explains. "It's very hard to make sense of why Britain feels it needs to sign up with George Bush's attacks on Iraq and the whole Afghanistan thing. It feels like there's a whole lot of trouble brewing up over Iran, and you just don't know where it's going to end. On a personal level, for people of our age, it's really unsettling...
The song is not an attempt at some sort of wide-sweeping political statement, it's just about just seeing things from a personal level - what are you supposed to believe, what is actually right? How can you work out what is the truth, and what is the right thing to do? And there's so many different opinions, and you're supposed to have an opinion on what your country is doing, and yet it is so hard to even begin to gather all the facts. It's really distressing thing for people of our generation I think, the feeling of not being able to do anything about that. I guess that was something we were all feeling very acutely in the song. And I think the sounds of the song sum that up in a very tangible way.
Directed by Kevin Godley, the video is almost the same throughout the song. A camera moves along a metal track like a roller coaster. The camera runs through rails until the end of it, stopping again. Keane are in the middle of it, with Tom appearing sometimes on the scene. On the making of the video, it is said by Richard that they "have done something not quite done before." The CD+DVD edition of Under the Iron Sea includes a trailer for the making of the video, as well as the videoclip.
The cover artwork for the single was designed by Sanna Annukka Smith, a Finnish artist in March 2006. Sanna originally wanted a red bird crying and Keane wanted a lonely soldier. During the first two weeks of April, the cover showed a soldier but the definite version shows the red bird crying on the soldier’s shoulder, with the soldier referring to war. Some versions didn't include the bird, like the first cover. The crying bird later appeared on the cover for "Try Again".
Similar to the bookshaped box of the DVD for Under the Iron Sea, this biodegradable single's container is made of carbon neutral and recycled materials, without any plastics.
The Under the Iron Sea DVD includes bass recording sessions of this song. It was planned to be a track on the album, but became a B-side instead. It did appear on the Japanese version of Under the Iron Sea as the closing track.
Following a melancholic ballad style, the song suggest a reference to Chaplin by Rice-Oxley. This acoustic song has been compared by fans to Keane's Christmas song "A Heart to Hold You", and B-side "The Way You Want It".