What does Viva La Vida mean?

Search Login

Coldplay: Viva La Vida Meaning

Song Released: 2008


Covered By: Taylor Swift


Get "Viva La Vida" on MP3:

Get MP3 from Amazon

Viva La Vida Lyrics

Play "Viva La Vida"
on Amazon Music

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
Now the old king is...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    Meaning
    click a star to vote
    Nov 23rd, 2008 11:15am report


    A lot of people have interpreted the song as a portrait of King Louis XVI, etc. but I feel that the song's purpose is a lot more general than that.

    King Louis XVI was found guilty of treason, and ultimately beheaded. However, the song clearly states a transition from ruling to not ruling. He is still alive, and he is reflecting on his past. (now in the morning I sleep alone, sweep the streets I used to own.)

    So I will try to generally analyze this song as best as I can:

    "I used to rule the world
    Seas would rise when I gave the
    word
    Now in the morning I sleep alone
    Sweep the streets I used to own"

    He was a ruler with immense command. Seas of people would rise at his command.
    This is contrasted with the fact that he has been displaced from ruling. (It's interesting that he sleeps in the morning.) Now he is a servant, or a beggar. "sweeping the streets."
    From riches to rags, from kingship to poverty.

    "I used to roll the dice
    Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
    Listened as the crowd would sing
    Now the old king is dead long live the king"

    Rolling the dice means that he gambled with his power.
    He took risks. He became close to a tyrant, a crusader, and took over other kingdoms. He would replace other rulers, as a kind of expansionist/imperialist. "now the OLD king is dead, long live THE king."

    "One minute I held the key
    Next the walls were closed on me
    And I discovered that my castles stand
    Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand"

    Everything happened so fast, from one minute to another. When you are in power, you get caught up with your success, and time flies. In one instant he held the key. In fact, he held the key to many castles, many kingdoms, all these countries that he conquered, were under his power and domain.
    And in the next instant he lost EVERYTHING. The castles symbolize his power. Symbolically speaking, his power had a weak foundation, a weak base. What did he base his power upon? Himself. His castles stood upon pillars of SALT and SAND. They stood on weak foundation, just as he stood on a weak foundation.

    "I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
    Roman cavalry choirs are singing
    Be my mirror my sword and shield
    Missionaries in a foreign field"

    It seems that he used religion as an excuse for conquest, as can be seen in these words:
    "Jerusalem bells, roman cavalry choirs."
    Be my mirror, sword, and shield: means basically:
    Represent my image, my power, and my strength.
    Missionaries, or crusaders, in the end they are conquering foreign countries.

    "For some reason I can't explain
    Once you'd gone there was never
    Never an honest word
    And that was when I ruled the world"

    Drunk with power, he lied. He never gave an honest word. He manipulated and used people for the sole end of increasing his territory and power.

    "It was a wicked and wild wind
    Blew down the doors to let me in
    Shattered windows and the sound of drums
    People couldn't believe what I'd become"

    He transitions from ruler to tyrant. And the people realize what he has become. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    "Revolutionaries wait
    For my head on a silver plate
    Just a puppet on a lonely string
    Oh who would ever want to be king?"

    In the end he laments being King. Sure he had power, but the truth is, he is at the mercy of the people. There is a price on his head, and he realizes he is a puppet, on a string controlled by others.

    (Repeats Stanza)
    "For some reason I can't explain
    I know St Peter won't call my name"

    He fought in the name of Christianity, but he knows that he will not be able to enter into the promised land. His intentions were deceptive. Remember, never an honest word.

    "Never an honest word
    But that was when I ruled the world"

    Reiterating that he has lost his power.

    Hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
    Roman cavalry choirs are singing
    Be my mirror my sword and shield
    My missionaries in a foreign field
    For some reason I can’t explain
    I know St Peter won’t call my name
    Never an honest word
    But that was when I ruled the world

    Theme: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Chris Martin has explained the song lyric "I know Saint Peter won't call my name" in an interview with Q magazine: "It's about ... You're not on the list. I was a naughty boy.
    (Wikipedia)
    When asked about the song, bass guitarist Guy Berryman said, "It’s a story about a king who’s lost his kingdom, and all the album’s artwork is based on the idea of revolutionaries and guerrillas."
    (Wikipedia)
    Viva La Vida, in Spanish translates to "long live life."

    This song has many important implications, and VERY relevant to our times.

    We should always be suspicious of people in power, who seem to fight under the banner of religion, freedom, etc. Because in the end they are just merely people, and are subject to corruption, just like anybody else.
    Ultimately, people in power will become corrupted. It is human nature.

    This is relevant in terms of history. Think about the crusades. The Holy War. The American Revolution. The French Revolution. Spanish Conquistadores. Rulers at first, come with good intentions, but over the course of time, they seek power.
    Right now, the U.S. Is involved in the Middle East. What did we first come for? Weapons of Mass Destruction. We toppled Saddam, but we still haven't found any WMD's.
    What about 9/11? Remember, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan attacked us in 9/11. So why are we now in Iraq, and not Afghanistan??
    We still haven't captured Osama bin Laden, and we are stuck with Iraq, and we are in power, and people are such a BURDEN. We think we are in power, but the truth is that in the end we have to appease the IRaqi people. They were a sovereign nation, and in a way, right now, they are "the white man's burden."

    History is an endless waltz.
    Fated to repeat itself.


    -What do you guys think?



  2. 2TOP RATED

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Nov 9th, 2015 11:13pm report


    So in my mind the interpretations I see are all wrong. For some reason everyone is interpretating it literally. Most artist write songs that tell their story or something that has happened to them or someone they know. There is usually deeply powerful sentiments written into the song. I feel like it is really talking about a rise to fame in music or Hollywood and then a loss of that fame. All the imagery used is representative of other things. Try interpretating it in that light.



  3. 3TOP RATED

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 22nd, 2012 10:08pm report


    I really have been taken by the song...it simply captures life. I was not the artist that wrote the words and do not feel I am intimate enough with him to interpret it and read the his mind mind concerning the reasoning behind it.

    This is an easy song to place yourself into. There are times in most folks's life when one feels on top of the world and then something sobering occurs to topple us from those uplifting times.

    It doesn't matter who you are, a president...a CEO...a 20 year old who is invulnerable and finds out it isn't true...a loving mother who looses a child and becomes bitter...one who has benefited from not what you know but who you know...someone who in their own eyes have done much less than they knew they could and/or should. At times like this some may feel that they would not be accepted into heaven because they themselves have doubts. I certainly have felt this way...

    I have felt on top of the world a few times in my life...It is a sweet and powerful aphrodisiac...and dangerous if not understood and controlled. However, time has a way of bringing reality to one's life.

    Songs that invite so much participation and thought such as this are inspiring...and good for us.



  4.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 6th, 9:24am report


    I love the song, and music. I always felt it was written about a person being double-crossed by his people. He has lost control of his world and his life. He compares his events with what happened to King Louis



  5.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 25th, 8:58pm report


    I see duel interpretations. The first is historic, as in kings' and others' use of religion and/or violent force for power. But, more heartbreakingly, it is the loss of promise when someone, especially our youth, starts out into the world with dreams of success (armed with intelligence and hopes for the future) and falls prey to drugs or some other forces that bring them tragically down. It isn't just the loss of one person's future. It is a generational loss, which we are experiencing now. The song is a supreme and well-painted picture of what is taking place in our current world.



  6.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 18th, 2018 8:30pm report


    Napoléon was effectively improsone on the. Mid Atlantic Island of Saint Helena in a small village there. He very well might have had to sweep the streets there, but I think the song is about anyone in a similar situation of having been high and then brought low.



  7.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 28th, 2018 7:07pm report


    I think this song is about a (former) king who was alive for a very long time (maybe he was immortal, even!) and had a successful life. he were prestigious and intimidating to foes and was quite powerful.

    Eventually his kingdom ends up crumbling for one reason or another, possibly due to a loss in his life or due to the fact that "never an honest word" implies that he lied about things. The line before it, "once you go" furhter solidifies the fact that the person singing may have lost someone important to him.

    "I know St. Peter won't call my name" probably has to do with the fact he feels ashamed of himself and won't get into heaven because of it, because St. Peter is the supposed "gatekeeper" of heaven.

    Those are my thoguhts! <3



  8.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 13th, 2018 6:09pm report


    I know this one has been beat to death over the years, but I have a very different view.

    This song was released in 2008. Who in 2008 ruled the world, but would soon learn that everything he had done would be undone? Who had started a war in far off fields? Specifically in the middle east? Who did many want his head (figuratively) on a silver plate?

    Most pop music is written about current events, and I have always believed this was talking current events as well. Everything in this song lines up with Bush as well as any other historic leader and if you're writing about current events in a pop song it makes far more sense.



  9.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 8th, 2018 6:45am report


    King Herod and John the Baptist
    Mark 6:24-26



  10.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jan 3rd, 2018 1:33pm report


    I think the meaning given is closer to actual history than most people would like to think, only because we never bothered to look.

    Watch this video and see if you agree.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ITGok5Cw08



  11.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 20th, 2017 7:53pm report


    This is a brilliant song about Napoleon and his fall from power.



  12.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 7th, 2017 4:23pm report


    Meaning: Nice job. Very good interp. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    I was going to type out something similar... but, you did it so much better, now I need not break my nails ( j/k ) very nice
    ( and thorough ) work!



  13.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Feb 25th, 2016 2:30am report


    Absolutely loved this song.. but then, as we are all proving here, personal interpretation is everything!!.. My own interpretation of this song's lyrics are thus.. initially, yes, the words (of the verses) can be taken at face value.. that of someone whom has fallen from a lofty position.. and also that the [the person] had recognised, maybe all along, the precariousness of the position and also all the pressure that such power brings.. '.. pillars of salt, and pillars of sand... Just a puppet on a lonely string.. (oh who would ever want to be king?).. held the key, next the walls were closed on me etc'.. (powerful stuff as even my dad said!!).. but, for me, more tellingly, the chorus tells us of a higher calling, of possible redemption, and even of someone (or maybe purely of new-found faith!) to help him see his new 'way' through.. 'I hear [Jeruslaem Bells..].. I hear [Roman cavalry choirs..].. Be my mirror, my sword and shield.. my missionaries in a foreign field..'.. This, even though, he realises he simply isn't likely to get a call from Saint Peter!! (and, earlier, first chorus, that once his partner, or faith, had left him, there really was 'Never an honest word'.. but that, of course, 'was when I [he] ruled the world'!!!.. like I say, my interpretation, and an amazingly heartfelt song, which despite the lack of orchestral accompaniment, I now cannot stop playing and singing on my ukulele!!!



  14.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 27th, 2015 9:18pm report


    Yay to blife that you should be glad your alive another day

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  15.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 10th, 2015 6:37pm report


    Love this song! Funny but great energy for such a subject. These interpretations are brilliant and I am hesitating to put my own on here. Here goes- Lucifer. think that some of the lyrics reference religion and an almost unearthly power. "Seas would rise when I gave the word". Did he mean literally? Only a person with supernatural ability to control the elements could do that. Also he sleeps alone because he is atoning now for his sins, sweeping the streets, no power.

    Jerusalem bells are ringing because in the land where Jesus lived, there is celebration at his atonement and loss of power. Also Roman choirs are singing, because the seat of the Catholic church in Rome is happy at this. Does that make sense?

    Also "never an honest word, BUT that was when I ruled the world" sounds like okay he was never honest but that was then. Now he is different.



  16.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Feb 13th, 2015 2:06am report


    King David for sure.



  17.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 1st, 2014 12:44pm report


    Guys. I'm pretty sure the song isn't really for a king or Napoleon.. I think it is how maybe he had people loving him, he was a "perfect" normal person. Then he did something like drugs, or something, and now he has lost that certain power, love that people have given him. He feels that lost that happened because of the decision he made.



  18.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Nov 14th, 2014 11:23pm report


    This song is about King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. It talks about he used "to rule the world" but know he sweeps the streets he used to own or other words his kingdom. The French people did not like King Louis XVI and the King is saying how unstable France is and how Enlightment created this revolution. "It was the wicked and wild wind
    Blew down the doors to let me in
    Shattered windows and the sound of drums
    People couldn't believe what I'd become"
    It even talks about his execution when it says "Revolutionaries wait
    For my head on a silver plate
    Just a puppet on a lonely string
    Oh who would ever want to be king?"
    King Louis was a puppet cause the third estate and some of the second (French government branches) controlled everything he did in a constitutional monarchy.



‹ prev 123456789



More Coldplay song meanings »


 


Submit Your Interpretation

[ want a different song? ]






Just Posted

How You Remind Me anonymous
Dakota anonymous
Ready To run anonymous
Blacken the Cursed Sun anonymous
Come to Me anonymous
Not To Touch The Earth Fatcatinatophat
Crackerman anonymous
State of Love and Trust anonymous
High And Dry anonymous
Nicotine. anonymous
Don't Follow anonymous
Good God anonymous
Dude (Looks Like a Lady) anonymous
I Feel Like I'm Drowning anonymous
Lost anonymous

Get a weekly email update

(We won't give out your email)

Latest Releases

That Ain’t My Truck
Jake Hoot
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
Kacey Musgraves
Everywhere But On
Matt Stell
Inside Out
Five Finger Death Punch
Birthday Suit
Cosmo Sheldrake
Posthumous Forgiveness
Tame Impala
Home Tonight
Paul McCartney
California Halo Blue
AWOLNATION