Square One evolved from a riff written by Jonny Buckland, and fleshed out during a jam session with drummer Will Champion (a deviation from the usual Chris Martin-inspired songwriting process). The track came together in a rehearsal room above the studio while the band were mixing other tracks. The acoustic ending was inspired by David Bowie’s Space Odysey, written by Chris on the same guitar he’d use a month later to write A Message.
One of the earliest songs written for the album, What If was written while the band were on the road touring A Rush Of Blood To The Head. Chris Martin composed the whole song on a piano, presenting it to the band almost completely written and arranged. Coldplay recorded a number of versions of the track before settling on a recording they were happy with.
White Shadows was one of the tracks retained from the album’s first sessions, a collection of recordings the band were largely unhappy with and discarded. Once considered a first single by the band, the song was going to be left off X&Y entirely until bassist Guy Berryman championed its inclusion. Brian Eno, who would go on to produce the following two Coldplay albums, contributes synthesizer.
The recording process for Fix You started in Chicago, during the first sessions for the album. The band considered the track an “anchor” — it was always going to be on the album and everything else needed to fit around it. Inspired by both The Pixies and Jimmy Cliff, the band toyed with three or four versions, including one with a mellower ending. Drummer Will Champion advocated for the original Chicago version with the powerful ending present in the final recording.
Talk takes its main riff from German electronic band Kraftwerk’s 1981 song, Computer Love, the band’s first use of a borrowed melody. Coldplay struggled to record a version of Talk they were all happy with; it had the most incarnations of any track on X&Y. The band nearly left Talk off the album completely, only revisiting it in the weeks before the final album was delivered.
Described by the band as their most Beatles-inspired song, X&Y was the first song written for album, composed during the A Rush Of Blood To The Head tour. Happy initially with the chorus, it took the band a long time to nail the verse. After becoming fed up recording it, the band took a “final stab” and drummer Will Champion and bassist Guy Berryman arrived at a more interesting drum and bass arrangement to improve the troublesome section.
Inspired by Kate Bush’s 1985 song, Running Up That Hill, Speed Of Sound was written during the summer of 2004 in Chris Martin’s house. Jonny Buckland’s guitar contributions were inspired by Nick Cave. Will Champion wasn’t a fan of the song until it was mixed, and Chris is famously unhappy with the final recording, reflecting on it as “shit”.
With an impending release deadline and the band dissatisfied with the album as it was, Chris Martin was encouraged — in part by brother-in-law Jake Paltrow — to write one more song. The hymn-inspired A Message arrived in the middle on the night, written on the same acoustic guitar used to finish Square One a month earlier. A version of the song with reworked lyrics was released in 2010 for the Hope For Haiti relief album.
Considered a turning point by the band, Low reignited Coldplay’s passion for playing together as a group after some dissatisfaction with the disjointed approach to earlier recording sessions. The track, which had existed for some time, was originally called Zurich after the city in which it was written. The distinct glass sound in the track is the band “playing” wine glasses. Future Coldplay producer Brian Eno contributes synthesizer to the track.
Inspired by R.E.M.’s 1991 song Losing My Religion, the band nearly left The Hardest Part off X&Y because they worried the similarities between the two tracks were too strong. Rarely played live, a piano acoustic version became a staple of the Viva La Vida tour three years later.
One of the first songs written for the album, Swallowed In The Sea was an “anchor” track the band always planned to include on the album. Inspired in part by The Pogues’ 1987 song Fairytale Of New York, it was written in four minutes by Chris Martin. The song remained drummer Will Champion’s favourite track throughout the album’s writing and recording process.
Written during the summer of 2004, Twisted Logic was inspired by both Muse and Samuel Barber, the composer responsible for Adagio for Strings. Coldplay’s “fifth member” Phil Harvey was a strong advocate for the track’s inclusion on the album. The song for which the album’s world tour was named has, incidentally, never been played live.
Chris Martin wrote Til Kingdom Come for Johnny Cash, but he passed away before being able to record it. The band decided to record the song instead, releasing it as a hidden track. The song was recorded in one take, the band playing live in a studio in New York. In the recording Chris and Jonny Buckland play guitar, Guy Berryman plays the piano, and Will Champion a pump organ.
Coldplay released X&Y in 2005. Recording began in 2003 in Chicago, with tracks penned during the previous tour. After disjointed recording sessions, the band felt unhappy with the album’s direction. They trashed the majority of work, hired a new producer, and relocated to a studio in London. New songs were born, old songs given new life, and the band rekindled a love for performing together. Filled with synthesizers and electronic influences, X&Y marked the end of a sonic chapter.