“A Sky Full Of Stars,” the lead single from Coldplay’s album Ghost Stories, was the perfect song for 2014. Following his divorce from actress Gwyneth Paltrow, frontman Chris Martin produced the album that many assumed to be his creative way of dealing with the split. “A Sky Full Of Stars” gained a lot of positive reception upon its release – it was the featured song of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and fans were generally receptive to it due to support for Martin during this time, but also because this song was and remains incredible.
From the beginning, “A Sky Full Of Stars” is extremely awe-inducing. Swirling and lucid, the piano introduction depicts this star-filled sky through which listeners take a trip. The beginning of the intro is, well, forceful. There is an immense amount of power in the piano hook – it picks up listeners and hurls them through this skyline and, as they settle, they can see the stars and constellations unfolding in front of them. It is refreshing that a song so centered around a real instrument was able to thrive in a year dominated by electronic music. It doesn’t hurt that it’s Coldplay, either.
Obviously important to any song are the lyrics, and Coldplay very rarely fails to deliver. When talking about his abilities as a lyricist, Martin stated “I’m not the most poetic lyricist, but I know what feels right.” “A Sky Full Of Stars” is expectedly full of starry-sky metaphors — “You’re a sky full of stars / Cause you light up the park,” “Cause in a sky full of stars, I think I saw you,” and the one that just destroys me, “I wanna die in your arms / Cause you get lighter the more it gets dark.” While there aren’t that many lines to the song, each one is just simply beautiful.
Back in November, Martin admitted that Katy Perry was actually a big influence on the song. He explained that he’d been listening to a lot of her music around the time “A Sky Full Of Stars” was written because “a lot of her songs have the same chord sequence the whole time. Your body feels comfortable with them and then the melody’s changing on top, so there’s like a groove you really get into and also you’re kept interested by it.” “A Sky Full Of Stars” is a prime example of the fourchords song, a song in which the same four chords are repeated consistently and ultimately gains immense popularity (other examples include “Save Tonight” by Eagle Eye Cherry, “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga, “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia, “Kids” by MGMT, Don’t Stop Believing by Journey, and “Let It Be” by The Beatles). By keeping these four chords in rotation while layering it with a gripping piano part, Coldplay had a recipe for a hit. But, since it was 2014, they needed a little something extra.
Enter EDM. It seemed to be inescapable this year – every song had to have some sort of a drop, a breakdown, or a dance element of some kind. Even Coldplay succumbed to it. Working with Swedish DJ Avicii, they were able to insert a portion of EDM that really meshed with the song. The pairing of these two genres demonstrated the versatility of both – how an instrumental piece could transition into a song in which you could really lose yourself.
These factors contribute to the success of “A Sky Full Of Stars,” especially in 2014. Amidst “#SELFIE” by The Chainsmokers, “Wiggle” by Jason Derulo, and “Rude” by MAGIC!, there was this shining beacon of hope that things in the musical world were indeed going to be more than fine. On a personal note, I don’t think I’ve ever had a song I could point to as “the perfect song” (except for “September” by Earth, Wind, & Fire, but that’s a different story) until now, so for that, I’m forever indebted to Coldplay.