Coldplay vs Cat Stevens – Plagiarism Or Coincidence?

Is there a has-been music star on the promo trail who doesn’t think Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’ sounds like one of their old tracks? Last year it was shred guitarist/Krang lookalike Joe Satriani who accused Chris Martin of half-inching the melody from his lamentably smug instrumental track ‘If I Could Fly’ (compare the two tracks here).

Now Cat Stevens has pointed out that ‘Viva La Vida’ also sounds like his song ‘Foreigner Suite’. Sort of. If you squint your ears. All of which is highly confusing to those of us who have always maintained that ‘Viva La Vida’, with its chunky string intro, is far more indebted to another song – Annie Lennox’s ‘Walking On Broken Glass’.

The issue is muddied yet further by Martin’s own up-front attitude to stealing other people’s ideas: he once admitted that ‘Trouble’‘s piano riff was a straight rip-off of Taylor Dayne’s 80s hit ‘Tell It To My Heart’. He also said ‘Everything’s Not Lost’ was an attempt to rewrite Embrace’s ‘The Good Will Out’, right down to the gospel-tinged feel-good crescendo.

But in the case of ‘Viva La Vida’, it’s hard to imagine that Chris Martin had ever heard either of the tracks he’s accused of plagiarising. It’s simply one of those sing-song, nursery-rhyme-simple melodies that might occur to anyone with an ear for a tune. The reason it has cropped up in so many different songs is also the very reason it’s so damn catchy.

Anyway, here’s Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’ and Cat Stevens’ ‘Foreigner Suite’ run together so you can judge for yourself. Personally, I think Stevens’ song in turn sounds quite a lot like The 5th Dimension’s hippy-dippy 60s hit ‘Up Up And Away’ (“…in my beautiful balloon”), but that’s a whole other court case.

Blog – a brief history of plagiarism in rock