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How Coldplay saved me as a worship leader

Filed under: creativity,music,worship — 10:55 pm

Chris Martin

First, I must admit that I’m only a moderate Coldplay fan.  “Rush of Blood” was one of the greatest albums of that last ten years, but I’m pretty sure they’ll never reach those heights again.  However, I was watching their performance on the iTunes Festival app recently, and I was reminded how Coldplay saved me as a worship leader.

True story:  In 1998, I graduated from college with a Music Theory and Composition degree, determined to write music that blew peoples’ minds and set the music world on fire  (humble, huh?).
My first job was as a worship leader for the high school ministry of Willow Creek, helping students to sing and pray and connect with the Almighty.

So I began writing songs for us to sing…and not those lame, 3 chord, boring pop songs.  I created epic, complicated masterpieces that soared through key changes, polyrhythms, and time signature changes.  Yes, I was the Freddie Mercury of high school worship music.

The problem was that even though this music deeply connected with me (and a few members of the band), no one could sing along.  In fact, most of my songs crashed and burned with students.  They didn’t always hate the songs. They were just confused.  Yes, I was the Bjork of high school worship music.

But then I heard “The Scientist” by Coldplay.  And everything changed.

How could this ridiculously simple song move me in such a deep way?  My Theory 2 professor would have laughed the predictable chord progression out of class, but I could not stop listening to it.  Or playing it.  Or thinking about it.  This song captured the magic and transcendence that I was looking for in all my complex harmonic adventures, AND it brought the whole world along for the ride.  Stunning.  I had so much to learn.

If you don’t believe me, put on some headphones, turn up the volume, and listen to “Politik” with your eyes closed.  “Oh give me love over, love over this…”

That’s the kind of pop song that can change the world.  Or at least change the way we see it!  A song doesn’t have to be simple OR moving…accessible OR authentic…sing-able OR deep.  It can be a glorious marriage of both.  And by stripping a song (or emotion) down to its very essence, it can become, in many ways MORE moving and MORE authentic.

So for all you fellow music snobs out there, what song or band violates “the rules” of making cool music…and instead makes simple music that moves you?


  1. For me, it’s John Hiatt, Patti Griffin… Intelligent, raw, singer-songwriter types that take simple, commonplace, or mundane subjects (or other subjects you might never expect) and talk of them from a unique, honest, or otherwise interesting perspective… Simple/raw musical content. Nothing too heady here… Just straightforward. .
    Really it’s about the story – the lyrical content. Harmonic content can make you feel a certain way and lyrics can help identify and describe feelings. How they mesh together is what makes a song powerful or effective. Combine that with the environment in which they’re heard/experienced…

    Comment by Ryan — August 14, 2011 @ 11:32 pm

  2. …maybe we should talk about the blues… 😉

    Comment by Ryan — August 14, 2011 @ 11:50 pm

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    Pingback by Untitled 1 — August 15, 2011 @ 6:05 am

  4. Ryan,

    Very well said! You bring up two great points: (1) The combination of the music with lyrics is everything, and (2) The environment in which we encounter the music really matters. thanks!


    Comment by aaronieq — August 15, 2011 @ 8:10 am

  5. 4 words
    smash. ing. pump. kins.

    Comment by jeremy — August 15, 2011 @ 9:02 am

  6. Aaron,
    I still enjoy the music you wrote when you led at SI.

    Comment by Scott — August 16, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

  7. Simple music that moves me? Amos Lee. Mumford And Sons. And Randy Newman.

    Comment by Jeremy Batten — August 23, 2011 @ 11:27 am

  8. […] “Rush of Blood to the Head” is one of my favorite, all-time albums–check out How Coldplay Saved me as a Worship Leader–and I’m desperate for them to recapture some of that magic.  I want to say “Guys, […]

    Pingback by “Mylo Xyloto” by Coldplay – a review « aaron niequist — November 20, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

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