Coldplay’s “Sparks” was first released in 2000 with their debut studio album, Parachute. I was extremely late to participate in the cheering for the song. For years before, I’d only heard the song in passing – a few times on my mom’s car stereo, a dozen times via my Spotify recommendation playlists, and maybe once or twice from a friend. But even if I had heard the song enough times for it to make a lasting impression, it never did. I never really listened to the song like I normally would. I just cut the music and ignored the lyrics for no particular reason instead of paying attention to the emotions they gave me. The song came in my left ear and came out the right. Every time I heard it, it rang a bell somewhere deep in my brain, but not loud enough for me to actually pay attention or even look at the name of the song or the artist.
But sitting around for lunch that day studying for a quiz with only my left earbud so I could hear my friends talking changed things. For some reason I don’t understand, at a time when it made more sense to let the song flow in one ear and out the other, the song stuck. It melted, sticking to every structure in my brain, collecting in every space, filling every crease. The first eight seconds, while beautiful and captivating, were nothing compared to what followed. It was a build up for the rest of the song, a calm before the storm.
The song sounds soothing at first, like something you would feel when closing your laptop after completing a long mission, sitting with your friends in the evening on the beach, driving home after an exciting day, or lying in bed after a date that went well and replays the night in your head. It’s a song where, at first, the melody puts a sweet smile on your face, but just 10 seconds later, the lyrics are tearing away as slowly as they can, prolonging the pain you feel as you start to feel your smile pulling firmly against your skin. It is a song that is more deeply filled with immense regret and longing. One filled with inner sadness and despair. The lyrics focus on the song’s character dealing with his partner leaving him and highlighting how hurt he is knowing he hurt his partner, pushing her away until she has no other. choice but to leave.
“Sparks” quickly became one of my favorite songs, something normally difficult to say with conviction given my indecision. I can’t help but call it a favorite because it’s a song with so few lyrics, but it still says a lot. It’s a song that inflicts deep sadness and pain on its listeners, but in the best possible way, allowing them to feel all the pent up emotions they haven’t allowed themselves to feel yet. It became a song that I overplayed countless times, but never stopped getting old for me. And knowing the song’s deep sadness sends me into a flood of tears every time I hear those heartbreaking eight seconds — the eight seconds I called soothing that day at the lunch table.
The more I listen to it, the more I realize how much I’ve resonated with it lately, in terms of the character of the song, but also the one he sings about. The lyrics “But I won’t let you down / Oh yeah I will, yes I will, yes I will” emphasize both of our destructive qualities. He let his partner down by hurting her, the same way I self-sabotage the good things in my life and hurt the people around me. He can’t promise he won’t disappoint her when he knows he will and always will. And on the other hand, his partner has no choice but to leave. She eventually prioritizes herself after a relationship that existed to just focus on what he wanted. She is driven away by all the harm he has caused her. She chooses herself, something that I only realized is much harder and more admirable than it looks.
And for me, the saddest part of the song is realizing how much I feel for the character in the song instead of his partner. Hearing it from his perspective leaves no room to be mad at him, even when you have every right to be. Where the pain in his voice, along with the contrast of the soothing melody, makes you sit in silence, wanting to comfort him and take the pain away from him and hold it instead just so he feels less guilt and sadness .
The warmth of the melody creates this melancholic feeling that sends you into a three minute 47 second trance where the only thing you can focus on is the song, as if every time it plays the world stops. It creates a kind of special dread factor where you sit there and think about all the raw emotions that Chris Martin’s vocals evoked once the song was over. When the song ends, it leaves you behind, sitting alone on your bed, with the weight of the characters and your internal pain preventing you from getting up and moving forward. Where the pain of a broken relationship is now moved onto you, for you to navigate instead.
“Sparks” is a song that has now become my sad song. It’s the song I play whenever I feel sad, like it’s part of the soundtrack to my life story. And even with the immense pain it causes, I find myself somehow enchanted by every note and excited to queue the song.
MiC columnist Roshni Mohan can be reached at [email protected]