Coldplay’s “Sparks” first came out in 2000 with their debut studio album, Parachutes. I was extremely late to join in on the song’s acclaim. For years before, I had heard the song only in passing — a couple of times from my mother’s car radio, a dozen times through my Spotify recommendation playlists and maybe once or twice from a friend. But even though I had heard the song enough times for it to make a lasting impression, it never did. I never actually listened to the song like I would normally. I simply tuned out the music and ignored the lyrics for no particular reason instead of paying attention to the emotions it drew from me. The song went in through my left ear and out through the right. Every time I heard it, it rang a bell somewhere deep in the folds of my brain, but not loud enough for me to actually pay attention or even look at the song name or the artist.
But sitting at lunch that day studying for a quiz with only my left earbud in so I could hear my friends talking changed things. For some reason that I don’t understand, at a time when it made the most 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, pooling into every space, filling every fold. The first eight seconds, while beautiful and attention-grabbing, were nothing compared to what followed. It was a buildup to the rest of the song, a calm before the storm.
The song feels calming at first, like something you’d feel when closing your laptop after finishing a long assignment, sitting with your friends at night on the beach, on the car ride home after an exciting day or lying in bed after a date that went well and replaying the night in your head. It’s a song where, at first, the melody glues a gentle smile on your face, but just 10 seconds later, the lyrics rip it off as slowly as they can, prolonging the pain you feel as you begin to feel your smile pull tightly at your skin. It’s a song that is more deeply filled with immense regret and longing. One filled with internal sadness and desperation. The lyrics focus on the character of the song dealing with his partner leaving him and emphasize how hurt he is knowing he hurt his partner, pushing her away until she had no choice but to leave.
“Sparks” has quickly become one of my favorite songs, a normally hard thing for me to state with conviction given my indecisiveness. I can’t help but call it a favorite because it’s a song with so few lyrics, yet it still says so much. It’s a song that inflicts deep sadness and pain onto its listeners, but in the best way possible, allowing them to feel all the pent-up emotions they haven’t allowed themselves to feel yet. It has become a song that I have overplayed countless times, yet one that has never ceased to get old to me. And knowing the deep sadness in the song sends me into a running stream of tears every time I hear those heart-breaking eight seconds — the eight seconds I called calming that day at the lunch table.
The more I listen to it, the more I realize how much I actually resonate with it recently, as I relate to the character in the song, but also the one he sings about. The lyrics “But I won’t let you down / Oh yeah I will, yeah I will, yes I will” point out both of our destructive qualities. He let his partner down by hurting her, in the same way I self-sabotage the good things in my life and hurt the people around me. He can’t promise that he won’t disappoint her when he knows he will and always does. And on the other hand, his partner has no choice but to leave. She finally prioritizes herself after a relationship that existed to focus solely on what he wanted. She is driven away by all the hurt he caused her. She chooses herself, something that I’ve only come to realize is much harder and more admirable than it sounds.
And to me, the saddest part of the song is realizing how strongly I feel for the character in the song instead of his partner. Hearing it from his perspective leaves no space to be upset with him, even when you have every right to be. Where the pain in his voice, along with the contrast from the soothing melody, makes you sit silently, wanting to comfort him and take the pain away from him and hold it instead just so he feels less guilt and sadness.
The warmness of the melody creates this melancholy 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 sort of special awe factor where you sit there and think about all the raw emotions Chris Martin’s voice brought out once the song ends. When the song ends it leaves you behind, sitting on your bed alone, with the weight of the characters’ and your internal pain holding you down from getting up and moving on. Where the pain of a broken relationship is now shifted onto you, for you to navigate instead.
“Sparks” is a song that has now become my sad song. It’s the song I play every time I feel sad, as if it’s become part of the soundtrack tailored to my life story. And even with the immense pain it causes, I somehow find myself enchanted by every note, and excited to queue the song.
MiC Columnist Roshni Mohan can be contacted at email@example.com