I've been thinking a lot about this song lately.
I knew immediately when Coldplay released their latest experiment, with the album cover of the Delacroix painting and the storm the Bastille aesthetic that they were styled in, that something big, unnameable and epic was on the horizon for us -real americans- and the world. I remember listening to the opening opus thrilled yet melancholy by the rather upbeat and contradictory lamentable lyrics.
It occurred to me then that this was the subtle cultural response to the Bush Years. No? Think about it:
The song is persona piece of a historical figure, Herod, King of Jerusalem, before it collapsed under the rule of Romans and the subsequent crusades that dominated the ancient world. Considering the Bush years led to our own experience in a holy war. I don't need to summarize the last 7 years of what we've experienced -soldiers, civilians, Americans, the world, respect, etc.- but consider the losses we've had.
The election of Barack Obama sent people dancing in the streets. It was amazing to see humanity celebrate possibility.
But at the same time, I felt a little bad for W. Seriously. I certainly can't wait for the end of the Bush years. But I felt sad for him because he's that guy. It's like the song: "Revolutionaries wait, for my head on a silver plate". Granted, no one was storming the White House gate like it was the Bastille or anything nearly as bloody as the Delacroix painting. It was more like a peaceful manifestation of the Delacroix painting, the flag waving and the cheering, ecstatic mob outside of the castle waiting for the deposed king to leave.
The financial system collapsing adds another nuance to this culturally significant ditty. Watching the fall of giants such as Bear Sterns, Lehman, Washington Mutual, the auto makers, and the remix of a Ponzi scheme with Bernard Madoff seems to make the timing of the release of Viva la Vida hold a deeper resonance for our times in ways that I'm not sure they've even imagined yet.