Did Coldplay rip off Joe Satriani?

Coldplay have been called many things, but Joe Satriani wannabes? That’s a new one, and it’s apparently what the chrome-domed axe man himself is claiming in a new lawsuit. Satriani accuses Coldplay of ganking the riff from his 2004 instrumental "If I Could Fly" for their hit single "Viva La Vida." (A representative for the band hasn’t replied to our request for a comment.) Anyway, let’s go to the tapes….

I’m no intellectual property lawyer, and I don’t really believe in suing people over melodic similarities, but I’ll be damned if Satriani’s screamin’ riff starting around 00:50 in the first clip doesn’t sound extremely familiar. That said, this is a pretty elementary combination of notes. If anything, I think Coldplay’s members are most likely guilty of writing a boring major-chord tune in an attempt to make a hit. But you tell me — do you think Satriani has a point?

(Meanwhile, if this whole thing feels like déjà vu, you’re not crazy. As Wook recalled yesterday, Coldplay were previously accused of stealing the "Viva La Vida" tune from a random indie act called Creaky Boards back in June; Coldplay vehemently denied that charge at the time.)

More on Coldplay and suspiciously similar music:
Coldplay is one of EW’s 2008 Entertainers of the Year
They gave EW a sneak preview of Viva La Vida back in May
EW.com got an exclusive glimpse of one of bassist Guy Berryman’s sketches
2002′s A Rush of Blood to the Head is one of EW’s New Music Classics
EW took a look at a few other soundalike songs in 2006

Comments (470 total) Add your comment
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  • Duderonomy

    It does sound mighty similar, no? And yet I agree that it’s basic enough that a direct lift was unlikely. It’ll be interesting to see what the legal system makes of this.

  • nathan

    If they didn’t, Satriani would be about the only one they haven’t ripped off.

  • Nathan

    Just watched that Coldplay clip, is Chris Martin not the goofiest most awkward frontman in all of rock?

  • Nick

    It may be a little similar, BUT…um….who actually listens to him? I didn’t even know he was still recording..

    • Conde

      lol you must know a lot about music… NOT!
      the harmonic understanding of satriani exceeds that of coldpay for about 1000% man.

  • claytron5000

    Ah this intellectual property stuff is getting ridiculous. Joe Satriani’s entire discography has “striking similarity” to Frank Zappa, Steve Vai and any other shredder in the past three decades. Come to think of, I think the estate of Johann Strauss and/or Beethoven has a case against Satriani.

  • Matthew Foster

    My question is…How long has this Coldplay album been out ??? Satriani waits this long to do anything. Did he wait until they were nominated for 5 Grammy awards.
    That is a simple chord progression. Every Coldplay song has one…..

  • Clay Atlas

    Everyone steals from everyone. That said, Coldplay jacked him. Bigtime.

    http://backorforth.blogspot.com

  • BSF

    seriously the idea of ppl getting sued over using the same melody or the guitar riff is just retarded. everyone has taken pieces of something to put it together in music or anyhtign else. do actors and actresses get sued for copying each others mannerisms and tips in movies? do writers and directors get sued for using similar quotes or storylines? no becasue its ridiculous. unless an entire melody and/or lyrics was taken from someone and they are given no credit no one should be suing for anything.

  • walrusgajoob

    You don’t have to be a musical genius to figure this out. There are only so many chords and so many musical melodies. I would eat my shoe if I had to agree that Coldplay ripped off Satriani. As far as fair use is concerned, this has enough artistic merit to exclude any negligence or copyright infringement. Coldplay has created something far more unique than Satriani could ever hope to pull off. Somebody tell him to get over himself. P.S. I thought Steve Vai played the devil. Satriani comes off as a washed up gargoyle.

    • ML

      I recognize this post is years old, but I just had to comment on the ignorance here. If you’d listened to half of Satriani’s discography, you’d realize he has more musical talent in his pinky than that piss-poor excuse of a band Coldplay could ever sell their pathetic souls for. Further, did you know that Joe Satriani is responsible for such guitarists as Kirk Hammet, among others, including Steve Vai? And if Coldplay’s music is so unique compared to Satriani’s, why does Satch improvise every piece he’s written, to some extent or another, in each performance? I bet Coldplay doesn’t–I can’t back that statement up because whenever I hear them I have to pull off on the side of the road to vomit, so I certainly wouldn’t watch their concerts. Chew on that for awhile, get some musical education behind yourself, then post about how much better processed, re-processed, then re-re-processed the pop industry’s autotune-infested genre is than instrumental.

      • Joe Sucktriani

        HAHAHAHA… I love this response, even though I am not big a fan of Satriani. I still agree with everything you said.

        Re: Original post… I was in agreement until he mentioned cold play being in any way, shape or form “unique”. That made me barf in my mouth, like their music does us both.

        Kudos

    • SamK

      @ Walrusgajoob

      You’re kidding right? You have to be. If you like Coldplay, that’s fine. But you can’t seriously be arguing that Coldplay are better and more unique than Joe Satriani. That has to be one of the most ignorant statements I’ve read in a long time.

  • Becca

    I don’t know that it really qualifies as stealing…sounds like a fairly basic riff. All that being said, I’ll take the Satch man over over Coldplay any day.

  • walrusgajoob

    Maybe “satchman” should hire a singer and see what happens to his tunes. Could his ego handle it?

  • Joe

    In a chromatic music system (we’re not talking microtonality where a note rests somewhere between a C and a C#), there are only 12 notes that exist and there are millions of written and recorded compositions. Harmonic and melodic sequences are going to be repeated over the course of history.

    • Sam

      But not in a four year period dear. Heres the thing, in your first statement you are indeed incorrect due to the complicated system of semi-tones that are used in tuning any instrument at all. The second part you are correct but in a four year period … that seems sketchy dont you think… I mean really I thought that coldplay would atleast take some serious artistic freedom but they didnt they just moved it down a key or two and then put words to it. I don’t think that they arent tallented however Satriani definately takes the cake when it comes to musicality.

  • Becca

    And that has what to do with anything? Just curious.

  • empo1188

    I’m a music major at my college and a hardcore Coldplay fan, and I’m here to tell you that after three semesters of music theory, the chord progression found in “Viva La Vida” is a very common one. A lot of rock music is based on simple chord progressions (I-IV-V-I and so forth), so I think Satriani’s argument is a little unfounded. Everyone has musical influences; that’s part of what makes music exciting…the blending of different styles and genres to create new sounds. What Coldplay has done with their current album is unique and different for them, and I believe it shows real musical growth. And why the complaint now? The album has been out since July!

  • Katie

    so, did Creaky Boards then rip off Satriana, or vice versa?

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