The lyrics of this famous and extremely popular song by Coldplay describe the opposite of a rags-to-riches story. Instead of beginning from a place of poverty, the speaker of this song "used to rule the world" and had all power and wealth that could be imagined. However, now, due to some undisclosed twist of fate, the speaker has lost all his wealth, power and prestige, and is now faced with the irony of "sweeping the streets" that he used to own. Note how this theme of riches-to-rags is displayed in the following stanza:
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand.
This quote from the song focuses on the speed with which the speaker lost everything. After all, it is only "one minute" that it appears he is holding the key to all his power and wealth, and then "Next" he loses everything. This song is therefore a powerful meditation on the insecurity of life, and given the way that Coldplay's success have catapulted them to superstar fame, perhaps it can be seen as a meditation on fame in our digital age, and the various dangers that comes with it. After all, it is very dangerous for any celebrity to forget that their "castles" rest on nothing more than "pillards of salt and pillars of sand."
Many people believe that this song is about King Louis XVI, or at least can be related to his situation. Even the album cover for the entire album depicts a painting of what is believed to be the French Revolution. However, King Louis XVI was beheaded, and the song is told by someone who is seemingly living, so this theory is skeptical. Other theories are that it simply is about all of the events in history that will forever be remembered, such as the French Revolution or the American Revolution. Another theory is that it is about any king or tyrant who eventually got overthrown (similar to what happens in the revolutions mentioned above). The term "viva la vida" is a Spanish command that means "live the life", which could also tell of a higher power, such as God or Jesus, telling an individual to live the life they laid down before them.