A Rush of Blood to the Head is the second studio album by English alternative rock band Coldplay, released on August 26, 2002 in the United Kingdom by record label Parlophone. Produced by the band and British record producer Ken Nelson, the recording of the album began a week after the September 11 attacks in the United States, which gave the band a fresh perspective in the songwriting. The songs featured in the album have a greater use of piano and guitar than Coldplay's debut album, Parachutes.
The album was a commercial success, debuting at number one in the United Kingdom and later placing at number seven of the country's 20 biggest-selling albums in the 21st century. The British Phonographic Industry has since certified the album eight-times platinum for its accumulated sales of over 2.6 million units. The album has spawned the hit singles "In My Place", "The Scientist", "Clocks", and "God Put a Smile upon Your Face". A Rush of Blood to the Head has been praised by the critics, considering it better than Parachutes. It won the 2002 Grammy for Best Alternative Album and Record of the Year for the song "Clocks", becoming Coldplay's largest hit to date.
The band started recording the album in London a week after the September 11 attacks in the United States, during which their songs "garnered larger audiences". Since the band had never stayed in London before, they had trouble focusing. So they decided to relocate in Liverpool, where they recorded some of the songs on Parachutes. Once there, vocalist Chris Martin said that they became obsessed with recording.
"In My Place" was the first song recorded for the album. The band released it as the album's lead single because they saw, being one of the songs left after Parachutes, importance in it, which was to record another album and think they could still write songs. Martin said: "Three months after Parachutes took off, we went through a strange period of not really knowing what we were doing. One thing kept us going: recording 'In My Place'. Then other songs started coming." The band wrote more than 20 songs for the album. Some of their new materials, including "In My Place" and "Animals", were played while on tour. The album's title was revealed through a post on the band's official website.
Eventually, Coldplay completed A Rush of Blood to the Head by June 2002, and was ready to hand it over to their record label, Parlophone. However, the band thought their output sounded "rubbish". Unhappy of putting something they were completely unsatisfied with, the band had reached an agreement with the label to postpone the release of the album.
Subsequently, there were many songs discarded because, according to Martin, it best fit to Parachutes. For him, making the likes of Parachutes was not anymore interesting to them: "It would have shown that we're happy to sit back on what we'd done, and we're not. For us it was important to progress and try to improve upon our abilities as musicians." Always in search of perfection, however, this encountered the band sometimes with "practice sessions ended abruptly with one or more members of Coldplay threatening to quit". After headlining 2002's Glastonbury Festival, Coldplay returned into the studio to work "Songs for #3" out. Phil Harvey, the band's manager, heard of "Clocks" and urged them to rework it immediately: "No, you must do that song now 'cause you're going on [in the lyrics] about urgency, and you're talking about keeping this song back. That doesn't make sense."
The model for the shot wore an all-white makeup because it produces the "best results"; however, for the image, the model also wore a twill-colored cape. The computer could not read the colors so it was replaced with spikes, and the head in the image was chopped because the machine only scanned 30 centimetres. The editor of the magazine liked the image and eventually featured it in one of their publications.
Martin saw the image in the magazine. He approached Sundsbø and asked him to use the image for the cover image of A Rush of Blood to the Head. For the album's singles, Martin asked Sundsbø what he could do; the latter suggested scanning the head of each member of the band.
The album dominantly features songs with guitars and piano used. There are tracks that have been considered far from nü-metal, but are more "turbulent" than Coldplay's previous works. The album includes "guitar-pop", ballads, and acoustic songs. However, the U2-esque epic rock of the album's opening track "Politik", the piano-driven "Clocks", and the loud guitars of "A Whisper" were seen as an extension of the band's musical range.
Recording the album after the September 11 attacks gave the band a fresh perspective: "The new songs are reflective of new attitudes. [They tell listeners] not to be frightened. Anybody can achieve whatever they want to." Most of the song lyrics are about urgency. Martin has commented that previous songs were more relaxed since they were in a comfortable state of mind: "Perhaps there's a bit more urgency on some of these songs. And that's born from all the places we've been and the thing's we've experienced." Martin has also explained, in relation to the theme of urgency, that the album's title means "doing something on impulse". Some songs featured in the album are about relationships. They are based on reality; however, they were written with fictional twist, according to Martin. There are songs also that are like fairy tales, with a beginning and an ending story.
A Rush of Blood to the Head has earned the band several awards from domestic and international music press. In 2002, it was awarded Best Album at the Q Awards. In the same year, the band won two at the Grammy Awards for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the song "In My Place". In 2003, it won Best British Album at the BRIT Awards, and the following year, the band earned their first Grammy Award for Record of the Year for the song "Clocks".
The album also received other accolades. It was chosen in 2002 as Billboard magazine's Critics' Choice, which is a pooled Top 10 favorites of the magazine's staff and freelance writers. The following year, it was ranked number 473 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2007, The National Association of Recording Merchandisers and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released a list of what they term "The Definitive 200 Albums of All Time"; A Rush of Blood to the Head ranks at number 65 on the list.
The album has also been lauded among international critics, the same as it did in Europe. Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times praised the album, commenting that it is "one of the year's best albums" and describing it as "sparser, stranger and even catchier than its predecessor". Rolling Stone magazine's Rob Sheffield, who was less happy with Parachutes, said that "A Rush of Blood to the Head is a nervier, edgier, thoroughly surprising album", adding, "But where Parachutes was the clumsy diary of a high-strung kid, A Rush of Blood sounds more like a band with the confidence to test its own limits. MacKenzie Wilson of Allmusic echoed the above comments saying that it is a "strong album". Wilson, who compliments Martin for his "sharpened" falsetto and refined "haunting delivery" and Buckland for his "riveting guitar work", notes that "regardless of the band still being in their mid-twenties, they've made an amazing record". Emma Pearse of the American newspaper The Village Voice has the same sentiments, stating that is it "a little edgier, trancier, and more conversational" compared to Parachutes.
The album debuted at number five in the United States with 144,000 copies initial sales, stronger than its predecessor, Parachutes, which debuted at number 189 in December 2000. It has since been certified four-time platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for accumulated shipments of over four million units. It has also been certified five-time platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association, having an accumulated shipments of over 350,000 units, and four-time platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association for shipments of over 400,000.