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I'm Clifford Stumme, and I use literary analysis and research to explain the deeper meanings of pop songs. Feel free to leave a comment or to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "Orphans" by Coldplay mean?

What does "Orphans" by Coldplay mean?

Lyrics Meaning of “Orphans“

Coldplay is back; after almost 4 years, they're back with an album that's been in the making for ages, maybe even like Chris Martin said, “10 years.” Everyday Life or الحياة اليومية is the new album that was teased by a vintage photo from 1919, or should we call it "a 2-albums album" because basically they have two albums within Everyday Life; one is called “Sunrise,” and the other is called “Sunset.” Last night, they released two songs, "Orphans" and "Arabesque"; and they released a music video for "Orphans" few hours ago, which is also the song that we'll be explaining today.

The album cover image is based on a 1919 photo of Jonny Buckland's great-grandfather’s former band.

The album cover image is based on a 1919 photo of Jonny Buckland's great-grandfather’s former band.

The music video is a snippet of many sets; there are many colours, patterns, and shots, and it just feels like life it's chaotic, yet you can find beauty in each little moment; it's all over the place, but it works nicely.

But before we discuss that, let's read what Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, had to say to Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1, regarding the new album:

It’s all about just being human; it [The album] is our reaction to the perceived negativity that’s everywhere. And there is a lot of trouble, but there’s also so much positivity and so much great life happening. So in a way, it’s just trying to make sense of things, saying what we feel and what we see
— Chris Martin on BBC Radio 1

Martin also said this:

“It seems to me that one of the things that might help people have a better time, is to put themselves in other people’s shoes; whether that’s these kids who have to leave Syria, or who grew up in Baltimore, or whatever it might be. Rather than judging from afar, maybe to think "I wonder what it’s like to be there”

So, let's start with explaining the lyrics, starting with the intro,

Intro

Boom boom ka, buba de ka
Boom boom ka, buba de ka
Boom boom ka, buba de ka

Funnily, this very simple intro sums up the whole song and its theme; it sounds so happy and joyous, yet it has a deeper and darker meaning to it, which actually make it feel more reverent. "Boom" is basically the sound of a bomb, an explosive, or a missile; it's the sound of war. Taking the sound of war and making it to a catchy part of a song—a song that's created to represent—”the so much life bursting out on our planet,” and to maybe make a little light, fighting for peace.

Verse One

Rosaleen of the Damascene
Yes, she had eyes like the moon
Would have been on the silver screen
But for the missile monsoon

Here we have a direct reference to the bombings that happened in the Syrian capital, Damascus, in April 2018; it's when Britain, the US, and France attacked the city, leaving many dead children and adults; one of those is the character mentioned here; her name was Rosaleen.

"Rosaleen of the Damascene" is probably one of the cleverest lines I've heard this year; Rosaleen is a female name that means 'little rose'; and Damascene is anything or anyone that's from Damascus, which is a city that's also called the 'City of Jasmine'; so he's calling the girl the "little rose of the city of roses" basically.

She went, "Woo woo, woo woo oo-oo-oo"
Indigo go up to heaven today
Woo woo, woo woo oo-oo-oo
With bombs going boom ba-boom-boom
She say...

Rosaleen was killed in one of those attacks, she was a beautiful baby girl, who had beautiful eyes; and he thinks she could've been a stunning actress if it weren't for the missile that killed her.

Verse Two

Baba would go where the flowers grow
Almond and peach trees in bloom
And he would know just when and what to sow
So golden and opportune
He went, "Woo woo, woo woo oo-oo-oo"
Tulips the colour of honey today
It's true true, woo woo oo-oo-oo
With bombs going boom ba-boom-boom
He say...

So her baba, which is Arabic for 'Father,’ he was a simple farmer; and this verse shows the beauty of the city, mentioning almonds, peach trees, flowers, tulips, and honey all of which show the simple happy life that these innocent people had before the war; that song and these verses are portraying the 'everyday life' of those people just before they both get robbed of their lives.

Chorus

I want to know when I can go
Back and get drunk with my friends
I want to know when I can go
Back and be young again (yeah)

It might sound like it's a bit out of place, but if you think about it, the album is called Everyday Life; the song has an uplifting sound to it, and the verses are about the happy simple lives of a father and a daughter before they die; so this is a chorus that is a nice resemblance of this attitude; the world has both good and bad times; we sometimes say "what will the refugees do now? what about their future? what about education and jobs?"; and while these questions are valid and very important, sometimes those people in war just wish they could get back to having a normal life again; they sometimes miss the simple nice everyday life things, like going out with friends on the weekends to grab a bite and a drink.

Bridge

Cherub Seraphim soon
Come sailing us home by the light of the moon

I think this is from Rosaleen's perspective in the afterlife; Cherubim and Seraphim are two arch-angels that are believed to guide people when they die; and in that case, they are welcoming Rosaleen and her father after they've been killed, taking them to heaven because they lived a good and innocent life.

Ourtro

Woo woo, woo woo oo-oo-oo
I guess we'll be raised on our own then
Woo woo, woo woo oo-oo-oo
I want to be with you 'til the world ends
I want to be with you 'til the whole world ends
Boom boom ka, buba de ka
Boom boom ka, buba de ka
Boom boom ka, buba de ka
Boom boom ka, buba de ka
Boom

This is what the "Orphans" of the war would say, right? There is no one that gets more hurt than kids who lose their parents because of war that they've never signed up for; people who die, and people who lose loved ones in attacks like this one are being robbed of their everyday life, and they're going to be raised on their own that if they stayed alive and didn't die in the next "Boom boom ka, buba de ka... Boom" on their city.

That was "Orphans" by Coldplay; it was emotional listening to it and reading the lyrics; and I'd recommend that you listen to the song yourself, and let me know if you what do you think about it... Is it a sad song? a hopeful song? or maybe it’s just like it says on the album cover “سلام وحب“ it’s all about Peace and Love.

You can watch the music video that was just released few hours ago on here,

and to watch Clifford's video with his lovely wife April, you can click here

and you can watch Chris's interview with BBC Radio 1 here

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