10 Radiohead Songs That Represent Your Life As A 20-Something

Youtube - Radiohead in Rainbows - From the Basement
Youtube – Radiohead in Rainbows – From the Basement

I do not claim to be a Radiohead connoisseur (and you may have totally different interpretations of the below tracks). My music tastes are wider than they are deep. On any given day, my playlists will run from Biggie to Touch Sensitive to Nirvana. But if I were to choose a band to play the soundtrack to my existence, it would be Radiohead, and the reason for that is simple; in any time of heightened emotion, they’re the band I listen to for hours. When I say “heightened emotion,” I should admit I generally mean “heightened negative emotion,” given the group isn’t known for the cheeriest tunes. I’ll squeeze a happy one in there somewhere, though. I’ll find one. I believe in myself. Sometimes.

1. When you keep going back to someone who you shouldn’t, ever

Just. I can’t actually claim credit for identifying this, as a friend pointed out to me (for various reasons…). But the chorus, kids. The chorus:

Radiohead – Just

You do it to yourself, you do
and that’s what really hurts, is you
do it to yourself, just you
you and no one else
You do it to yourself.
You do it to yourself.

2. When you, or someone you know, is ‘selling out’

You’re trying to gain social acceptance by sending your identity down the river, and you’re becoming an ugly soulless robot in the process. Radiohead has the track for you:

Radiohead – High And Dry

You’d kill yourself for recognition,
kill yourself to never ever stop.
You broke another mirror
You’re turning into something you are not.

Yorke knows how this’ll turn out. Badly:

They’re the ones who’ll hate you
when you think you’ve got the world all sussed out.
They’re the ones who’ll spit at you,
you’ll be the one screaming out.

Yorke’s vocals are resigned, with an element of plea-bargaining in them, so it’s perfect for when you need to be set straight by someone other than your parents.

3. When you will not be fucked with

You and whose Army? It sounds a little defeatist, but I’ve always liked to take it as a sardonic ‘me against the world’ track. The other side might be bigger, and there might be more of them, and they might, you know, be very likely to win, but not on my wary watch. Or something. The music, like the vocals, starts sparse and slow, chiming up faster and louder for the end, which I guess is when this theoretical battle takes place.

Radiohead – You And Whose Army?

Come on, come on
you think you drive me crazy.
Well, come on, come on
you and whose army?
You and your cronies.
Come on, come on
Holy Roman empire.
Come on if you think,
come on if you think
you can take us on.

Plus, there are ghost horses on my side. So I will of course come out the victor.

4. When you want to be left alone. Or you’re Leo in Romeo + Juliet

Talk Show Host of course conjures images of a 22-year-old Leo moping around a beach (as a child, I thought he was the hottest thing ever in this movie – ever not being a very long time for me given my youth – and now that I am 23, he looks very, very, very young all of a sudden). But the track also has a certain isolating rebelliousness to it; the lyrics give it an aggressive tone, while the music’s cascading tones on the one hand and cacophony towards the end on the other seem to connote a muddled, jaded head.

Radiohead – Talk Show Host

You want me?
Fuckin’ well, come and find me.
I’ll be waiting
with a gun and a pack of sandwiches,
and nothing.
Nothing.
Nothing.

You want me? Well, come on and break the door down.
You want me?
Fuckin’ come and break the door down.
I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.

5. When you’re feeling important and you hate whoever’s dragging you down

Feeling some hateration? This probably isn’t the dominant interpretation of this track, but Paranoid Android has always struck a chord with me at my rare, fleeting moments of egomaniacal self-importance (generally times when I’m resenting everything and telling myself ‘There’ll come a day when no one is late for lunch with me! No one!’). The music, lyrics and vocals create the impression of a volatile, mentally confused state, which correlates nicely with how I am when I’m feeling hard done by or ‘dragged down’ by someone. The jarring change-ups of the tone of the song also parallel my well-trod road from resentment to resignation.

Radiohead – Paranoid Android

What’s that? What’s that?
When I am king, you will be first against the wall
with your opinions, which are of no consequence at all.

What’s that? What’s that?
Ambition makes you look pretty ugly.
Kickin’ screamin’ Gucci little piggy.
You don’t remember, you don’t remember,
why don’t you remember my name?
Off with his head man, off with his head man.
Why don’t you remember my name?
I guess he does.

Rain down,
rain down.
Come on, rain down on me.
From a great height, from a great height.

6. When you want to dance

I’m sure Idioteque has a more important meaning. About climate change. Or war. Or something. But isn’t it just a great dance track? Yeah?

Radiohead – Idioteque

I’ll laugh until my head comes off
I’ll swallow ‘til I burst
until I burst
until I.

Here, I’m alive
everything all of the time
here, I’m alive
everything all of the time.

7. When you’re in love and feeling very philosophical about the whole idea

Apparently love is a thing that sometimes exists between consenting adults. Yorke is passionate about it in True Love Waits. An alternative interpretation is someone desperately doing whatever they can to hold onto someone they’re in love with in fear of that person leaving, which is probably the most likely meaning (and the one I actually subscribe to), but given I need a moderately happy song to temper this list we can pretend ‘Just don’t leave, don’t leave … I’m not living, I’m just killin’ time’ are lyrical odes to the intense feelings the narrator has for their beloved. Plus, the below lyrics are quite pretty:

Radiohead – True Love Waits – Live In Oslo

And true love waits
in haunted attics.
And true love lives
on lollipops and crisps.

8. When you’re feeling invisible and have been reading a lot of Sartre recently

How to Disappear Completely is, in my view, one of Radiohead’s saddest songs, because it speaks to the disconnect that sometimes occurs in people when they feel neglected and adopt an existential perspective of their reality. The slow, haunting melody and Yorke’s droning vocals, punctuated by the pained, high-pitched wail he throws in at the end, create an eerie and beautiful effect. This song is also a good soundtrack to Patrick Batemen’s perspective on his life, if you think about it.

Radiohead – How To Disappear Completely

In a little while,
I’ll be gone.
The moment’s already passed.
Yeah, it’s gone.
And I’m not here,
this isn’t happening.
I’m not here.
I’m not here.

9. When you are feeling sensitive and over-analytical

Okay, another track from The Bends. I can’t help it, because this track gives me goosebumps and moves me to tears. If you’ve ever been prone to over-thinking and being harsh on yourself, especially when someone has hurt you, the sadness of the guitar and on point lyrics will be heart-wrenching:

Limb by limb and tooth by tooth
tearing up inside of me
every day, every hour
I wish that I was bullet proof.

Wax me, mould me
heat the pins and stab them in
you have turned me into this
just wish that I was bullet proof.

10. When you’re throwing yourself a pity party after rejection

Creep. Sorry, had to be done. Does it need an explanation?

Radiohead – Creep

I don’t care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice
when I’m not around.
You’re so fuckin’ special.
I wish I was special.

But I’m a creep.
I’m a weirdo.
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here. TC mark

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