The 10 Best Radiohead Songs

Setting aside their reputation as the quintessential /mu/core band, Radiohead has made some objectively beautiful music. Today, we’re going to count down what are in our opinion the 10 best Radiohead songs.

First, here are some honorable mentions: “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” “Sail to the Moon,” “I Will,” “Nude,” and “Identikit.”

10. “Let Down”
Album: OK Computer

“Let Down” illustrates Radiohead’s unique ability to juxtapose beauty and sorrow, its hook almost catchy enough to mask the fact that lyrically the song is a total bummer (a common trait amongst most songs on this list).

Frontman Thom Yorke describes the maddening monotony of everyday life, the constant defeats that make the narrator feel “crushed like a bug in the ground.” And there is no resolution. The narrator dismisses their glimmer of hope (“One day, I am gonna grow wings”) as “hysterical and useless.”

The 1997 masterpiece Ok Computer—the album on which you can find “Let Down”—is arguably the band’s final “rock” album, and musically, the song reflects this; it is an accessible, guitar-driven track that incorporates few of the electronic elements that would define the band’s later work.

9. “Fake Plastic Trees”
Album: The Bends

“Fake Plastic Trees” is even more relevant today than it was when it was released in 1995. The song details the difficulty of finding genuine human connection in an increasingly artificial world. Being from The Bends, the track is poppy and guitar-driven.

Its first ¾ are constantly building towards the uproarious and heart-wrenching finale, during which Yorke belts the now-iconic lines: “She looks like the real thing/She tastes like the real thing/My fake plastic love.”

8. “Everything in Its Right Place”
Album: Kid A

The opening track to 2000’s Kid A, “Everything in Its Right Place” lets listeners know straight away that the album will be nothing like Radiohead’s previous work.

Without a guitar to be found, the song is driven by a simple, haunting synth melody that provides background for Yorke’s angelic vocals. It perfectly exemplifies the band’s ability to do more with less.

7. “How to Disappear Completely”
Album: Kid A

Thom Yorke described “How to Disappear Completely” as “the most beautiful thing we ever did.” Beautiful is indeed a fitting adjective for the song. Above subtle acoustic guitar chords are waves of synth-based ambience that perfectly compliment Yorke’s ghostly vocals.

While it’s commonly regarded as a sad song (it is written by Radiohead, after all), we’d like to offer a different perspective. It is about a happy disassociation, the narrator’s mind drifting to a place of contentment amidst an anxiety-inducing situation.

6. “Videotape”
Album: In Rainbows

2007’s In Rainbows sits alongside Ok Computer and Kid A as a contender for Radiohead’s best album. Both lyrically and musically, its closer “Videotape” is one of the saddest songs we’ve ever heard. It is yet another example of the band’s mastery of minimalism.

Throughout the track’s four minutes and 39 seconds, a simple, poignant piano melody repeats, making itself at home within the listener’s head for long after the song ends. 

5. “Paranoid Android”
Album: OK Computer

“Paranoid Android” is often referred to as the band’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s an understandable comparison. The song winds in radically different directions, somehow sounding natural at each transition.

While Radiohead never aspired to be the heaviest band in the world, the song’s louder sections go hard (to put it bluntly), with lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s effects-laden solos keeping everything weird à la true Radiohead fashion.

4. “No Surprises”
Album: OK Computer

The most depressing lullaby ever written, “No Surprises” is centered around a tranquil glockenspiel melody that could easily fool the listener into thinking the song is happy.

However, all hope for a cheery resolution dissipates as Yorke sings, “I’ll take a quiet life/A handshake of carbon monoxide.”

Musically, the track is often compared to the Velvet Underground’s classic “Sunday Morning.” However, “No Surprises” is far more bone-chilling.

3. “Reckoner”
Album: In Rainbows

“Reckoner” has been referred to as Radiohead’s take on Motown, which actually starts to make sense after a few listens. Yorke channels the Miracles with his chilling falsettos. Drummer Phil Selway’s breakbeats create groove amidst the gloom.

The lyrics deal with the fleeting nature of all things in life, the impermanence that unites human beings. “Because we separate/Like ripples on a blank shore.”

2. “Idioteque”
Album: Kid A

“Idioteque” is the closest thing to a pop hit on Kid A. Despite utilizing all the weirdo electronic elements that make the album what it is, the song manages to be infectious, even… happy? Sure, it’s about the impending apocalypse. But if it were the last song we got to hear before the end of the world, we certainly wouldn’t complain.

1. “True Love Waits”
Album: A Moon-Shaped Pool

Considering Radiohead’s massive discography of consistently solid work, choosing one “best” song of theirs is no easy feat. However, no other track moves us like “True Love Waits.” An early version of the song had been a staple of the band’s live set since 1995.

However, it didn’t see a proper release until 2016’s A Moon-Shaped Pool. This coincided with Yorke’s breakup with his partner of 23 years. Rachel Owen. There is genuine desperation in his voice as he belts the simple, but chilling line, “Just don’t leave, don’t leave.” It is the perfect closer to what is rumored to be the last Radiohead album for a long time.



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