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How Radiohead Became Too Mainstream

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

Throughout my life, since middle school, I have been a dedicated Radiohead fan. Like most fans, I enjoyed the haunting and interesting lyrics, along with Radiohead's unique style and technique. They were the first band that I really ever considered my favorite, and will always stay with me. When I was 19 years old, I decided to honor the band and get a Radiohead tattoo on my shoulder. It was a tattoo of the Amnesiac monster that appeared on the interesting cover art that came with the album. A few years ago, Radiohead released their newest album, In Rainbows, and, needless to say, I had to have it. But upon listening, I was vastly disappointed. I believe that Radiohead became too mainstream. I noticed that after this album was released, more people knew of and became aware of Radiohead. I asked people around me about them, and they would say, "Oh yeah, I like that 'In Rainbows' album, it's really good". This response made me disappointed that people only knew that album, they had no grasp of what Radiohead was really about. It was true, Radiohead was becoming mainstream.... and I hated it. In this article, I will analyze each album, and explain why I think that In Rainbows was the worst thing that ever happened to Radiohead.

pablo honey

Pablo Honey

Released in 1993, this album was the very beginning for Radiohead. Although the sound is very typical of 90s music, the songs are catchy. They have a rough, grungy sort of sound that is tantalizing. "Creep", as most fans will know, is the most overrated and popularly known song by Radiohead. This was mainly due to the fact that this song was played on the radio way too many times when the album was released. With that being said, Radiohead began to gain popularity. Although this album is just the beginning, it shows a solid sound that is pretty good. From this album, I would say that my favorite songs are "Prove Yourself" and "Lurgee" because I believe that these songs are the beginnings to Radiohead's experimentation. "Blow Out" is also a good example of this. Overall, I would rate this album a 6 out of 10, mainly because it was their first album and also because it was typical of 90s music, but showed great promise.

the bends

The Bends

This album, which was released in 1995, shows how Radiohead began getting into more experimental music. Although it still has that 90s sound, it combines this sound with something different. Songs such as "Just" and "My Iron Lung" represent the band's moving away from typical sounds and moving towards a more progressive, experimental sound. For me, this is one of the albums that is more relaxed than others, but it really showed that the band was moving in a new direction. The latter album that follows this album is the completion of this cycle. Radiohead's move into more experimental sound was a very slow cycle, which can be heard if you listen to each album in chronological order. I give this album a 7 out of 10. This is mostly because this is the stable Radiohead album, it is the divider between their old sound, and the introduction to their new sound to follow. This album clearly is the divide between the band that they were, and the amazing band that they became.

ok computer

Ok Computer

This is the album that you will hear most Radiohead fans claiming is their absolute favorite Radiohead album. By contrast, it is not my favorite album, but it is very important for Radiohead's career. Released in 1997, this album was the complete turning point for Radiohead. They immediately went from the preceding albums' sounds to a more futuristic, computeristic, sound that no one had ever heard before. Like the title of the album says, this album sampled some computer voices in the songs that made it sound almost eerie, but mesmerizing at the same time. "Paranoid Android" and "Fitter Happier" are probably the most innovative, and futuristic songs on the album. With this new experimentation in sound, Radiohead was making a new name for themselves. They crossed over from the regular, 90s rock genre to the experimental rock genre with flawless ease. I rate this album an 8 out of 10 because this is the album where they really began to cross over and make a true name for themselves in the music business.

kid a

Kid A

This album is my absolute favorite Radiohead album to date. It was the first album I ever listened to by them, oddly enough. Most people who have become hardcore Radiohead fans had to slowly ease themselves in to their "weird" sound, but I completely loved it from the start. Released in 2000, this album became one of their most famous albums, coinciding with what many people refer to as their twin album to this, Amnesiac. While Ok Computer had a more upbeat vibe to it, Kid A became a darker album, while still retaining an even more innovative twist to the album. Songs such as "The National Anthem" used an orchestra and many instruments to create an overall overpowering sound that could not be forgotten. By contrast, "How to Disappear Completely" was a more mellow, depressing song that hit me with so many strong emotions. For any diehard fan, this album is one that completely changed their experience to Radiohead. The album almost felt like it had a storyline going along with it, with the curtain call ending with "Motion Picture Soundtrack". I rate this album an 9 out of 10, because it is trully an amazing experience as an album.

amnesiac

Amnesiac

As stated previously, this album is the "twin" album to Kid A, continuing a haunting storyline and musical experience. While Kid A was like the element water, Amnesiac can be described more as the fire element. Listening to both albums one after the other is a trully fire and ice experience. Released in 2001, immediately after Kid A, Radiohead was actually working on both of these albums around the same time, which is why one could consider them twin albums. This album definitely took a more abrupt and blunt change in sound than its preceded. The very first track, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box" shows the complete opposition between the two albums. The most incredible songs on this album have to be "Pyramid Song", "You and Whose Army?", "I Might Be Wrong", and "Knives Out". This album shows the interesting twist and experimental journey that the band was going through at the time. This new sound was even more thrilling than Ok Computer. It was the beginning of a new Radiohead, and fans were eagerly awaiting the new sound that would follow this album. I rate this album a 9 out of 10, like Kid A, because they both share similarities and differences that make both albums compelling and interesting to compare.

hail to the thief

Hail to the Thief

When this album was released in 2003, I could not wait to listen to it. What struck me the most was the interesting turn that the band had taken with this album. I can honestly say that I was not expecting this kind of sound from them, but I though it was uniquely amazing in its own way. This album seemed to take an even darker side than it's predecessors. Songs such as "Sail to the Moon", "We Suck Young Blood", "Myxomatosis", and "Scatterbrain" gave me chills down my spine. The one word that fully describes the feeling of this album is "haunting". You become so deep in this music that the gloom and haunting lyrics begin to overtake you. This was definitely a new innovation on their part. For me, it was a real eye opener. I began to feel that there was nothing that Radiohead couldn't achieve with their sound. It was like I was morphed into a different time and place when I was listening to their music. It was something out of this world that you can only experience once in your lifetime. Overall, I rate this album an 8 out of 10. Although it was definitely haunting and different, I did not think it was as great as Kid A and Amnesiac, but it had its own unique style that was very haunting.

in rainbows

In Rainbows

This is where it all ended for me. Released in late 2007, this album was a huge disappointment for me. There were so many things that I had heard about this album that made me think it was going to top all of the others. I thought that this album would be the "prodigy" album of Radiohead. When I had heard that they were going to let people download the music for free, I was estatic, but I wanted to buy the album with the vinyl set anyways, because I had such high hopes for the band. That was all shattered when I listened to the album. I was so surprised at how some of the songs sounded like silly love songs that had already been written time and time again throughout history. I felt like the band had definitely taken two steps back in their progression with this album. More than that, I had heard that the "special" artwork for this album was going to be amazing. I didn't doubt that because Ok Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief all had such compelling and abstract artwork that was never disappointing. Come to find out the band actually considered "In Rainbows" written over and over on a black background splattered with a few blobs of paint great artwork. How could they think that this could compare to the abstract sketches and drawings that had been so amazing in their other albums? Along with that, songs from this album were constantly played on the radio, and more and more people who had never even gotten to appreciate their earlier music were claiming that the were diehard Radiohead fans, when all they had ever listened to was the song "Creep" and the "In Rainbows" album. That is hardly what Radiohead is all about. Radiohead was about so much more before this horrible mainstream album came out. I will never know why they decided to become mainstream. Maybe they needed more popularity. Overall, I rate this album a 3 out of 10. I was too disappointed with it. I had my hopes up so high, and they were ruined.

If anyone trully wants to get into Radiohead, I recommend that you listen to their other albums before resigning yourself to being a strictly In Rainbows fan. They had so much more going for them before this album, and that is why I believe that Radiohead ruined their career with In Rainbows. Yes, the album has its perks, but I have heard many better songs by them. I can only hope that in the future the band will see this mistake and make a mind blowing album the next go round, but as of yet, I have not heard any new news on the band, but then again, one can only hope....


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Comments

Sep 28, 2010 10:13am
mcimicata
Well written! A great article that I would recommend to anybody that was curious about this subject matter.
Jun 1, 2012 2:10pm
gombost
I've had this experience with quite a few bands and other things in my life in general. You can't do anything about it. I agree with you but to those who are new to that given band (in this case Radiohead) and you tell them they'll think that you're bragging that "I liked XY before it was cool".
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