What Makes Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” So Perfectly Uncomfortable (2023)

Radiohead evolved in leaps and bounds through their first four albums. So when the third albumOK Computer arrived with the lead single “Paranoid Android,” the audience was blown away.Bends was an excellent album on its own, but this was on an entirely different level. This was the first album produced by Nigel Godrich, who went on to become their go-to producer from this point on, and there are notable production touches here. But is that what lifted this album and this song to new heights? Let’s look at the song as a whole and explore this.

Songwriting

At six and half minutes, the song isn’t gigantic by progressive rock standards, but it definitely goes through an extended journey compared to the rest of Radiohead’s catalog from the era. What adds to the sprawling feel is the fact that the song is broken up in four different sections, some of which appear to contain its own verse-chorus patterns.

The song starts out with a common-but-still-unsettling harmony of C Dorian, which is close a minor scale but has one note (A natural) that makes it sound unstable. The long progression has a downward trajectory over all, then transition down to what can be interpreted as G Dorian, ending in an E minor tonality. This creates the unnerving feel because E natural doesn’t come down far enough to settle on Eb, the note you expected to hear when you got used to the C Dorian originally. The arching melody on top goes through mostly smooth step-wise motion but ends on E natural, emphasizing this discomfort. Not only that, the E minor chord has this the Bb addition emphasized, and that tritone interval from E creates unsettling dissonance, making it an awkward shift back up to the beginning in C minor.

The “chorus” of the first section appear to stay in G Dorian but again unsettles you with the double twists of an E major chord and three-bar progression. The latter is not very noticeable because the vocal hangs over with a long note but it creates a sense that you skipped something you were expecting to hear, because thus far the song had more predictable harmonic rhythm that is divisible by twos and fours.

(Video) How Radiohead Avoid Clichés In Songwriting: Paranoid Android

The second section contains its own verse-chorus or call-and-response structure, starting with this sinister-sounding riff in A minor. But it’s not a regular A minor, it contains G# (which may be interpreted as A harmonic minor) which jumps up to C, creating an in-your-face nasty sound.

The response to a more traditional sounding C – Ab – Bb progression, but the big twist there is that the whole thing is laid out in 7/8 meter. Bb only gets one eighth note the first time we hear this section, this time the sense of rushing through is much more obvious. But then a further twist is that once the band starts pounding the Ab is the one that gets one beat and Bb gets two, still retaining the rushed feel but this feels more pounding as well.

The second section concludes with a big arrival on F, then proceeding to a new long and descending progression starting with C minor. It’s an awkward transition that reveals the fact that these are sections spliced together, but the awkwardness doesn’t stand out when the whole song has intentional awkwardness built-in. This slow section features some advanced chord sets:

Cm G/B Gm/Bb A Dm A Dm Dm/C Bb F/A Gm F E A

The progression seems to go through so many tonal centers that it’s hard to say what the key is for the section. But it’s a finely written progression that suggests many melodic possibilities, and Thom Yorke manages to come up with two distinct melodies here. The two melodies offer great contrast, with the first being slow and melodic and the second more staccato and motif-driven, both descending along with the main chords to a dramatic and tragic end.

(Video) Non-Radiohead Fan Listens to "Paranoid Android" and Has the Guts to Review it - REACTION + BREAKDOWN

The fourth section is the final pounding of the heavy riffs from the second section, a much-needed bookend to the song. Without this the song may have felt too sprawling, wandering from section to section which have little in common.

That said, the common thread running throughout is the band’s penchant for dissonance and the rush of skipping beats. Even though the song is clearly a splice of three different raw material, it hangs together because they all convey a compatible emotional landscape.

Arrangements

The foundation of this song is Thom Yorke’s acoustic guitar, which may not be playing a large role outside of the first section but you can tell that all other members are picking bits and pieces of the main acoustic guitar part to form their own parts.

For example, Johnny Greenwood’s lead guitar has this Bb-A-G line on top of that E minor-variant. More guitar and keyboard parts come and go, primarily serving to thicken the backdrop without really standing out (though, the high-pitched guitar arpeggio during the “chorus” of first section is quite lovely).

The drums mostly keep the backbeat together and don’t draw attention to itself, so next to the acoustic guitar the bass may be the most critical part. The first and second sections rely heavily on the driving bass while the drums stay sparse, and Colin Greenwood asserts himself by supporting the acoustic guitar but inserting deviations here and there. When he drops out in the third section the lack of his presence feels like a gaping hole, creating a dramatic contrast between the loudness of the preceding and following sections.

(Video) Why This Song Is Impactful #44: Radiohead "Paranoid Android"

Performance and Production

If the acoustic guitar is the foundation of the song, then Thom Yorke’s vocal is the star. Thin but piercing, his pure tenor excels in creating this cold, eerie sound, perfectly matching the oddity and dissonance built-in to the song. Thom has this ability to sound unrestrained without necessarily belting or forcing his voice forward. The sustained “What’s that??” line from the section one is a great example of this.

Despite all the electronic production touches, Radiohead has always been known for loose, untidy performances, and this song is no exception. The band strikes the good balance of being tight but not too tight, and a lot of small variations that exist in all the parts sound off-the-cuff. Johnny Greenwood’s guitar solo comes across raw and unpredictable.

Finally, Nigel Godrich’s production features harsh distortion and random noises to enhance the nihilistic unsettledness built-in to the song. Thom Yorke’s vocal is dialed in to cut through the dense mix from somewhere not too close, rather than standing right in front of the band, in-your-face. This sense of distance is important, because warmth and intimacy would’ve counter-acted the feelings contained in the songwriting. In my opinion the production simply enhances and aids the song, rather than defines this recording.

Conclusion

You’d think that splicing song snippets in a not-so-perfect manner would create an disjointed experience, but Radiohead actually used that to their advantage by utilizing snippets that each has its own quirks and unsettled-ness to create a focused expression of discomfort and alienation. In the previous album that band still lived in more conventional rock heroism, but with this song they declared their boredom with it and instead chose a more deconstructive path. From here they go further and end up taking up terrains that may no longer be identifiable as rock n roll, but at this point in time we get to experience this great in-between place where rock bombast is freshly messed with. And that messing is evident in the foundation of songwriting here, and the production is simply the most obvious layer that catches our ears.

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FAQs

Is paranoid Android hard to play? ›

Difficulty : Advanced

This song IS NOT easy to play. We will have the solo up in a few days, but you WILL have to know how to play everything below in order to play the solo. It's quite difficult.

What is the meaning behind the Paranoid Android video? ›

Yorke's lyrics were based on an unpleasant experience at a Los Angeles bar during which he was surrounded by strangers who were high on cocaine. In particular, Yorke was frightened by a woman who became violent after someone spilled a drink on her.

What scale is paranoid Android in? ›

The song starts out with a common-but-still-unsettling harmony of C Dorian, which is close a minor scale but has one note (A natural) that makes it sound unstable. The long progression has a downward trajectory over all, then transition down to what can be interpreted as G Dorian, ending in an E minor tonality.

What does OK computer mean? ›

The title OK Computer is taken from the 1978 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series, in which the character Zaphod Beeblebrox speaks the phrase "Okay, computer, I want full manual control now." The members of Radiohead listened to the series on the bus during their 1996 tour and Yorke made a note of the phrase.

What is the most difficult Radiohead song to play? ›

Radiohead - Paranoid Android

People complain that this is a difficult song to learn to play, but apparently it's quite straightforward. Apparently it's mainly in 4/4 time, but switches between 4/4 and 7/4. Some of the second section is in 7/8 timing.

Which is the No 1 Android game? ›

Android: top 30 games of 2023 so far by revenue
RankGame
1Candy Crush Saga
2Coin Master
3Royal Match
4Township
26 more rows
Feb 2, 2023

Why is Marvin the Paranoid Android depressed? ›

Originally built as one of many failed prototypes of Sirius Cybernetics Corporation's GPP (Genuine People Personalities) technology, Marvin is afflicted with severe depression and boredom, in part because he has a "brain the size of a planet" which he is seldom, if ever, given the chance to use.

Is Paranoid an anti war song? ›

Black Sabbath, Paranoid (1971)

Paranoid is thunderous, demonic, and bass-heavy with chilly tracks such as "Iron Man," "Paranoid," and "War Pigs," an anti-Vietnam song with references to bloody battlefields and corrupt politicians.

What is the meaning of karma police? ›

Lyrics. The title lyric originates from an inside joke; the members of Radiohead would threaten to call the "karma police" if someone did something bad. Yorke explained that the song was about stress and "having people looking at you in that certain [malicious] way".

What is the creepiest scale? ›

What's the scariest scale? Four of the Phrygian mode's seven scale degrees—the second, third, sixth and seventh—are minor, or “flatted,” intervals, which is what gives Phrygian such a foreboding, “evil” sound, one that is perfectly suited to heavy metal music.

What is the darkest scale? ›

The darkest scale is the double harmonic major scale which is just a major scale with a flat 2nd and a flat 6th. It features three half-steps in a row which form two augmented seconds. As a result, the double harmonic scale features some of the darkest modes and chords.

Which scale is the saddest? ›

The minor scale is the pattern in western music typically associated with sad feelings. It includes three different variations called the natural minor scale (or Aeolian mode), the melodic minor scale and the harmonic minor scale.

Why is the album called Kid A? ›

The title Kid A came from a filename on one of Yorke's sequencers. Yorke said he liked its "non-meaning", saying: "If you call [an album] something specific, it drives the record in a certain way."

Why are Radiohead so popular? ›

In all of their albums, they establish a complex system of unnatural sounds, organized into mesmerizing sonic layers to engage even the most jaded music lovers. Radiohead is not perfect in every way; it's all of their little perfections and imperfections that add up to make their music incredibly unique.

How did the Beatles influence Radiohead? ›

The song is patterned after The Beatles' track called 'Happiness is a Warm Gun' which was designed in a three-part through-composed structure. The three sections were described by Lennon as, “the Dirty Old Man”, “the Junkie” and “the Gunman (Satire of '50 R&R)”.

What is the hardest song to sing in history? ›

Here's our list of 10 hardest karaoke songs to sing
  1. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY by Queen. Sing karaoke version of Bohemian Rhapsody here.
  2. B.Y.O.B by System of a Down. ...
  3. BODY AND SOUL by John Green. ...
  4. STONE COLD by Demi Lovato. ...
  5. WITHOUT ME by Eminem. ...
  6. LOVIN' YOU by Minnie Riperton. ...
  7. IMAGINE by Ariana Grande. ...
  8. MONEY by Pink Floyd. ...
Aug 26, 2020

What is the most technically difficult song to sing? ›

  • #1 I Believe In A Thing Called Love by The Darkness.
  • #2 Listen by Beyoncé
  • #3 Run by Leona Lewis.
  • #4 Cry Me a River by Michael Bublé
  • #5 Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.
  • #6 My All by Mariah Carey.
  • #7 You raise me up by Josh Groban.
  • #8 Supermassive Black Hole by Muse.

What is the saddest Radiohead song ever? ›

According to statistics, the saddest song is “True Love Waits.” It contains a lot of sad lyrics and a high Gloom Index score.

What is the #1 game ever? ›

1. Tetris – 520 million. Arguably the most timeless video game ever created, Tetris sits comfortably atop the list of all-time bestsellers with 520 million copies sold, according to The Tetris Company.

Which game has highest graphics? ›

The 20 Most Graphically Demanding PC Games
  • 9 Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
  • 8 Forza Horizon 5.
  • 7 Assassin's Creed: Valhalla.
  • 6 Red Dead Redemption 2.
  • 5 Final Fantasy XV.
  • 4 Metro Exodus.
  • 3 Dying Light 2.
  • 2 Far Cry 6.
Nov 2, 2022

Why is 42 the answer to the meaning of life? ›

In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, advanced alien beings create a supercomputer, called Deep Thought, to figure out the answer to the so-called Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. After calculating for 7.5-million years, Deep Thought determined the answer was the number 42.

How does Marvin feel about humans? ›

Marvin hates everyone and everything he comes into contact with, having no respect for anybody and will criticise and insult others at any opportunity, or otherwise rant and complain for hours on end about his own problems, such as the terrible pain he suffers in all the diodes down his left side.

What ship did zaphod steal? ›

The starship Heart of Gold was the first spacecraft to make use of the Infinite Improbability Drive. The craft was stolen by then-President Zaphod Beeblebrox at the official launch of the ship, as he was supposed to be officiating the launch.

What singer is known for his anti-war songs? ›

Tunes of Bob Dylan

Such anti-war songs as “Masters of War,” “Blowin' in the Wind,” and “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall,” place him as one of the most iconic musical voices of the Vietnam War protests. Many of his songs can be found in The Music of Bob Dylan (BRM35902), which has the music for guitar and voice.

Is Black Sabbath religious? ›

But when asked if he had gotten religion after all his hell-raising years, the 69-year-old lapsed Catholic who often used religious icons onstage chuckled. “It really wasn't anything to do with religion,” Iommi told NBC News. “I don't follow any religious path…religiously.

What does war pig mean? ›

Black Sabbath's “War Pigs,” from their Paranoid album, was released in the early 70s, toward the end of the Vietnam war, a costly and bloody quagmire not unlike the Afghanistan War. The song portrays generals and arms manufacturers as “war pigs” who kill in the name of their own greed.

What are the 3 types of karma? ›

There are three different types of karma: prarabdha, sanchita, and kriyamana or agami. Prarabdha karma is experienced through the present body and is only a part of sanchita karma which is the sum of one's past karmas, whereas agami karma is the result of current decisions and actions.

What is the English word for karma? ›

fate; destiny. the good or bad emanations felt to be generated by someone or something: Lets get out of here.

What are the 5 types of karma? ›

What are the different types of Karma?
  • Collective karma.
  • Karma of the time.
  • Karma of a place.
  • Karma of a family.
  • Karma of an individual.

What is the most unsettling key? ›

Whether you realize it or not, I know you've heard it before: the creepy minor key. From the traditional sounds of a pipe organ (at a haunted house, perhaps):
...
Simply put, the minor key is often synonymous with:
  • Sadness.
  • Negativity.
  • Something going wrong, terribly wrong.
  • Fright.

What is the evilest sounding scale? ›

The tritone is the most evil sounding interval. It must be in the scale. It could either the fourth or fifth of the scale. The minor sixth (b6) is a mainstay of doom and gloom music and it wants to resolve to the fifth (a perfect fifth above the root).

What is the creepiest minor key? ›

Harmonic minor is the darkest of conventional minor scales. You can make scary music by playing just the scale (see Bach's Toccata below) or play it over chords.

What is the weirdest scale? ›

The enigmatic scale (Italian: scala enigmatica) is an unusual musical scale, with elements of both major and minor scales, as well as the whole-tone scale. It was originally published in a Milan journal as a musical challenge, with an invitation to harmonize it in some way.

What is the darkest chord in music? ›

The diminished chord is the darkest chord in music. This is because it's constructed with stacked minor third intervals. The D diminished chord and F diminished chord share most of the same notes. But, when you add a 7th to the chord they share all the same notes.

Is the scale so or sol? ›

(We know what you're thinking: Yes, it actually is SOL—it's traditionally written that way when the tonic notes are spelled out, and often referred to as the "sol-fa scale" colloquially—but that final L is hard to hear thanks to the LA that follows.)

What is the most melancholic key? ›

Historically, classical composers felt that D minor was the most melancholy of the keys, suitable for lamentations, dirges and requiems.

What is the happiest key in music? ›

Noisy shouts of joy, laughing pleasure and not yet complete, full delight lies in E Major.

What grade is Paranoid Android on guitar? ›

Radiohead - Paranoid Android (Guitar Grade 7) - ebook.

Is paranoid solo difficult? ›

While it's all down-picked, the song is only 2 minutes long, so it's not difficult. The solo is intermediate. The beginning of the solo is really easy to pull off, so that's not a problem. However, the 2nd half of the solo is somewhat challenging, but it's easy after a bit of practice.

How good is paranoid Android? ›

Paranoid Android custom ROM is perfect for getting aging phones up and down with its simple interface and light ROM. The fact that it is a simple and light ROM also brings better battery life. Most pure Android custom ROMs promise better battery life because they don't have extra features and visuals.

What is the hardest thing to play on guitar? ›

Top 5 Most Difficult Guitar Songs
  • Joe Satriani – The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing.
  • John Petrucci – Damage Control.
  • Steve Vai – Juice.
  • Eddie Van Halen – Eruption.
  • Animals as Leaders – CAFO.
Jan 15, 2020

How do you get insane on guitar? ›

Here are a bunch of different things you can do to get your guitar skills to another level.
  1. Learn how to bend. ...
  2. Record yourself. ...
  3. Practice a technique every day. ...
  4. Try to make music with two notes. ...
  5. Don't practice bad habits. ...
  6. Know what you're going to practice. ...
  7. Buy a new guitar pedal. ...
  8. Learn a cover song.
Apr 5, 2018

What grade is Mr Brightside? ›

The indie anthem, which features on our Rockschool Keys Debut Grade and Vocals (Male) Grade 2, was the first single to be released by The Killers.

What personality type is paranoid? ›

People with PPD often believe that others are trying to demean, harm or threaten them. People with paranoid personality disorder often don't think their behavior and way of thinking are problematic. PPD is one of a group of conditions called Cluster A, or eccentric personality disorders.

How does Tony Iommi tune his guitar? ›

Iommi started the practice of tuning down for heavy music. The band's first two albums were recorded in standard E-tuning, but he went down to C#-standard for the next four albums.

How do you get out of a paranoid mindset? ›

  1. Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. ...
  2. Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. ...
  3. Try to keep active. ...
  4. Spend time in nature. ...
  5. Try doing something creative.

What are the last words of Marvin the Paranoid Android? ›

(In the radio dramatisation, his last words are "Goodbye, Arthur." Marvin's 'death' prompts Arthur to say, "Miserable git!" and then, to his own obvious astonishment, to add, "I'll miss him.")

What is Paranoid Android Sapphire? ›

Paranoid Android is an open-source operating system for smartphones and tablet computers, based on the Android mobile platform. The latest official version is Topaz, based on Android 13, released on 15 October 2022. Paranoid Android. Developer.

Is Paranoid Android CAF based? ›

Paranoid Android is one of the most popular custom ROMs out there. It's based on the CAF (Code Aurora Forum) Android base and incorporates the latest performance and battery optimizations for Qualcomm chipsets.

Videos

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2. An Analysis of OK Computer
(Stemp)
3. Can you guess these Radiohead songs in under 1 second?
(David Bennett Piano)
4. First Reaction to RADIOHEAD - PARANOID ANDROID
(Bo Pacino)
5. Karma Police, RadioHead (Lyrics)
(WhiteDog91202)
6. The Genius Of Radiohead’s "Ok Computer" | Classic Album Under Review | Amplified
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