Before I get into this list, I want to make one thing very clear – I’m not a Radiohead superfan, and I’m sure I’ve listened to them less than even an average fan. That being said, I still love their work and ceaseless ingenuity.
Since I love so many of their songs, I thought I’d make a top 50 to showcase some of my favourite. These are all my opinion, and I’m sure it’s all wrong!
Before we begin, you can check out some of my related blog posts below:
50 – Spectre
The Bond producers enlisted Radiohead’s services for “Spectre”, and were disappointed when the final product was brooding and dark … which begs the question – why approach Radiohead in the first place?
It has some beautiful production and sombre vocals, but so does every other Radiohead song now that I think about it.
49 – A Wolf At the Door
A fan-favourite closing track, but I’ve never liked “A Wolf At the Door” as much as others.
It’s still a great way to close the album, with a more aggressive vocal phrasing than usual.
48 – Lotus Flower
The King of Limbs was a transitional album for the band, and as a result almost none of its tracks ended up making my top 50.
“Lotus Flower” is the one exception, as I like the feverish pace and bizarre production it has on offer.
47 – True Love Waits
The most depressing song ever, which was a typically on-brand way to conclude A Moon Shaped Pool.
46 – Packt Like Sardines In a Crushd Tin Box
Straight away, you could tell they were going for something completely different with Amnesiac.
“Packt Like Sardines In a Crushd Tin Box” isn’t necessarily my favourite Radiohead opener, but its production is stellar enough to warrant a place on this list.
45 – Myxomatosis
With one of the most unique time signatures and nastiest guitar tones in the entire Radiohead discography, “Myxomatosis” has always stood out to me as a musical experiment done right.
44 – I Might Be Wrong
Sometimes all you need is a great groove and some downbeat vocals to really hammer the point home.
43 – Optimistic
“Optimistic” used to be one of my least favourite songs on Kid A, but now I appreciate the guitar riffs and off-beat melodies. And that outro!
42 – Knives Out
A guitar showcase, “Knives Out” has an acoustic feel that I love.
41 – How I Made My Millions
Most of the bonus tracks from the OK Computer re-release don’t really do it for me, but the one exception is definitely “How I Made My Millions”.
It’s basically just Thom Yorke giving a vocal and piano masterclass, and it’s remarkably reserved and well put together considering how bare-bones it is.
40 – Videotape
Quite an understated end to In Rainbows, but “Videotape” still has a haunting appeal.
39 – High And Dry
One of the more commercial and crowd-pleasing compositions they ever did.
38 – Subterranean Homesick Alien
It’s the production that stands out most to me on “Subterranean Homesick Alien” – it blows my mind how they managed to convey that cosmic, other-worldly tone so expertly.
37 – Talk Show Host
An underrated B-side, “Talk Show Host” is quite low-key and contained but it gets its point across well.
36 – Kid A
It takes a special kind of creative genius to even attempt a song like “Kid A”, but for it to work so well is mind-boggling.
35 – The Bends
“The Bends” is an awesome title track, filled with both crunchy riffs and a nasty, almost perverted vocal breakdown.
34 – All I Need
As a point of reference, every song from now on is a beautiful composition in its own right, and the band accomplished exactly what they set out to do.
“All I Need” is a song that only gets better with each listen – the hearty bass synth and tender vocals really tug on my heart-strings.
33 – The National Anthem
Colin Greenwood lays down one of the best Radiohead basslines, and the brass section is awe-inspiring too.
32 – Motion Picture Soundtrack
A phenomenal album closer, “Motion Picture Soundtrack” is both relentless in its beauty and reserved in its tragedy.
31 – Reckoner
In Rainbows has some fantastic acoustic guitar parts, and “Reckoner” is one of the best of the bunch.
30 – Lucky
An underrated penultimate track, “Lucky” hasn’t hit the mesmeric stuff just yet but it’s a brilliant prelude to OK Computer’s closer.
29 – Electioneering
I don’t think any Radiohead fan likes “Electioneering” as much as I do – it’s a really heavy-hitting rock banger, one that added some much-needed energy to the album.
28 – Planet Talex
The Bends has an awesome opening track in “Planet Talex” – the spacey guitar and vocals are fantastic.
27 – Airbag
A confident, all-encompassing statement to start OK Computer.
26 – Bodysnatchers
I really love the guitar riffs and lyrics in “Bodysnatchers”, but it’s the stripped-back outro that I keep coming back to.
25 – Let Down
A fan-favourite track, “Let Down” has some of the most beautiful harmonies and songwriting Radiohead have ever done.
24 – My Iron Lung
“My Iron Lung” shifts brilliantly from uncomfortable storytelling to outright frenzy and back, and it never sounds tacky or forced.
23 – Climbing Up the Walls
I don’t know why, but “Climbing Up the Walls” has always sounded a bit like a Bond song to me. But maybe I’m just weird.
It’s got a great mellow vibe, with a lyrical story that conveys the worst kind of paranoia and self-loathing imaginable.
22 – 2 + 2 = 5
Hail To The Thief isn’t an album I revisit often, but when I do I’m always blown away by the opening track.
“2+2=5” has a brilliant three-act structure that intensifies and explodes in a fury.
21 – Exit Music (For a Film)
One of the most downbeat and sombre Radiohead songs, “Exit Music (For a Film)” once again excels at laying the mellow groundwork before erupting into a glorious finale.
20 – Just
That rising, dissonant guitar riff is what makes “Just” so awesome, and that outro / bridge also boasts a fantastic new chord sequence.
19 – The Tourist
A phenomenal way to end one of the most iconic albums in history, “The Tourist” finally brings OK Computer full circle by detailing the crash hinted at in “Airbag”.
18 – How To Disappear Completely
Fans regularly put “How To Disappear Completely” among the top 5 Radiohead tracks, and it’s not hard to see why.
The string arrangement is nothing short of sensational, and Thom Yorke’s vocals and lyrics are hauntingly beautiful.
17 – Nude
The first half of In Rainbows is one of the strongest runs of songs in all of music, and “Nude” is a big part of its success.
It’s more low-key and muted than a lot of other Radiohead songs, but it has an ethereal beauty that never gets stale.
16 – Decks Dark
A Moon Shaped Pool has a lot of great tracks, most of which seem to overshadow the incredible “Decks Dark”.
It has the same mesmeric production and lyrical ideas you’ve come to expect from this album, as well as a more upbeat outro that really hits its groove.
15 – Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Post-2000 Radiohead tended not to veer into outright rock, but the one exception to that was “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”.
The drums and bass lay down an uncompromising rhythm section, and the feverish energy never dissipates.
14 – Daydreaming
Radiohead took a huge left turn on A Moon Shaped Pool into more low-key art rock, but it was all worth it for “Daydreaming”.
It’s a gorgeous composition through and through, with some of the best production I’ve heard on any song.
13 – A Punch Up At a Wedding
You may think “A Punch Up At a Wedding” is placed way too high compared to the other Radiohead classics, and you’d be right.
Don’t ask me why, but I just love the groovy bassline, dissonant harmonies and the storytelling in the lyrics.
12 – Fake Plastic Trees
“Fake Plastic Trees” is a brilliant allegory for commercialism, and it comes together to create one of my favourite Radiohead lyrics.
11 – Burn the Witch
A Moon Shaped Pool is mostly laid-back and sombre, so it came as a great surprise when its opener was so brutal and frantic.
“Burn the Witch” has some great lyrics and some really engrossing string arrangements, and it’s a profound statement to start the album.
10 – Everything In Its Right Place
Kid A is widely known as one of the biggest left turns by any band in music history, and nobody expected how different the opening song would be.
“Everything In Its Right Place” is equal parts creepy as it is hypnotic, and it was a definitive statement that Radiohead weren’t going to mess around in the new millennium.
9 – Pyramid Song
I’ve heard some complaints recently that “Pyramid Song” is an overrated track that relies on its unique chord sequence to be interesting. I don’t agree at all.
Thom Yorke’s haunting vocals carry the song, and that aforementioned chord sequence is so beautiful that it hasn’t gotten stale on the hundredth listen.
8 – Street Spirit (Fade Out)
Radiohead have made some truly exceptional closing tracks in their time, but none of them hold a candle to “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”.
It’s a rousing, somewhat melancholy conclusion to The Bends, one that highlights the immense skill of the band as well as their talent for engrossing songwriting and storytelling.
7 – Creep
Their first hit, and quite a contentious song in the Radiohead fanbase.
For what it’s worth, I think “Creep” is an excellent rock song that has both gnarly guitar tones and some anthemic lyrics. It might not be the band at their niche best, but it can certainly get the crowd singing along.
6 – 15 Step
My favourite Radiohead opening track, “15 Step” brings an uproarious energy to In Rainbows that is rarely topped in their discography.
The odd time signature and heavy-hitting synth work really hammer the point home, and Colin Greenwood’s bassline ties the whole thing together.
5 – No Surprises
A deceptively sombre song, “No Surprises” lulls you in with its whimsical tone and knocks you down with some dire storytelling.
People always point to “Let Down” as having some wonderful harmonies, but I’ve always found this song to be the peak of Thom Yorke’s vocal layering.
4 – Idioteque
The first Radiohead song that I fell in love with, the thumping electronic beats of “Idioteque” were so hypnotic and alluring to my teenage ears.
Yet again, the vocals and lyrical storytelling are at an all-time high, and the production is simply flawless throughout.
3 – Weird Fishes / Arpeggi
“Weird Fishes / Arpeggi” is one of those songs that the Radiohead fandom fawn over, so for the longest time I couldn’t see it as anything less than overrated.
That sentiment soon changed, however, and it quickly became not only my favourite song from In Rainbows but very nearly my favourite Radiohead song of all. Those overlapping guitar parts and that breakdown are phenomenal.
2 – Paranoid Android
One of the most complex rock songs ever, “Paranoid Android” has a gazillion different sections and movements and yet they all complement each other brilliantly.
The changing tempo, the various time signatures, the fantastic use of chords and production … It’s one of the most ambitious songs I’ve ever heard, so it’s baffling that it all sounds so natural.
1 – Karma Police
OK Computer is filled to the brim with complex tracks and masterful songwriting, but even then “Karma Police” shines above the others.
It’s intensely dark and brooding, with some of the gloomiest lyrics Thom York has ever constructed, and that shift into the bridge is one of my favourite moments in music history. A masterpiece.
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