Music: Kid A

I'm not here, this is not happening.

"The sound of today, in other words, a decade early."
The Guardian

Kid A is the fourth album released by Alternative Rock band Radiohead in fall 2000. Despite not having any music videos or singles, the album saw outstanding commercial success, debuting at #1 in the USA and becoming platinum in the UK during opening week. (Not surprising, considering the campaign the album was using and the hype that was made after their previous album OK Computer.) It has currently sold a total of four million copies note . Through this album, Radiohead won its second Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, and received a second Album of the Year nomination.

After the critical and commercial fanfare that OK Computer stirred up, Radiohead found themselves succumbing to psychological burnout, with frontman Thom Yorke suffering a nervous breakdown. Yorke was unable to deal with the massive number of acts that he felt were imitating Radiohead, and things got so serious that he began suffering from writer's block and couldn't write a song without stopping after 16 bars, if he could even stir up enough courage to pick up the guitar. Yorke began enthusiastically listening to electronic music acts like Autechre and Aphex Twin, being fascinated by the music not being structured around vocals yet simultaneously evoking the same emotions in Yorke as guitar music had. Going into Kid A, Yorke focused exclusively on rhythm while dismissing melody, heading towards sonic texturing rather than traditional stylized songwriting.

Recording began in January 1999, and the band found creative conflicts over the album's unorthodox directions and bombastic foraying into an entirely different type of music. With no set deadline, the band was trapped in disarray and, if they produced no album that they could collectively agree to release, they would break up entirely. The album saw the band (almost exclusively Jonny Greenwood) working and experimenting with modular synthesizers, drum machines, the ondes Martenot, orchestral music, harps, the list goes on. In April 2000, Yorke updated the band's website saying that Kid A's recording sessions were complete, with over 20 finished songs. Debate started flying around about whether to release the songs as a series of EPs or even as a double album, which led to them saving half of the songs for their next album, which would turn out to be Amnesiac, released six months later, seen as something of a companion piece to Kid A.

When Kid A first dropped in October 2000, its new sound alienated some, and caused their fanbase to be polarized over it to the point where some fans believe that this album ruined Radiohead forever. On the more positive side, the album received praise for introducing rock listeners to more experimental music styles such as IDM, Ambient music & freeform jazz. It is recognized to this day as one of the best albums of the 2000s if not of all time. On Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums list, Kid A not only got the highest ranking of a Radiohead album but also the highest ranking of a 21st century album — at #67. note 

Time Magazine included the album in their 2006 list of 100 timeless and essential albums.


  1. "Everything in Its Right Place" (4:11)
  2. "Kid A" (4:44)
  3. "The National Anthem" (5:51)
  4. "How to Disappear Completely" (5:56)
  5. "Treefingers" (3:42)
  6. "Optimistic" (5:15)
  7. "In Limbo" (3:31)
  8. "Idioteque" (5:09)
  9. "Morning Bell" (4:35)
  10. "Motion Picture Soundtrack" (7:01)

Every trope in its right place:

  • Album Title Drop / Subliminal Seduction: The intro to "Everything in Its Right Place" features a distorted voice saying "Kid A." It says the same thing when you play it backwards.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: "Optimistic"
    The big fish eat the little ones
  • Ambient: "Treefingers"
  • Arc Words: Interestingly enough, the lyrics for most tracks on this album as well as Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief became this. Lyrics from all three albums appeared cryptically (and usually slightly altered) in the the Radiohead website's "maze" section.
    • Phrases that would appear in Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief appeared in this album's hidden booklet. (For example, here you can see the phrase "you and your cronies," which later became a lyric in "You and Whose Army?")
  • Bears Are Bad News: The album's artwork introduced the modified bear creature which would evidently become the band's official mascot.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The final track "Motion Picture Soundtrack," which is one of the most simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting songs of all time.
  • Breather Episode: "Treefingers" is a calm, ambient interlude that's sandwiched between a depressing ballad concluding the more emotionally strenuous first half and a straight-up hard rocker that kicks off the mostly less grueling second half.
  • Broken Record / Looped Lyrics: "Everything in Its Right Place". ALL OF IT.
  • Continuity Nod: OK Computer had a track called "Exit Music (For A Film)", while "Kid A" has a track called "Motion Picture Soundtrack".
  • Concept Album: Due to popular fan interpretation, as with most of Radiohead's albums.
    • Kid A and Amnesiac are suspect, too. The theorizing stems mostly from Thom's suggestion that the former could be about the first human clone, but he denies any intentional meaning. The two albums are clearly counterparts with similar themes (they were recorded at the same time) and it doesn't hurt the concept album theory that the genetically modified bear characters recurred throughout the "blips" of Kid A and Amnesiac, and a track on Amnesiac was named after them ("Hunting Bears.")
    • Thom has also said that "something traumatic" happened during Kid A and that Amnesiac is "trying to piece together what has happened." Both albums feature artwork of forest fires; for Kid A it's in the distance, while Amnesiac's perspective is from within the forest.
  • Deranged Animation: Any of the album's short "blips" could qualify for this. They're either downright horrifying/disturbing or simply weird.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: A counterexample, since this album was available for streaming from their website before its official release.
    • When bootlegs of early live performances of Kid A songs made their way to the internet, the members of the band were both surprised and pleased when fans at concerts already knew the words to these new songs that had only been played once or twice previous. Colin Greenwood told a BBC reporter:
    "We played in Barcelona and the next day the entire performance was up on Napster. Three weeks later when we got to play in Israel the audience knew the words to all the new songs and it was wonderful."
  • Driven to Suicide: "Motion Picture Soundtrack" (maybe).
    • The first and last lines sort of intertwine; the first line ("red wine and sleeping pills") could mean that the narrator is trying to kill themselves note . The last line ("I will see you in the next life") could mean that the narrator is dying and will finally find his lover in the afterlife.
  • Easter Egg: Early pressings of this album had an extra booklet of art and text hidden under the CD tray.
  • Epic Rocking: "Idioteque" is over five minutes, "How to Disappear Completely" and "The National Anthem" are almost 6 minutes long, and "Motion Picture Soundtrack" is 7 minutes long (although most of the runtime is silence).
  • Fading into the Next Song: The phasing synth sound at the end of "Kid A" continues into the very beginning of "The National Anthem," and the heavily processed, screechy violin-like loop at the end of "Idioteque" leads into "Morning Bell."
  • Grief Song: "In Limbo."
    I'm lost at sea
    Don't bother me
    I've lost my way
    I've lost my way
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: "Kid A."
    I slipped away
    I slipped on a little white lie
    You got ventriloquists
    We got heads on sticks
    You got ventriloquists
    Rats and children follow me out of town
    Rats and children follow me out of town
    Come on, kids
    Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed
  • Infant Immortality: "Morning Bell"
    Cut the kids in half
  • Instructional Title: "How To Disappear Completely".
  • In the Style of...: Hard as it may be to imagine, the arrangement of "Motion Picture Soundtrack" was inspired by the soundtracks of 1950s Disney films.
  • Just Before the End: Incorporated to different extents by the album artwork and the blips.
  • Last Note Nightmare:
    • "How To Disappear Completely" also has one of these. It's a gently melodic song for a while, with a violin backing that builds up during the piece, and then partway through the last chorus it collapses into random slides while the singer continues into the chaos.. which then in turn shuts down again and is replaced with a strong, pure chord for the final repeat.
    • 'In Limbo' ends with a horrifying, electronically-modified wail of Thom Yorke screaming 'come back' as it fades into nothingness, alongside jittery feedback.
    • 'Morning Bell' also deserves a mention with Jonny Greenwood's shrieking, coin-generated guitar outro. You know what, all of Kid A probably invokes this at some point, barring Treefingers, maybe.
    • Every song save for "Treefingers" and "Motion Picture Soundtrack" sounds haunting.
    • In fact, the latter has the exact opposite of a nightmare.
  • Looped Lyrics: "The National Anthem."
  • Madness Mantra: The Title Track off of this album consists, for the most part, of Thom muttering "standing in the shadows at the end of my bed" over and over, vocoded through an ondes Martenot.
  • New Sound Album / Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Introduced an acclaimed experimental/electronic sound (even more so than OK Computer).
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Nobody knows what the horrible thing that this album represented to Thom was, or the horrible thing that inspired the song "Kid A."
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: "Kid A", which gives it a really cold atmosphere.
  • One-Word Title: "Treefingers", "Optimistic" and "Idiotheque".
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: As documented in Meeting People is Easy, Thom Yorke suffered a major case of this during the OK Computer tour, which led to a long period of writers block and the urge to seek a brand new approach. The words to "How to Disappear Completely" stem from this period.
  • Sampling: "Idioteque" uses samples from Paul Lansky's "Mild und Liese" and Arthur Krieger's "Short Piece."
    • The harp glissandos and double bass sounds from "Motion Picture Soundtrack" were sampled and added by the other band members, though where they got them from is unclear. (Jonny compared the moment they appear into the song with the moment in a fifties Disney film where the colour fades slightly.)
    • Other samples floating through the album include the echo-laden snippet of an orchestral performance that appears in the noisy conclusion of "The National Anthem," all of "Treefingers" (which was created by Thom sampling Ed's guitar improvisations and processing them until they didn't sound like a guitar) and the looped jam at the end of "Optimistic."
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "How To Disappear Completely"
    I'm not here. This isn't happening. I'm not here, I'm not here
  • Scenery Gorn: Parts of the album artwork incorporate this to varying degrees, the blips especially. Stick figures bleed to death in the snow, their corpses are tossed into pools of blood, distant fires rage across frigid mountainous landscapes, and there is a strong general implication that the world is falling to pieces.
  • Shout-Out: According to Stanley Donwood, the red swimming pool that appears on the spine of the CD case, the CD and in the booklet's artwork is a reference to the Alan Moore / Bill Sienkiewicz comic Brought to Light, in which the CIA measures the deaths caused by its state-sponsored terrorism using the equivalent number of 50-gallon swimming pools filled with human blood. Donwood found the image horrifying, and was haunted by it throughout the Kid A/Amnesiac sessions.
    • "How to Disappear Completely" pays homage to both U2 (The "Liffey" that Thom floats down runs through U2's hometown of Dublin) and REM (saying "I'm not here, this isn't happening" is a meditative exercise that Michael Stipe recommended to Thom Yorke.)
  • Single Stanza Song: "Kid A."
  • Something Completely Different: Took the spacey electronic sounds of OK Computer and practically created a wholly experimental sound of electronica, while retaining the Progressive Rock elements from before ("How to Disappear Completely," "Optimistic," "In Limbo," "Morning Bell.")
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "The National Anthem" doesn't sound like a national anthem at all.
  • The Stinger: The last 20 seconds of "Optimistic" turns the song's melodic structure into a jazzy piece, with the centerpiece being a drum solo.
  • Stylistic Suck: The jazzy outro to "Optimistic" is very notably looped in a shoddy manner at the halfway point.
  • Take That: The additional artwork booklet that was hidden under the CD tray of early pressings includes a demonic-looking portrait of Tony Blair and Room Full of Crazy-styled text warning about demagoguery and betrayal.
  • Title Track: "Kid A", yet the Album Title Drop is heard in "Everything In Its Right Place".
    Kid A, Kid A, Kid A, Kid A
    Everything, everything, everything in its right place
  • Uncommon Time: *deep breath*
    • "Everything in Its Right Place" is in 10/4.
    • "Morning Bell" is either in 5/4 or two bars of 4/4 followed by one bar of 3/4.
    • "Idioteque" uses 4/4, 7/8, and 6/8.
    • "In Limbo" uses polyrhythms, with several time signatures at once.
  • Word Salad Lyrics:
    • Nearly literal example: Some of the lyrics on "Kid A" came from Thom picking random words and phrases out of a hat. The most Egregious example would probably be "Morning Bell:"
    Where'd you park the car? / Where'd you park the car? / Clothes are on the lawn with the furniture / And I might as well / I might as well / Sleepy jack the fire drill / Round and round and round and round and round and round and round...
    • This song isn't nearly as random as it appears, however, as it's about the dissolution of a marriage, and most of the imagery connects to this.
    • "Kid A," which was apparently created by Jonny on the piano while Thom talked through what he was playing, Jonny processing his voice with an ondes Martenot to produce the melody. There's definite Pied Piper imagery in the song and futuristic elements.
    I slipped away / I slipped on a little white lie / We've got heads on sticks / We've got ventriloquists / Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed / The rats and the children follow me out of town, etc.
    • "Idioteque:"
    Who's in a bunker? / Women and children first and the children first and the children / I laugh until my head comes off / Swallow 'till I burst / Who's in a bunker? / I have seen too much / You haven't seen enough / You haven't seen it / Laugh until my head comes off / Women and children first and the children first and the children / Here I'm alive / Everything all of the time.