main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Tear Jerker: Radiohead
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt.

Radiohead is weird, disturbing... yet has a large assortment of these type of songs. Most of their albums have at least a few examples.
  • OK Computer has many:
    • "Exit Music (For a Film)". It was written for a Romeo and Juliet adaptation, so the Tear Jerker quality is imported from a much older source. The broken-sounding, raw vocals at the end are especially gut-wrenching.
    • "Let Down". Just..."Let Down". As if the subject matter isn't melancholy enough, this troper considers the "You know where you are..." bit to be one of the most heart-breakingly beautiful moments in music history.
      • The lines "One day I'm going to grow wings / A chemical reaction / Hysterical and useless" also deserve special mention.
    • Some people can feel melancholy from listening to "Karma Police".
    • "Fitter Happier" never fails to bring certain people to tears. The line "Baby smiling in back seat" can be especially triggering.
    • "No Surprises" has sent many people into multi-day cascades of melancholy when they actually tried to reconcile the dissonance between the music and the lyrics.
      • The little moment of peace at the end ("Such a pretty house, such a pretty garden") just increases the Tearjerkiness.
      • The demo version (No Surprises Please) is just as tearjerking, considering how fragile Yorke's voice sounds
    • "Lucky" in itself has a somber, heart-rending effect, but when set to a war child video, the song takes an entirely new light.
    • The Tourist. "Hey man, slow down... slow down..."
  • Kid A:
    • "How to Disappear Completely" is a good example. Thom painfully singing, "I'm not here, this isn't happening" is enough to bring many to tears. The lines were actually given to Yorke as a sort of mantra, a way to disconnect himself from a situation, avoiding discomfort, particularly with performing onstage.
    • "Motion Picture Soundtrack", the final track, has an air of desperation to it. It's a sad and almost pathetic reconciliation with the rest of the world after the most alien and emotionally tangled album Radiohead has ever put out. Oh, and the angelic harps are killer. "It's not like the movies/They fed us on little... white lies"
  • "Fake Plastic Trees", and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)".
    • Thom Yorke himself has admitted that "Street Spirit" is one of their darkest songs with no hope at the end, and says that the only way he can play it without breaking down is emotionally detaching himself from the song. Even the last line ("immerse your soul in love"), which sounds heartwarming, becomes tragic in context.
    • The former is even more of a Tear Jerker in Brazil, where it was the soundtrack for a PSA on Down Syndrome.
    • There's a lot of great lines in "Fake Plastic Trees" but especially heartrending is the final verse: "she looks like the real thing/she tastes like the real thing/my fake plastic love /[...]and it wears me out/it wears me out."
    • And not to mention, "And I can't help the feeeeeeling/ I could blow through the ceeeee-eeeeiling/ if I just turn... and run."
  • "You and Whose Army" stands out especially, although it might be closer to Awesome Music.
  • "Harry Patch (In Memory Of)" was written as a tribute to Harry Patch, the last surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches during World War I, who has recently passed away.
  • "All I Need" is definitely incredibly melancholy and apathetic.
    • And try to watch the video for that song, made by them and an alliance with MTV against child labor (Can't remember the name)
  • "Creep". Never mind that it might be cliche, and Radiohead hates the damn song. Some people still find it impossible to not cry at the song..
    • While Radiohead's "Creep" is sad in and of itself, this cover by a homeless man can tug at the heartstrings of even the most resolute of individuals.
  • "Videotape". It's been interpreted as a suicide note in the form of a song, though Thom says it's supposed to be a deathbed message. The final lines, especially, can give some listeners the sniffles:
    "I can't do it face to face / I'm talking to from miles away / No matter what happens now / I won't be afraid / Because I know / Today has been the most perfect day I've ever seen."
  • "Talk Show Host" can often leave some people feeling depressed.
  • "Go Slowly" and "Last Flowers to the Hospital", off of the extra In Rainbows disc, are both incredibly melancholy and beautiful.
    • Then there is "Four Minute Warning".
  • "Bulletproof... I Wish I Was" can usually tug on one's heartstrings.
    • Seriously, don't listen to that song in a depressive mood. Its just... overkill. That song is extremely sad.
  • "Lewis (Mistreated) has a very catchy and upbeat riff, but the depressing lyrics convey a different message. One of the lyrics is "don't do it, don't, jump." Thom Yorke even sounds like he's crying (or at least very distressed) when he sings this.
    • It doesn't help that Thom pauses right before he says "Jump", which might imply he did jump.
  • The band's music tends to get used in heartbreaking Public Service Announcements like this and this
  • The beginning of "Cuttooth." It's not so much the words but the longing way Thom sings it.
  • The live version of "Fog." "Where did you go bad...? Did you go bad...?" *sniff*
  • Oh sweet God, "Pyramid Song." "...and we all went to heaven in a little row boat | there was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt..."
    • In the "Live in Praha Concert", Thom dedicates it to Franz Kafka before they play it. The live version featuring Jonny's bowing of his electric guitar makes it all the more haunting. ;~;.
    • The computer-animated video just about matches the depressing lyrics. We're introduced to a man standing on the roof of a skyscraper in the middle of an ocean, revealing he's the last survivor of a flood that destroyed his city, and possibly the rest of the world. Suiting up, he dives into the water and observes the city's sunken ruins. In the end, he swims into what is apparently his family's house, takes a seat, and unplugs his oxygen cord so he can rejoin his loved ones. Quite possibly the most amount of emotion you'll ever feel for a CGI stick figure.
  • "A Wolf at the Door". While it's not as slow and melancholy as most of the songs on this list, it is sung with incredible bitterness and desperation. You can't help but feel the pain in Thom Yorke's voice.
    "Let me back / Let me back / I promise to be good / Don't look in the mirror at the face you don't recognize / Help me, call the doctor, put me inside"
    • During certain live performances of the song, Thom Yorke actually lies down and curls up in a fetal position during the post-chorus "no no no no no no no no"s.
  • "Give Up the Ghost," off of The King of Limbs, is rather tearjerky.
    • The version from the In the Basement video album outdoes the album version's tearjerkiness by a mile.
  • "Codex". Pretty self-explanatory as to why.
    "Sleight of hand / Jump off the end / Into a clear lake / No one around / Just dragonflies / Flying to the side / No one gets hurt / You've done nothing wrong / Slide your hand / Jump off the end / The water's clear / And innocent / The water's clear / And innocent"
  • "True Love Waits." Oh god.
    "I'm not living/I'm just killing time..."
  • There There. Thom just sounds pained at times. And was allegedly brought to tears after hearing the final mastered version of the song.
    "We are accidents, Waiting waiting to happen."
  • "I Will".
  • The backing vocals to "(Nice Dream)":
    "If you think that you're strong enough./If you think you belong enough."
  • "Harrowdown Hill", Thom Yorke's solo song about the suicide of weapons expert Dr. David Kelly.
    It was a slippery, slippery, slippery slope/I felt me slipping in and out of consciousness/I felt me slipping in and out of consciousness
  • "Black Star" from The Bends. There's something nostalgic-sounding about that central riff that tugs at your heartstrings.
  • "Last Flowers." It originally was written during the OK Computer sessions, during the height of Thom's Jerk Ass reputation and depression.
    I cannot keep up
    trodding on people's toes
    'snot nosed little punk'
    and I can't face the evening straight
    you can offer me escape.
  • "Four Minute Warning," which seems to be about the narrator's home being bombed. The desperate, self-deceiving lyrics add to the effect. "This is just a nightmare/soon I'm gonna wake up/someone's gonna bring me round..."
  • The climax of "Bones."
  • "Scatterbrain" has a rather melancholy sound to it.
  • Gagging Order... just listen for yourself.

We hope... that you choke... that you choke...

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy