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Music / Kid A

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I'm not here, this isn't happening.

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

After the critical and commercial fanfare that OK Computer stirred up, Radiohead found themselves succumbing to psychological burnout during the album's exhaustive world tour, 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. 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. With no set deadline, they were trapped in disarray and agreed they would break up entirely if they produced no album they could collectively see fit to release. The album saw the band (almost exclusively Jonny Greenwood) working and experimenting with a number of instruments. 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 and 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 to the point where some fans believe it ruined Radiohead forever. On the more positive side, it received praise for introducing rock listeners to more experimental music styles. Today, it is recognized as one of the best albums of the 2000s, if not of all time, as well as one of the boldest releases in music history. On Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Kid A not only got the highest ranking of a Radiohead album, but also the highest ranking of a 21st century album — at number 67. note  Time Magazine included the album in Time All Time 100 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:

  • 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, you can see the phrase "You and your cronies", which later became a lyric in "You and Whose Army?".
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: How the album ends. The final song "Motion Picture Soundtrack" has an angelic atmosphere (what with the harps and such) and bows out on the line "I will see you in the next life". Additionally, the Hidden Track that plays after this is considered to represent that "next life".
  • Bears Are Bad News: The album's promotional campaign introduced the "modified bear" logo, which would evidently become the band's official mascot.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "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.
    • The title track as well, although it devolves more into a Madness Mantra.
    • Very nearly every song has at least one example, to be honest. "The National Anthem" in particular only has a handful of lines, most of which are repeated several times. "How to Disappear Completely" repeats "I'm not here; this isn't happening" several times. "Idioteque" repeats most of its lines two or three times. "Morning Bell" has "Cut the kids in half" repeated three times, most conspicuously. And so on.
  • 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 counter parts 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.
  • Continuity Nod: OK Computer had a track called "Exit Music (for a Film)", while Kid A has a track called "Motion Picture Soundtrack".
  • 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
  • Hidden Track: "Motion Picture Soundtrack" contains a hidden track within the 4 minutes of silence following the end of the song. It's usually referred to as "Untitled" or occasionally "Genchildren" note  and most likely represents the heaven or "next life" described at the end of the song. The band has stated that the song and hidden track are not supposed to be isolated.
  • Instrumental: "Treefingers" and the Hidden Track.
  • 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.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Invoked with the title track, in which Thom's vocals are distorted with a vocoder to distance himself from the song's subject matter. However, this example has since been subverted as the song lyrics have been discovered.
    I slipped away
    I slipped on a little white lie
    You got ventriloquists
    We got heads on sticks
    You got ventriloquists
    Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed
    The rats and children will follow me out of town
    Rats and children follow me out of their homes
    Come on, kids
  • Infant Immortality: "Morning Bell":
    Cut the kids in half
  • Instructional Title: "How to Disappear Completely". Named after an actual how-to book about how to start a new identity.
  • 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 an ondes Martenot 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 Thom 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.
  • Limited Lyrics Song: Several songs only have a few lines repeated several times, most conspicuously, the first three.
  • Looped Lyrics: "The National Anthem".
  • Madness Mantra: The Title Track off this album consists, for the most part, of Thom muttering lyrics such as "standing in the shadows at the end of my bed", vocoded through an ondes Martenot.
  • New Sound Album: After the more straightforward rock of their previous albums, this album has more simplified instrumentation and little use of guitar solos. It even dabbles in Electronic Music as well ("Everything In Its Right Place", the title track, "Treefingers", and "Idioteque").
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • To this day, nobody knows what the horrible thing that this album represented to Thom was, or the horrible thing that inspired the title track.
    • Although "Treefingers" is an ambient song that is soothing out of context, the atmosphere it establishes within makes it a very offsetting listen along with the rest of the tracks.
  • No Title: The Hidden Track that closes the album lacks an official title; "Genchildren" is a popular fanmade one.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: The title track has this, which gives it a really cold atmosphere.
  • One-Word Title: "Treefingers", "Optimistic", and "Idioteque".
  • Post-Rock: Traces of this genre occasionally appear on the album, to the point where The Other Wiki outright classifies it under "post-rock" (alongside a myriad of other genres as well).
  • 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 writer's block and the urge to seek a different 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 former sample was actually so important to the song that the band went and emailed Lansky himself to make sure that it was okay with him.
    • 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 a moment in a 1950s Disney film where the colour fades slightly.)
    • Other samples floating through the album include the echo-laden snippet of an orchestral performance that appears after 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, especially the blips. Stick figures bleed to death in the snow, genetically modified bears jump off a diving board into a pool of blood, and distant fires rage across frigid, mountainous landscapes. 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 disc and in the booklet 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 by 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 R.E.M. (saying "I'm not here, this isn't happening" was a meditative exercise that REM member Michael Stipe recommended to Thom Yorke).
    • "Optimistic" mentions Animal Farm in one line.
  • Single Stanza Song: The title track.
  • Slasher Smile: A caricature of Tony Blair is drawn this way in the album's hidden booklet. It's every bit as unsettling as it sounds.
  • Something Completely Different: The album travels further down the experimental route the band had explored on OK Computer, and even incorporates Electronic Music on some of its songs.
  • 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 outro to "Optimistic" is very notably looped in a shoddy manner at its halfway point.
  • Survival Mantra: "I'm not here, this isn't happening" from "How to Disappear Completely". The phrase was actually given to Thom by Michael Stipe to serve this purpose.
  • 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".
  • 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, 6/8, and 10/8.
    • "In Limbo" uses polyrhythms, with several time signatures at once.
  • "Untitled" Title: The Hidden Track that closes the album is usually referred to as "Untitled", most significantly as it's separated from "Motion Picture Soundtrack" on Spotify.
  • Word-Salad Horror: A lot of the lyrics, as well as most of the text included in the album's hidden booklet.
  • 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 all over 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.
    • The title track, 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
    And you've got ventriloquists
    Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed
    The rats and the children follow me out of town
    • "Idioteque":
    Who's in a bunker? Who's in a bunker?
    Women and children first, and the children first, and the children
    I'll laugh until my head comes off
    I'll swallow until I burst
    Who's in a bunker? Who's in a bunker?
    I have seen too much, you haven't seen enough, you haven't seen it
    I'll laugh until my head comes off
    Women and children first, and the children first, and the children
    Here I'm allowed
    Everything all of the time


Example of: