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I'm not here, this isn't happening.
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If OK Computer is frequently called the new The Dark Side of the Moon, then this would be the new Wish You Were Here.

Kid A is the fourth album by English Alternative Rock band Radiohead. Released in October 2000, it notably marked a new stage of the band's sonic experimentation as they ventured into styles of Electronic Music for the first time.

This change was motivated by the band's burnout following the extensive promotion of their previous album OK Computer and the growing number of bands following their example, which— combined with writer's block— resulted in frontman Thom Yorke suffering a mental breakdown and becoming disillusioned with not only Radiohead's standard guitar-based music, but with the entire concept of rock as a whole.

Listening to acts like Autechre and Aphex Twin drove Yorke to the realization that instrumental electronics could evoke the same emotions from him as guitars. This set the ethos of creating Kid A, which focused more on sonic textures than traditional songwriting and combined the abstract and artsy electronica of Homogenic with the disjointedly surreal and anxious lyrical style of Remain in Light. While the band found Creative Differences over the album's direction, over 20 songs were ultimately produced. One half is included on Kid A, and the other is on Amnesiac, which came out six months later as a loose companion piece.

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Upon release, the magnitude of Kid A's divided response from fans and critics (a recurring complaint being that its new sound was overly pretentious, derivative, or intentionally obscure in meaning) was matched by its outstanding commercial success. Utilizing unorthodox promoting tactics — no singles or music videosnote , just a series of short televised "blips," most of them animated — the album debuted at #1 in the USA, going platinum in the UK during opening week, eventually getting Radiohead its second Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album and second Album of the Year nomination.

In retrospect, time has shifted public opinions, and Kid A is now regularly considered one of the best albums of the 2000s, if not of all time. It is both the highest-ranked Radiohead album and the highest-ranked 21st century album on Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time at #67note  Time Magazine also included the album in their 2006 list of their Timeless and Essential Albums. This critical acclaim has made it the 38th-most-acclaimed album ever according to Acclaimed Music's compilation of various critics' lists.

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Tracklist:

10" One

Alpha
  1. "Everything in Its Right Place" (4:11)
  2. "Kid A" (4:44)

Beta

  1. "The National Anthem" (5:51)
  2. "How to Disappear Completely" (5:56)
  3. "Treefingers" (3:42)

10" Two

Gamma
  1. "Optimistic" (5:15)
  2. "In Limbo" (3:31)

Delta

  1. "Idioteque" (5:09)
  2. "Morning Bell" (4:35)
  3. "Motion Picture Soundtrack" (7:01)note 

Note: CD releases are across a single disc; cassette releases are across a single tape (side 1 containing tracks 1-5 and side two containing tracks 5-10.


We've got tropes on sticks:

  • Album Title Drop: Happens in "Everything in Its Right Place". During the voice loops before the lyrics start, "Kid A" can clearly be heard.
  • 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 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.
  • Blipvert: The "blips" used to advertise the album, natch.
  • Book-Ends: The title track, the second song on the album, opens with the line "I slip away; I slipped on a little white lie." "Motion Picture Soundtrack", the closing song on the album, ends its second verse with the line "they fed us on little white lies."
  • 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 but still very much dour 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: Alongside companion piece Amnesiac, from common can interpretation. 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.
  • Continuity Nod: OK Computer had a track called "Exit Music (for a Film)", while Kid A has a track called "Motion Picture Soundtrack".
  • Death of a Child / Would Hurt a Child: "Morning Bell":
    Cut the kids in half
  • Deranged Animation: Any of the album's short "blips" could qualify for this. They're either downright horrifying/disturbing or simply weird.
    • With many of the 3D models it's a mix of this and Special Effect Failure, which is likely why they seldom showed the 3D bears clearly in the blips and redesigned them when they revisited the "blip" concept for Amnesiac.
  • Digital Piracy Is Okay: 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.
  • Drone of Dread: "In Limbo" manages to do this with a human voice, featuring Thom mumbling indistinctly in the background in just the right way to create a lingering, unsettling buzz.
  • Easter Egg: Early pressings of this album had an extra booklet of art and text hidden under the CD tray, with much of this text consisting of lyrics that would later appear on Amnesiac (which was recorded at the same time as Kid A; both albums were in fact planned to be released as a double album at one point). Pressings with the hidden booklet are usually discernible from those without in that they feature a black tray in the jewel case (so as to better hide the booklet's existence) similar to the kind that was most commonly used for CD releases between the format's launch in 1982 and the standardization of the transparent-tray case in 1995; pressings made without the book usually feature a transparent tray. That said, the booklet is still visible under the tray if one looks through the transparent edges on the top and bottom of the jewel case, though this is still advantageous if one wishes to avoid buying a black-tray case with the hidden booklet already removed. Interestingly, some CD releases without the hidden booklet, including the 2016 reissue by XL Recordings, use its front cover as the album's tray art instead of the standard CGI mountain range.
  • 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", "Optimistic" transitions seamlessly into "In Limbo" through a shoddy loop, and the heavily processed, screechy violin-like loop at the end of "Idioteque" leads into "Morning Bell".
  • Green Aesop: The packaging for the album's promotional singles (handed out exclusively to radio stations) each feature a text blurb describing instances of how global warming has caused sections of the polar ice caps to melt between 1978 and 1999, along with a second passage blaming the phenomenon on human complacency and indifference towards the environment.
  • 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 after a minute 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, though streaming services like Spotify and Amazon Music didn't follow suit.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The double-10" release of the album (double-LP on most reissues by XL Recordings) names each side after one of the first four letters of the Greek alphabet.
  • Instrumentals: "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 1950's 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
    We've got heads on sticks
    And you've got ventriloquists
    We've got heads on sticks
    And you've got ventriloquists
    Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed
    Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed
    Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed
    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
  • 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, the website, and the blips.
  • Last Note Nightmare: All of the album probably invokes this at some point.
    • "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.
    • The only aversions are "Everything in Its Right Place", "Treefingers", and "Motion Picture Soundtrack". In fact, the latter's Hidden Track can only be described as Last Note Sweet Dreams Fuel.
  • 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 is a Post-Rock piece with more simplified instrumentation and little use of guitar solos, choosing to emphasize sonic texture and soundscapes over conventional melody. It even dabbles in Electronic Music as well ("Everything In Its Right Place", the title track, "Treefingers", and "Idioteque").
  • Non-Indicative Name: "The National Anthem" doesn't sound like a national anthem at all.
  • 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 soothing out of context, the atmosphere it establishes within context 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, stemming from the user who posted the initial leak of the album.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: The title track has this, which gives it a really cold atmosphere.
  • One-Word Title: "Treefingers", "Optimistic", and "Idioteque".
  • Phrase Salad Lyrics: Some of the lyrics came from Thom picking random words and phrases out of a hat, which is especially evident on "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
  • Post-Rock: The album borrows a lot of stylistic elements from this genre (namely the focus on timbre and texture over melody and lyrics), to the point where Wikipedia, this wiki, and a number of other sources outright classify it as post-rock (alongside a myriad of other genres).
  • 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 R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe recommended to Thom Yorke).
    • "Optimistic" mentions Animal Farm in one line.
    • One "Treefingers" blip features a parody of BBC1's famous "Test Card F" test pattern with a blinking Modified Bear in place of the original Carol Hesse photograph and "TESTSPECIMENS" in place of the channel logo.
    • The line "cut the kids in half" at the end of "Morning Bell" appears to be a nod to one of the stories surrounding the Hebrew king Solomon in The Bible, in which the king responded to a custody dispute between two woman over a child they each claimed they birthed by offering to literally cut the kid in half and give each piece to one of the women— the woman who protested the suggestion was granted custody.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Optimistic" → "In Limbo".
  • 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. The image mapped on a sphere, or other round object, is the image on the adjacent page of tracing paper.
  • 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.
  • 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, and Stipe himself would use it as the basis for R.E.M.'s "Disappear" a year later. Stipe later recounted in a 2019 interview how after remembering the basis for "Disappear", he called up Thom to apologize for stealing the concept for "How to Disappear Completely", to which Thom responded by claiming that it was more R.E.M.'s song than Radiohead's as a result of its source of inspiration.
  • Synth-Pop: "Idioteque" is arguably an example of this, being much more melodic and danceable in its use of Electronic Music than the rest of the album (despite its heavy use of Uncommon Time).
  • 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, against the band's wishes of keeping them together.
  • Word-Salad Horror: A lot of the lyrics, as well as most of the text included in the album's hidden booklet. Word of God states that the album's propensity for this trope was directly inspired by the techniques David Byrne used to form the lyrics on Talking Heads' seminal 1980 album Remain in Light; the members of Radiohead were fans of Talking Heads, to the point where their name came from a track off of True Stories, so the adoption of the American band's lyric-writing methods seems to bring things full-circle.

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