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Tear Jerker / Radiohead

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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.

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     Pablo Honey 

    The Bends 
  • The backing vocals to "(Nice Dream)":
    "If you think that you're strong enough. / If you think you belong enough."
  • "Black Star." There's something nostalgic-sounding about that central riff that tugs at your heartstrings.
  • The climax of "Bones."
  • "Fake Plastic Trees," and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)."
    • Thom Yorke himself has admitted that "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" is one of their darkest songs with no hope at the end,note  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."
  • "Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was" can usually tug on one's heartstrings. Don't listen to that song in a depressive mood.
  • "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.
  • "High and Dry" may sound more nostalgic and longing than outright sad, but it certainly qualifies. "Kill yourself for recognition, kill yourself to never ever stop..."

    OK Computer 
  • "Exit Music (for a Film)." It was written for an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and was directly inspired by the original story itself, so the Tear Jerker quality is imported from a much older source. The broken-sounding, raw vocals at the end are especially gut-wrenching.
    • There's a certain emotional heft to the climax, with the way Thom sings and especially the line "Now we are one in everlasting peace". Think of the source material for this song and just consider what that means.
  • "Let Down." As if the subject matter isn't melancholy enough, the "You know where you are..." bit is one of the most heartbreakingly 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.
    • The lyrics seem to depict a man whose life is so unfulfilling he has resigned himself to a dull, boring life. Or worse, he has decided to commit suicide in order to escape the mundanity. It's a cheerful song.
  • "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."

  • "You and Whose Army?" stands out especially, although it might be closer to Awesome Music.
  • The beginning of "Cuttooth." It's not so much the words but the longing way Thom sings it.
  • Oh sweet God, "Pyramid Song." "...and we all went to heaven in a little rowboat / 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.

    Hail to the Thief 
  • "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." It's essentially a song about how war affects children and is very simplistically depressing in a stripped-down sense, relying on only an isolated guitar and Thom. It was reportedly influenced by news footage of a bomb shelter containing kids and families being destroyed in the first Gulf War. Considering how the birth of Thom's son affected the album as a whole, it's easy to see how heavy the song is in that context.
    "I won't let this happen to my children
    Meet the real world coming out of your shell"
  • "Scatterbrain" has a rather melancholy sound to it.
  • Gagging Order... just listen for yourself.
  • "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.

    In Rainbows 
  • "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.)
  • "Go Slowly" and "Last Flowers to the Hospital," off of the extra In Rainbows disc, are both incredibly melancholy and beautiful.
    • The latter was originally written during the OK Computer sessions, during the height of Thom's Jerkass 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..."
  • "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."
  • "Nude" is so emotional that it can be seriously tolling on the heart, especially with its having one of Radiohead's most beautiful soundscapes led by an excellently beauteous vocal display from Thom.

    The King of Limbs 
  • "Give Up the Ghost" is rather tearjerky, and especially powerful since it's such a stripped down song, only consisting of layers of Thom's voice and an acoustic guitar.
    • The version from the In the Basement video album outdoes the album version's tearjerkiness by a mile.
  • "Codex." It's a slow, brooding song that starts as a Lonely Piano Piece before it gets backed by brass arrangements that sound a few smidgens more upbeat than as if they were playing for a funeral. Then there's the lyrics:
    "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."
  • "Separator", even though it's arguably the most upbeat and "happiest" song on the album. It's like a lucid dream that you just don't want to wake up from.
    "Wake me up..wake me uuuuuuup..."

    A Moon Shaped Pool 
  • "Daydreaming", a beautiful and emotional piano ballad that serves as a pristine mix of Kid A-esque ambience and In Rainbows-esque art rock.
    • The ending initially sounds just disturbing, but manages to get sad once you find out what Thom's saying: "half of my life". This is the first Radiohead album made since Thom broke up with his wife after 23 years of marriage. He's 47 years old now, so he's been with his wife for around half of his life.
  • "Glass Eyes" could most possibly take the place as Radiohead's most beautiful composition ever, featuring Jonny Greenwood's orchestration skills at their finest, accompanied by gorgeous, harp-like piano playing, making for a subtle but aching performance. The song itself is about being on the verge of having a sudden and unexpected panic attack from visiting an unwelcoming new town. Jesus.
  • "True Love Waits." Oh god. There's a reason why people consider one of of Thom's finest moments as a songwriter.
    "I'm not living / I'm just killing time..."
    • In the context of the album (see above under "Daydreaming"), the line "Just don't leave" is utterly wrenching. The song has existed for over twenty years, but it puts a new spin on the performance featured here.
    • A YouTube comment (from the original version of the song) sums it all up best:
    This [The original version] version is like an optimistic look into the future

    The Moon Shaped Pool version is like a regretful look into the past
  • The fact that Thom's now-former wife has passed away makes certain aspects of the album ("Daydreaming", "True Love Waits") a whole lot sadder to listen to.
  • The liner notes for the album include dedications to Scott Johnson - the band's drum tech who was killed in a stage accident in 2011 - and Vic Godrich - the father of the band's producer Nigel Godrich and a sound editor for Doctor Who, who died while the album was being recorded.

  • "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.
  • "Talk Show Host" can often leave some people feeling depressed.
  • The band's music tends to get used in heartbreaking Public Service Announcements like this and this.
  • The live version of "Fog." "Where did you go bad...? Did you go bad...?"
  • "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.
  • "How I Made My Millions" is one of the band's most emotional and vulnerable songs, considering it takes a rather minimalist approach, being led only by piano with Thom's gentle vocals on top of it to produce a raw, naked sound.
  • They've been known to do brief ambient renditions of already broken songs before playing "Everything in it's Right Place" live. Amongst these are R.E.M.'s "The One I Love", Björk's "Unravel", their own "True Love Waits" and Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps", the last one of which probably stands out as the most saddening.
    Wait, they don't love me like I love you, wait, they don't love me like I love you...
  • The documentary film Meeting People Is Easy is rather distressing, especially since it mainly focuses on Radiohead's difficulty dealing with their growing popularity during the OK Computer era. The saddest scenes are subtle, but are still packed with quite the emotion.
    • There's one particular scene after the band gets rejected from a club (briefly followed by a group of people harassing Thom, urging him to write a song about the situation and shouting "RADIOHEAD! CREEP! DICKHEAD!" at him), which shows a reverse-playing clip of a stressed out and mentally exhausted Thom wandering around in his hotel room and taking his pills, before zooming in on a note that reads "I'm not here and this isn't really happening..." taped onto his window, while "On Your Own Again" by Scott Walker plays in the background.
  • "Spectre", the rejected theme song for the Bond movie of the same name. Apart from the haunting sounds, it basically reads as a summation of James Bond's tragedies and struggles.
  • Rachel Owen, Thom's ex-wife, has passed away.

We hope... That you choke... That you choke...

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