David J Smith
David J Smith

Is Radiohead really a cheap version of Coldplay?

It really gets me upset when people tell me this. That Radiohead is a cheap version of Coldplay. I don’t understand it. In fact, it makes my blood boil.

No, they are obviously not as iconic as Coldplay. I will give you that. They will never fill a stadium like Chris Martin. But not everyone needs to fill stadiums. If we only had bands that filled stadiums, what would the medium to small size venues do? We need bands like Radiohead to ensure those venue owners have a steady stream of income. Everyone has a right to make a decent living.

Will Radiohead ever record a song like: Viva la Vida? Probably not. The title is Long Live Life written in Mexican. It’s a song about seizing the day, following your heart, the sky’s the limit and all that great life-affirming stuff. And it’s really hard to compete with that. But Radiohead has done some okay tunes. I always thought that Airbag song was pretty good. Road safety is an important issue, and sometimes we need to be reminded about it. Radiohead is that kind of band, safe. And they are not just looking out for the safety of drivers, but also divers. See that, it rhymes, drivers, divers, another tick in their creativity box. But yes, divers. The bends. Serious stuff. Come up too quick and you are dead. So it is good to see people like Thom Yorke singing about it. Other people want to sing about sex and stuff, but Thom, he’s more of a straight-laced guy. He doesn’t have a hot/sexy/famous wife like Chris Martin, so why would he be bothered with all that sexy-time music?

His music is more what you would call “lifestyle music”. You’re in a lift, a song is playing, you hum along, and you think: What is that song? It’s 2+2=5 by Radiohead. Shame, Thom could never add, but let’s not talk about that now. You’re in a lift, you’re humming. It’s 9.30am and what you want is unchallenging (non-challenging?) music. You don’t want the heady complexity of a song like Yellow. You don’t want to be confronted with lyrics like: “Look at the stars, how they shine for you.” Lord knows; you’ve got a day job to get to. So clearly there is a place out there for a band like Radiohead.

Maybe they aren’t the musician’s musicians, but they have a place in the mainstream. Not everyone can be a pioneer, out there, forging a path through the jungle. Some people have to stay back and pave the road, to make it safe for everyone. And that’s Radiohead. So next time, you want to disrespect them, put them down, or call them a poor man’s Coldplay, think again. Radiohead, not top shelf, but not the bottom, sort of lower middle.

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