For decades, Radiohead has been hailed for their iconoclastic and individualistic approach to rock music. Volumes have been written about the lads from Oxfordshire, including two separate 33 1/3 books, and no small part of that literature is devoted to their influences on acts to come. However, in this screed I will tackle a more niche and underappreciated subject: What has been Radiohead’s impact on contemporary pop acts?
As a tone-deaf, arhythmic rube, I could not possibly analyze anything of value. Instead, my entire investigation will be conducted off the back of two post-2000 Top 40 namechecks.
DATA POINT ONE: AVRIL
In 2013, long after her zenith, Avril Lavigne issued a puzzling chorus in her song “Here’s to Never Growing Up”: “Singing Radiohead at the top of our lungs”
Any band with a three-syllable name could have slotted in easily – yet Avril consciously chose the one band it is impossible to sing to AT THE TOP OF ONE’S LUNGS.
It is possible to sing ALONG to Radiohead, if barely. “Creep” and “Karma Police” are probably the only two you could karaoke. Maybe “Anyone Can Play Guitar” if you’re at a weird karaoke place. Personally, any time I’ve ‘sang’ ‘along’ to Radiohead, I’ve had to rely heavily on mumbling in a heavy, semi-melodic way while hoping nobody’s around to hear.
Yes, Avril has tricked me, a person of average to below-average savviness, before – I remember studying her video “Nobody’s Home” closely in the 4th grade, trying to decide whether she was playing both main characters (answer, yes, it’s a bad wig) – but I feel fairly confident that despite Canadians’ natural propensity toward mumbling, even she couldn’t pull it off.
triangles… triangles everywhere
DATA POINT TWO: Kathryn “Katheryn “Katy” Perry” Hudson
However, music historians tell us that Avril was not the first to invoke Radiohead in the pop charts.
In 2010, Katy Perry dropped “The One That Got Away,” the sixth-best single from her Teenage Dream album. The unremarkable, though charting, song opens with this claim: “Summer after high school when we first met / we’d make out in your Mustang to Radiohead”
The music video, a low for the generally very lovable Diego Luna and a very scary Digitally Old Katy Perry, unfortunately skips right over this dubious plot point. That’s right: It features no music video-exclusive bridge of a muffled “Moring Bell/Amnesiac” (a CD my father threatened to throw out of our minivan window in 2005, because It Is Not Music) set to footage of the two canoodling.
Established: Singing along to Radiohead is impossible. But while making out to Radiohead wasn’t incredibly plausible to me either, it seemed a lot easier to accomplish, at least on the surface.
I opened iTunes, closed my eyes, and tried to imagine making out to Radiohead. It was kind of depressing. I could imagine some tracks sequencing a rainy, slow goodbye kiss at the end of an action film where the female love interest is going to die because of course she will, but hey, I’m no music supervisor.
I needed more eyes on the situation. There was no one at my disposal willing to make out with me to Radiohead for kicks. So I brought my friend Lesley, a big Radiohead fan, a doctoral candidate, and my loving wife of five years, into my investigation as a consultant.
Well, that wasn’t much help. Between a rock and a hard place, I decided to not ruin Radiohead for my wife. Instead, I realized, I should use historical evidence to pin down Katheryn “‘Katy’ Perry” Hudson’s timeline. What year was her “summer after high school”? What material had Yorke & co. even put out then?
One quick Wikipedia search and I found my next dead end. Katheryn “’Katy’ Perry” Hudson earned her GED when she was 15. It was nothing more than a Hollywood fiction!!!!!!!
Possibly, the question we should be asking instead is: Have Katy Perry, Avril, and their songwriters ever heard Radiohead? I know once Miley Cyrus tried to meet Radiohead backstage at a concert. They sent a note back: “We don’t do that.” Had Miley Cyrus ever heard Radiohead? I also know she once said she didn’t listen to hip hop. It’s not relevant to this article, but Miley Cyrus is a mess who exploits black culture for her own gain and we shouldn’t pay attention to her, even if she can sing live, so kudos to Radiohead.
However, Buzzfeed gave me one last clue. I was aimlessly trying to learn about myself through a quiz when I was confronted with the following:
At first puzzling, this outlier in fact may help crack the case. Coupled with their recent Lana Del Rey lawsuit, one has to wonder: Have Radiohead themselves become the establishment and hegemony they rebelled against in their early career?
As of press time, Radiohead had not returned a request for comment sent to their management’s Facebook page. Sad.
This is authored anonymously to guarantee the writer’s safety from Big Radiohead.