The Most Depressing Radiohead Song, According to Science


Radiohead possess a unique catalog of songs filled with a deep sense of sorrow. From the haunting isolation of “Creep” to the gentle melancholy of “No Surprises,” their lyrics and accompanying music often consist of sadness.

Although various bands are still famous for creating sad music, Radiohead took it to the next level. Over the course of nine albums spanning three decades, they successfully introduced a melancholic sonic experience into the mainstream.

Remarkably, their lyrical themes centered around social exclusion, mental health struggles, and modern anxieties resonated profoundly with audiences. Radiohead became synonymous with melancholy music. Soon, the influential rock band’s contribution to the music world became unforgettable.

While many found solace and a sense of connection in Radiohead’s music, some struggled to embrace the pervasive themes of sadness within their lyrics and melodies.

Frontman Thom Yorke once addressed criticism that labeled their music as overly depressing, expressing his disagreement and finding it “offensive.” During a 2003 interview with Musique Plus, he elaborated, saying, “The reason I find it offensive is that – to me – it implies that suffering from depression is akin to being inferior or carrying a stigma, which it shouldn’t be because there are a significant number of people who battle with depression.”

Yorke advocated for open discussions about depression, emphasizing, “It shouldn’t be treated as the ultimate taboo because I grapple with it, and many others do too. It should be a topic that is openly acknowledged and accepted.”

Yorke’s personal struggles with depression often found their way into his music. He explained, “At times, I create music when I’m in that emotional state because I’m living through it. But in reality, it’s not always about suffering. Sometimes, it’s a source of inspiration, but occasionally, it does represent a mental health challenge.”

In conclusion, Yorke stated, “I take issue with those who dismiss art or music simply because it is perceived as depressing, as much creative power arises from that emotional space.”

The creative force of mental health struggles undeniably resonates within Radiohead’s extensive discography. But which song stands out as their most melancholic?

A data scientist and engineering consultant, Charlie Thompson, once tackled this question through data analysis. Using Spotify’s Web API, Thompson employed valence metrics and lyrical density to calculate a “gloom index” for each track.

The results align with the expectations of seasoned Radiohead fans. The band’s 2016 album, “A Moon Shaped Pool,” was the most melancholic album. Its final track, “True Love Waits,” crowned as the saddest song in their repertoire. It received a gloom index score of just one. On the flip side, the cheeriest song, “15 Step” from “In Rainbows,” achieved a perfect score of 100.

“True Love Waits” exemplifies the profound creative force that Yorke passionately defends. It weaves haunting piano melodies with Yorke’s heartrending vocals, making it a contender for Radiohead’s most melancholic track while also showcasing its immense emotional power.

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