In Rainbows was it for me. The (over)hyped release of Radiohead’s latest masterpiece was so far beyond any other release I heard last year that I dubbed it #1 on the Top Ten I had to write for several publications. In fact, it wasn’t even close. It was numbers 2-9 that took me significant time to develop because Radiohead was such a no-brainer.
But really there’s a great question to be asked: Why? All Music Guide suggests there are between 500-700 releases per month and that doesn’t include all the little guys who will never be known outside of their mom enjoying the new EP. And in that sea of music, Radiohead was by far the most celebrated release of last year by most media outlets.
So again, the question is “Why?” Thom Yorke and company create music that definitely isn’t radio friendly, with hooks just out of reach and complexities that baffle at times. Yorke’s lyrics are hardly the stuff of love and life, so it’s not that everyone is relating to some great line. The guys really aren’t press hounds either, so it’s not as if they are thrust into the limelight all the time, reminding everyone of their greatness (although their freelease certainly had the lion’s share of music publicity for months).
So it’s not lyrics. Not accessibility. Not radio overload. And not likeable, press-friendly personalities. What is it about this collection of songs that made everyone drop what they were doing and turn up the music? I’m not even going to attempt to answer at this point without some comments because I’m legitimately interested in hearing straight answers to the questions.
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.