Radiohead second show at Le Zénith in Paris. May 24 2016 - David Urrea – Wikimedia commons
CAIRO – 25 July 2017: Before playing the last song of the concert, Thom Yorke whispers in his microphone “Enjoy yourselves, good night” and hits his guitar four times before he starts playing a tune that’s imprinted in the head and heart of every Radiohead fan. The crowd goes off like a chain of bombs and soon starts chanting:
Arrest this man,
He talks in maths…
He buzzes like a fridge,
He’s like a detuned radio”
The stanza voices the narrator’s judgment of a man for being different. He fears the man because he does not understand him, so he is calling for the karma police (bad karma) to hurt that man back after he hurt him by merely existing.
Arrest this girl,
Her Hitler hairdo
Is making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party”
Now he’s judging a woman for the way she looks; it makes him feel ill how different she is. He judges her while he is at her party, eating her food, without even being invited.
The narrator then goes to repeating “this is what you get” two times to reinforce his statement before finally saying “this is what you get … when you mess with us”
The use of “us” here instead of “me” shows how the narrator is convinced he is voicing the concerns of a whole group, because this must be harmful for everyone. He believes that when he wishes those “different people” ill, he is doing a good thing and saving everyone from them.
But he’s confused because bad things keep happening to him, even though he is being a hero. Why is this happening to him?
I've given all I can
It's not enough
I've given all I can
But we're still on the payroll”
So he suddenly comes to his senses, realizing how he lost himself when he entered the whirl of judging people just because they are different, just because they are the “Others”, finally he states:
“For a minute there… I lost myself.”
Through this song Thom Yorke is trying to criticize being judgmental from a judgmental person’s point of view, simplifying the concept of “Othering”; a concept which probably leads to all wars and conflicts on Earth, relying on the belief that if you are not one of us you are the enemy; a join or die kind of philosophy that neglects the fact that humans are bound to be different, and are free to be so, as long as they do not hurt anyone.
Yorke finishes his song and greets his audience, but then the most spectacular thing happens when he continues playing the tune of the song and in return people automatically start enchanting “for a minute there… I lost myself.” This time expressing their appreciation to Radiohead who made them lose themselves in the beauty of their music, even if for a minute.
Radiohead Berlin Wuhlheide – Courtesy of Flickr/Fronx