Song Profile: Paranoid Android by Radiohead

Topics: Key signature, Radiohead, Tonality Pages: 3 (1050 words) Published: March 3, 2012
Song Profile: Paranoid Android by Radiohead

Radiohead is a five piece alternative rock band formed in 1985 in Oxfordshire, England. The group is comprised of lead vocalist, guitarist and band figurehead Thom Yorke, guitarist and keyboard player Jonny Greenwood, guitarist and vocalist Ed O’Brien, bass player Colin Greenwood, and drummer/percussionist Phil Selway. Radiohead rose to fame with the release of their second album The Bends in 1995 and secured their stardom in 1997 with their legendary album O.K. Computer. Its song “Paranoid Android” was listed as one of the 500 Best Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone and has been covered by numerous artists. This paper will explore the musical elements of “Paranoid Android” that serve to both stratify and unite the three distinct sections of the composition. Each section comprises a part of a unified work while expressing a unique character.

“Paranoid Android” is O.K. Computer‘s longest song, running about six minutes and twenty seconds and is comprised of three different sections. It sounds through-composed until the return of the B section in the coda. In addition to its uncharacteristic form, it also features dense rhythmic and harmonic textures, atypical meter changes, and modulations. The song embodies the genre of Progressive Rock, which was pioneered in the 1970’s by bands such as Pink Floyd, Yes and Queen. Thom Yorke cited the Beatles’s song “Happiness is a Warm Gun” as the inspiration for the form of “Paranoid Android.” Both songs are comprised of three distinct sections melded into a single piece. Earlier artists such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys used the heavily textured multi-tracked vocal harmonies like those featured in “Paranoid Android.”

The three sections of “Paranoid Android” create the form: {ABCB’}. Each section develops by gradually building dynamics. Section A is the only section with a verse-chorus structure. It begins with an instrumental run of the verse section, then there are two...
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