I am the author of "Sound Bites," "Love Bites," and "Finding Me." I'm a fan of indie rock with over 10 years of online writing experience.
Radiohead has proven itself to be a driving force behind alternative rock music. They are one of the only bands that truly keep their audience guessing. Every album they release has a completely different sound than the previous one.
I have compiled a list of the top 10 Radiohead songs based not only on popularity, but also on quality and originality. Seeing that Radiohead is one of my all-time favorite bands, it was hard to pick only 10 songs—so I've added a few honorable mentions to the list as well.
Best Radiohead Songs
- "Let Down"
- "Street Spirit (Fade Out)"
- "Paranoid Android"
- "Everything in Its Right Place"
- "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"
- "Karma Police"
- "Fake Plastic Trees"
- "High and Dry"
1. "Let Down"
Album: OK Computer
I like to think of "Let Down" as Radiohead's best-kept secret. It wasn't one of their most popular songs for some unknown reason, but once I discovered it, there was no turning back. "Let Down" is, and forever will be, my favorite song of all time. It is truly a beautiful work of art. Listening to it sends me on a euphoric high similar to descending a rollercoaster at 300 MPH. The hopeful melody and burning emotion could instantly move any audience. By the end of the song, you feel like you've been on an emotional rollercoaster and all you want to do is get back in line.
2. "Street Spirit (Fade Out)"
Album: The Bends
As if "Paranoid Android" wasn't enough, here is yet another of Radiohead's beautiful gems. It's hard to imagine life before "Street Spirit". The intensity, the emotion, and the devastation behind it is surreal. Thom Yorke said it was "the dark tunnel without the light at the end." Trust me, that darkness shines through the overpowering emotion of the melody and vocals. Immerse your soul in love.
3. "Paranoid Android"
Album: OK Computer
"Paranoid Android" is one of the best pieces of music ever written. I could write an entire novel about this one song. Listening to "Paranoid Android" is similar to spending six minutes and twenty-five seconds with either a manic-depressive or a brief thunderstorm. It starts out as a slow, calm melody, like gently floating down a river, and then explodes into a mass of electric riffs and chords that shoot right through you like a bolt of lightning. Then, just when you think you've had enough, it slows back down to an almost choir-like chant during the "Rain Down" segment before exploding one more time. Classic. Pure genius.
4. "Everything In Its Right Place"
Album: Kid A
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"Everything in Its Right Place" is electronically mesmerizing. I suspect that the reason it's the first track on Kid A is to prepare the listeners for what they're in for. It's like taking a euphoric ride into outer space and seeing everything for the first time.
5. "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"
Album: In Rainbows
I was torn between "Jigsaw" and "Reckoner" as the most compelling track off In Rainbows, but "Jigsaw" seemed to captivate the majority of the Radiohead audience. At first listen, the melody is a bit sleepy, but after a few more listens, the catchy beat grows on you and makes you want to "let it out."
Album: Kid A
Just when you thought the good ole' '90s alternative rock bands were getting boring and predictable, along came Kid A. Kid A gets mixed reviews from Radiohead fans, some dislike the computerized, electronic sound of the album, while others think it's pure genius. "Idioteque" is one of the key tracks of the album. Its techno vibe puts you in a hypnotic trance.
7. "Karma Police"
Album: OK Computer
By the time "Karma Police" had crossed every radio airwave and music television broadcast nationwide, it was a proven fact that Radiohead was the band to beat. They were no longer just some band that had released a few catchy tunes, but had now released two sensational albums. Each was a masterpiece in its own way. "Karma Police" was a classic in itself, a work of art, a stunning success.
8. "Fake Plastic Trees"
Album: The Bends
Another fabulous, mellow acoustic single off The Bends. Unfortunately, this one didn't seem to be as radio-friendly as "High and Dry". However, it still holds as a favorite for Radiohead fanatics nationwide. It was even featured on the Clueless soundtrack. In addition, it held a spot on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.
9. "High and Dry"
Album: The Bends
Since its release, The Bends still holds true as my favorite album of all time. Although, many Radiohead fanatics would disagree, arguing that OK Computer was their greatest success to date. Truth be told, they're both fantastic albums, and we can thank a catchy little mellow, acoustic tune by the name of "High and Dry" for being the first single released to prove that Radiohead was not going to be contributing to the '90s one-hit wonder music pile.
Album: Pablo Honey
Everyone knows that "Creep" was the hit single that put these guys on the fast-track to stardom. Released in the early '90s on their debut album, Pablo Honey, "Creep" fit right in with the rest of the melancholy, alternative grunge rock that had taken over the airwaves.
11. "Black Star"
"Black Star" is like the little brother who doesn't get as much attention as he deserves. It's a sensational rock ballad and one of the best tracks off The Bends.
The Bends strikes again. I struggled with whether or not to add this to the top ten list because of its lack of popularity among Radiohead fans. However, along with "Black Star", it doesn't get as much hype as it deserves.
13. "Pyramid Song"
An eerie track that is mysteriously haunting. This track also came up frequently as a Radiohead favorite (even though it's considered more of a B-side than a hit single).
While skimming through the recently released In Rainbows, "Reckoner" was the first song that really grabbed my attention. It has a dazzling, distorted cymbal pattern and a bit of a melancholic sound to it. (But then again, don't most of their tracks?) Personally, it's my favorite off the new album. I think it shows off the brilliance of these masterminds of rock music.
jim on March 13, 2013:
any list without "talk show host" is just incorrect. greatest b-side of all time, and one of the greatest songs of all tine.
david on December 11, 2012:
MY TOP 5:
1. paranoid android, 2. reckoner, 3. up on the ladder, 4. videotape, 5. street spirit... doing a top 10 was too difficult for me
Eddo on November 18, 2012:
coincido totalmente con Let down, es una canción hecha a la perfección, y me resulta increible como la mente humana es capaz de hacer algo tan sublime.
Michael on November 13, 2012:
Let Down 100%
max on November 05, 2012:
nie to see that LET DOWN is your #1... Definitely the best song ever !! It's a shame that they're not playing it live nowaday..
Jarred on September 30, 2012:
My favorite RH song is got to be Airbag. Then, in no particular order, Iron Lung, Let Down (yes!), No Surprises, Lucky, Everything in its Right Place, Kid A, Idioteque, The Gloaming, Wolf at the Door, 15 Steps, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi...
Allie on September 14, 2012:
No Surprises is my favorite song of all time. It's just pure magic and definitely deserves a place here. Otherwise, great list! (But IMO, Reckoner is better than Jigsaw.)
Mike on September 06, 2012:
The Tourist didn't make the list at all?! Some things were right on here, but some are way off!
Kurt on June 14, 2012:
Oh my word, I so agree with Let Down as number 1! Favourite Radiohead song by virtue of the fact that I just keep on replaying every now and then - happy, sad, hopeful, mad. Any occasion is ripe for that beautiful melody. An absolutely fascinating song. Wise choices for the rest as well, like the focus on pre-Kid A songs.
Mac on May 31, 2012:
Down, Fake Plastic Trees, Climbing Up The Walls, The National Anthem,
Sit Down. Stand Up, A Wolf At The Door, No Surprises, Jigsaw Falling
Into Place, Reckoner, Idioteque, There, There, Street Spirit (Fade Out),
Staircase, Just, (Nice Dream), Lucky, Electioneering.
Here are my favorites. Yeah there's a lot.
Karen on May 21, 2012:
My favourite is definitely Paranoid Android. The first Radiohead song I heard and still my no.1.
My other favourites are
-Dollars & Cents,
-2 + 2 = 5,
-Street Spirit (Fade Out),
-Climbing Up The Wall,
and too many more to list x_X
Matt on May 13, 2012:
I think my favorite may be There There. That track just seems to sum up the sinister and emotional vibe of Radiohead. It just seems so...them. I do agree that Let Down is amazing and that is a vvveeerrrryyy close second imo.
whattt on March 31, 2012:
a pretty fair list, but i think a lot of people haven't even heard "talk show host" one of their most mesmerizing and haunting songs , check it out RH fans !
peter on March 25, 2012:
talk show host best song ever
OSULaderer on March 22, 2012:
I agree with the bulk of your ratings and Let Down is definitely my favorite, but I think one that gets over looked far too often is Pearly.
Akash S on March 21, 2012:
nice list but i'd have optimistic subterranean homesick alien electioneering , actualy the whole ok computer album
Daniel on March 19, 2012:
How can you choose a top 10!!! I would have problems doing a top 50!
Rishabh rastogi on January 08, 2012:
you and whose country deserves to be in top 10
Cnstntgrdnr389 on October 24, 2011:
I've got to say that best Radiohead song has to be a tie between Street Spirit (Fade Out) and Lucky. Any list of Radiohead Songs needs to be filled primarily with Kid A tracks though.
danielbatista from Lisbon, Portugal on August 12, 2011:
Reckoner is definitely my favorite, but do a top 10 for me is impossible, so many good songs to choose...However I like your top, it's very good, maybe swap one or two songs.
Christian on May 08, 2011:
Let down is also my favorite one. I don't listen to Radiohead as much as I used to but I still consider this song to be there best one. There was also a moment for me when I 'got' it. The way the song is structured. The build up in the middle... the way the lyrics are repeated ("you know, you know where you are with..."). Listen to it with headphones in the dark.
dude on March 21, 2011:
Let Down is a classic and in my opinion one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Its something how even huge Radiohead fans dont understand how good it is.
BB on February 07, 2011:
yay for Let Down !! My favorite as well....
sim0n30 from Ireland on January 21, 2011:
Great hub, street spirit will always be my favourite, but i love some of their lesser known songs like gagging order, follow me around and true love waits.
Jc on January 11, 2011:
Let Down is prob my fave song as well. I didn't think anyone liked it as much as me what a pleasnt surprise to see it at #1.
Ben on September 29, 2010:
Let sown is one of mine aswell theres just something about it, its amazing I cant figure out why its not as "big" as tracks like karma police and no suprises
Sebastien on September 20, 2010:
Good list. I like how The Bends is well represented. I always seem to go back to that album for some reason. One of my favourites (though maybe not one of the bests) is a song from the Iron Lung EP: The Trickster. Few Radiohead songs have guitar riffs has good as this one.
CJborat on July 25, 2010:
My list would be:
1. Paranoid Android
2. Everything in Its Right Place
3. No Surprises!!!
4. Street Spirit (Fade Out)
6. 2 + 2 = 5
7. Fake Plastic Trees
8. Jigsaw Falling into Place
9. Pyramid Song
ashusmrvl0790 on July 14, 2010:
great list, although i would personally put paranoid android at 2nd or maybe even 1st. the song has an eerie presence that lasts even after the song ends, almost like a spirit.also honorable mention should also have fake plastic trees.its a great song.
Paulina on December 22, 2009:
Listen to 'Wolf at the Door'.
I don't know what it is about this song.. i play it on repeat and it is the highest on my play count list.
it's something magical out of a storybook. the lyrics don't really make a lick of sense but i just love it.
end music for a film is pretty great as well and i love jigsaw falling into place.
Mike on November 08, 2009:
Nice work on the list. Let Down is definitely a great song but definitely not Radiohead's best. This honour goes to either Lucky, Just or Paranoid. Would swap Idioteque for Exit Music.
James on October 27, 2009:
How can you leave out True Love Waits and Nude? Number 1 would definitely be exit music, what a deliciously haunting crescendo of music and lyrics. Long live the greatest band of all time!!!
serene on September 06, 2009:
any radiohead fan should listen to last flowers. its awesome.
Clive Warren on August 14, 2009:
Hmmm, not a single track from HTTT is strange. To me Let Down is the only let down on OK Computer, through a decent list i suppose.
DM on August 07, 2009:
Agree on Let Down. I still remember the first time I "got" Let Down. I had been listening to Radiohead and OK Computer for a while, but one day it just happened. That track is absolutely uplifting and amazing the way it builds and crescendos at the end with Thom and the background singer joining together. Tearful joy. Every time.
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jojo on June 12, 2009:
My top 10 no real order
Pyramid song- beautiful in every way
like spinning plates- something magical about this one
nice dream- I believe him
street spirit- perfect
harrowdown hill (even though it was only thome York)- i love this song
Sail to the moon- makes me want to sail to the moon
2+ 2 = 5- awesome
a wolf at the door- dark and great
Everything in its place- what hooked me to Radiohead
In Rainbows (the entire CD)- the ONLY cd i have ever picked up where I enjoy every single song on it enough to listen to it over and over again.
* this is 11-15,
How to disappear completely deserves to be on this list.
Motion Picture Soundtrack
Exit music for a film
The amazing sounds of orgy.
those are my personal favorites.
Laury on April 27, 2009:
Good taste!! I love Radiohead
hassan on April 10, 2009:
I know you gave it an honourable mention, but pyramid song must be one of the greatest tracks by radiohead, heard it on the radio late at night when i was a kid, didn't know who it at the time but never forgot it. in a way im glad its not as well known as the rest. great list all the same mate.
Ryan Spence on April 05, 2009:
Very Wiseeeee Choices, I'd Put High And Dry First, Myself, But Brilliant List.
mark on March 24, 2009:
definitely agree with you on the whole thing!
yeriel on October 25, 2008:
house of cards really grabbed my attention on that album but i agree jigsaw really does the band justice