Radiohead_LEAD

Analytics Specialist/Blogger ‘RCharlie’s header for his “fitteR happieR” Radiohead experiment; Photo: rcharlie.com


Radiohead are well known for having bleak, despairing and sometimes absolutely heart-rending songs. Playing their music usually casts a dim atmosphere around the room and unless they’re pretty big fans — people will usually request happier music.

The problem of being asked to turn off Radiohead’s music because it was too sad was something that caught the eye of data scientist Charlie Thompson, who says that the UK alt-rock group is his favorite band. He writes on his blog that, “Much of Radiohead’s music is undeniably sad, and this post catalogs my journey to quantify that sadness, concluding in a data-driven determination of their most depressing song.”

Sounds like a noble pursuit into the black void of sadness — well, kind of.

What Thompson ended up doing was writing a computer program in the language ‘R’, which takes advantage of available meta-information about song tracks and analyze that. The two metrics he found most useful were Spotify’s measure of valence which somehow (there’s not really an explanation) measures how sad or happy a song sounds. He then merged these statistics with a look at the lyrical density of sad words in the lyrics to come to his conclusions.

He graphed every song the band has released, all the way back to Pablo Honey to A Moon Shaped Pool, in a tidy, explorable chart to show the range of sadness between albums.

So what is the saddest Radiohead song of all time?

Thompson determined that the award goes to “True Love Waits,” the finale of the band’s latest album A Moon Shaped Pool which clocks in with a gloom index of ‘1.’ Do you agree? Here are a snippet from the lyrics:

I’m not living
I’m just killing time
Your tiny hands
Your crazy-kitten smile

Just don’t leave

Don’t leave

Listen to the song below and read Songlyrics.com’s Riff’d on A Moon Shaped Pool.