Arts & Entertainment

Here's a graph showing Radiohead songs according to sadness level

"Paranoid Android" lands somewhere in the middle.
IMAGE Esquire

I know what you're thinking: Every Radiohead song is sad. Well you're wrong! Data scientist Charlie Thompson has mapped out every Radiohead song by how sad each song sounds (and how sad the lyrics are) to show which tracks were more depressing than others. As he wrote:

While valence serves as an out-of-the box measure of musical sentiment, the emotions behind song lyrics are much more elusive. To find the most depressing song, I used sentiment analysis to pick out words associated with sadness. Specifically, I used tidytext and the NRC lexicon, based on a crowd-sourced project by the National Research Council Canada. This lexicon contains an array of emotions (sadness, joy, anger, surprise, etc.) and the words determined to most likely elicit them.

What he discovered: "True Love Waits" is Radiohead's saddest song. It's the closing number on Radiohead's saddest album, A Moon Shaped Pool, which was recorded in the fallout of Thom Yorke's split from his partner after 23 years. It is unsurprisingly Radiohead's saddest work to date, but like everything the band produces, it's challenging and beautiful. (To give you an idea of how depressing A Moon Shaped Pool actually is, the happiest song on the album, "Burn the Witch," includes the lyrics "Stay in the shadows / Cheer at the gallows / This is a round up.")

So, what about the happiest? Science says "15 Step," the opening track from In Rainbows, is Radiohead's most cheerful song. Which, I guess in musical terms, it's pretty happy; it's got hand claps and cheering kids and an upbeat B-major key. Just don't think about the lyrics ("You used to be alright / What happened?").

So what can we ultimately learn from science? Radiohead is at their best when they're sad—which is always.


This story originally appeared on


* Minor edits have been made by the editors

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Matt Miller
Matt Miller is the Associate Culture Editor for
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