Creating a list of the best Radiohead songs list can be a daunting task. There’s simply too many good songs to choose from. But with the help of Spotify‘s play data, we can quickly determine the most popular Radiohead songs of all time.
Regardless of whether you’re a die-hard fan, a casual listener, or a newcomer to Radiohead’s music, this list will provide a comprehensive and insightful look into the work of one of the music industry’s most celebrated bands.
Here are the top Radiohead songs listed in order by their number of Spotify plays.
When it comes to listing popular Radiohead songs, “Creep” is usually at the top of the list and often considered one of the best Radiohead songs of all time.
“Creep” was a surprising success for Radiohead since the band had not initially intended to release the song. Instead, producers Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie convinced the band to record it while working on other tracks. Kolderie then persuaded the band’s record label, EMI, to release “Creep” as a single.
Although it did not immediately take off, the song gained momentum on American alternative rock radio and received significant airplay in Israel. In 1993, the song was reissued and eventually became a worldwide hit. “Creep” spent 20 weeks on the US Billboard Top 100 charts in 1993.
Even today, “Creep” still manages to resonate with listeners and continues to be a favorite among both longtime fans and new listeners alike. Fans have likened “Creep” to other alt-rock “slacker anthems” of the time, including Nirvana‘s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Beck‘s “Loser“.
While Radiohead went on to achieve greater commercial and critical success after their 1992 album Pablo Honey, “Creep” remains their most successful single to date. The song’s enduring popularity has earned it high praise from music publications, including Rolling Stone, which named it one of the greatest debut singles and one of the greatest songs of all time.
“Creep” is currently the only Radiohead song to have over 1 billion plays on Spotify. No other Radiohead sone comes anywhere close.
No Surprises (1997)
Thom Yorke wrote “No Surprises” while Radiohead were on tour with R.E.M. in 1995. The song played an important role is defining the sound for the band’s landmark album, OK Computer. Yorke credits the song’s “childlike guitar sound” with setting the tone for the rest of the album, and says that the band was also inspired by the melancholic mood of the Beach Boys‘ classic 1966 album, Pet Sounds.
Karma Police (1997)
The origins of the title lyric of “Karma Police” are from a Radiohead inside joke. The band members would threaten to call the “karma police” if someone did something bad.
However, lead singer Thom Yorke revealed that the song’s lyrics are actually about stress and the feeling of being under surveillance. Yorke explained that the song is for people who work in large companies and are constantly being watched and judged by their superiors. He added that the song is a critique of bosses and “middle management”.
The line “He buzzes like a fridge / He’s like a detuned radio” refers to the distracting background noise of everyday modern life, a recurring theme on Radiohead’s album OK Computer.
High And Dry (1995)
Even though “High And Dry” is one of the most popular Radiohead songs of all time, it almost wasn’t released.
Thom Yorke, wrote and performed an early version of “High and Dry” with his band Headless Chickens while he was still a student at the University of Exeter in the late 1980s. According to Yorke, the lyrics were about “some loony girl I was going out with”, but became “mixed up with ideas about success and failure”.
In 1993, Radiohead recorded a demo version with their live engineer, Jim Warren, but dismissed it as “too Rod Stewart“. A couple years later, the demo for “High And Dry” was rediscovered and remastered for inclusion on their second album, The Bends (1995). In 2006, Yorke said that Radiohead’s record label, EMI, had pressured him to release it and that it was a “very bad” song. But according to Radiohead fans on Spotify, they love the song. “High And Dry” has been streamed over 300 million times.
Fake Plastic Trees (1995)
When “Fake Plastic Trees” was released in 1995, it received critical acclaim from music critics and quickly became one of the most popular Radiohead songs with their fans.
The music video for “Fake Plastic Trees” features Yorke singing in a futuristic supermarket surrounded by colorful plastic bottles of food. It quickly became a favorite on MTV and helped to boost the song’s popularity.
“Fake Plastic Trees” is a still a very popular Radiohead song and is streamed over 120,000 times per day on Spotify.
Paranoid Android (1997)
Released in 1997 as part of the album OK Computer, “Paranoid Android” is often considered one of the best Radiohead songs ever. The song is over six minutes long and consists of four distinct sections that are full of sudden twists and turns, much like the character it was named after (the android in Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series).
Despite its length and complexity, the song remains a fan favorite and a staple of Radiohead’s live shows. It’s a testament to the band’s skill as musicians and their willingness to experiment and push the boundaries of what a rock song can be.
The animated music video for “Paranoid Android” was directed by Magnus Carlsson and quickly gained popularity thanks to its striking visuals and haunting imagery. The video received extensive airplay on MTV, with the exception of censored portions that contained nudity when aired in the United States. Despite the censorship, the video was widely praised for its artistry and originality, and it earned numerous accolades, including a Grammy nomination for Best Short Form Music Video.
Decades after its release, “Paranoid Android” is still one of the top Radiohead songs and is streamed over 90,000 times per day by fans.
Exit Music (For a Film) (1997)
During Radiohead’s 1996 American tour with Alanis Morissette, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann commissioned Radiohead to write a song for his upcoming film Romeo + Juliet. For inspiration, Luhrmann gave the band the final 30 minutes of the film. According to Yorke, after the band “saw the scene in which Claire Danes holds the Colt .45 against her head,” they immediately started working on a new song” titled “Exit Music (For a Film)”.
Although the song plays over Romeo + Juliet‘s ending credits, the band requested that it be excluded from the movie’s soundtrack album. Instead, fans had to buy Radiohead’s 1997 OK Computer to hear the song.
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi (2007)
The meaning of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” is open to interpretation, as with many Radiohead songs. However, songwriter Thom Yorke has given some insight into the song’s inspiration and meaning. In an interview with The Believer magazine, Yorke explained that the song was inspired by a book he had read called “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. The book’s central idea is about being present in the moment, and Yorke said that the lyrics of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” were an attempt to express that idea in a song.
Musically, the song features a prominent arpeggiated guitar riff that gives it a dreamlike, ethereal quality. The “weird fishes” of the title may refer to the strange and unknown creatures that live in the depths of the ocean, which Yorke has said he finds fascinating. Overall, “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” is a complex and enigmatic song with Thom Yorke’s vocals soaring over Jonny Greenwood’s intricate guitar arpeggios.
On a personal note, I think “Weird Fishes” is the best Radiohead song ever written. Honestly, everything on In Rainbows is brilliant, but I could listen to “Weird Fishes” on an endless loop.
Everything In Its Right Place (2000)
The stress caused Thom Yorke to experience a mental breakdown, which resulted in writer’s block and disillusionment with rock music. Yorke turned to electronic music, particularly the works of Aphex Twin for inspiration. The led him to experiment with new sounds and textures for Radiohead’s next album, Kid A (2000), and songs like “Everything In Its Right Place”.
The lyrics for “Just” describe a tense confrontation between two people, with the narrator pleading with the other person to explain what they’ve done wrong. Some have interpreted the song as a commentary on political corruption, while others have suggested that it’s about the breakdown of a romantic relationship.
In an interview, Thom Yorke has said that the song is about “the inability to communicate” and the frustration that comes from feeling like you’re not being heard or understood.
Mainly written Radiohead’s lead guitarist, Jonny Greenwood, the song was also an experiment by Greenwood to fit as many chords as possible into one song.
It took Radiohead a decade to create the final version of the song “Nude”. The band first tried recording a version of “Nude” for their 1997 album, OK Computer. Unsatisfied with the results, they decided to scrap the recordings and exclude it from the album.
Over the next decade, they performed different versions of the song in concert. It wasn’t until the recording sessions for In Rainbows (2007), that the band finally got it right. The decided to rearrange the song around the bassline written by Colin Greenwood. This ultimately gave the song the structure it needed for the band to include it on a studio album.
Jigsaw Falling Into Place
The lyrics of Radiohead’s “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” detail a wild night of drinking and the feeling of disorientation and confusion. The song’s protagonist tries to hold on to the moment before it slips away and gets “lost between the notes.”
In an interview with The Telegraph, co-director Adam Buxton confirmed that the song was about “being out on the town on a lairy Saturday night.” (Lairy is English slang for rowdy.)
The music video was famously shot with just two takes using helmet cameras on each band member. It’s just another example of Radiohead’s willingness to experiment with their art.
Even though it has less total Spotify streams than other popular tracks from In Rainbows, “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” is growing in popularity and has the most daily Spotify streams than any other song from the album.
Street Spirit (Fade Out) (1995)
According to Thom Yorke, “Street Spirit” was inspired by both the band R.E.M. and the 1991 novel The Famished Road by Ben Okri.
The music video for “Street Spirit” was filmed over two nights in a desert outside Los Angeles and features a black and white cinematography that emphasizes the bleakness of the song’s message. Directed by Jonathan Glazer, who described it as a “turning point” for his work, the video has become quite memorable. Glazer felt that Radiohead had “found their own voices as an artist” and that the video gave him confidence that he could create works that “emoted” and had “poetic as well as prosaic value”.
Let Down (1997)
Radiohead has had an interesting relationship with their song “Let Down.” Despite being a fan favorite, the band rarely performs the track live. Between 2006 and 2016, it was excluded from their set lists.
The multi-track recording methods used on the album version of the song made it difficult to perform live, especially the vocals. When the band did perform it live, Thom Yorke typically skips the final verse and sings the accompanying background vocals instead.
However, the song did make a comeback during Radiohead’s 2016 tour supporting their album A Moon Shaped Pool. The band performed the song in its entirety, and it was met with positive reactions from fans. It remains to be seen whether “Let Down” will become a regular part of Radiohead’s live setlist, but it is clear that the song is still important to both the band and their fans.
All I Need (2007)
Radiohead and MTV produced a music video for the song “All I Need” to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery. The video depicts the lives of two children from opposite sides of the world. One boy is from an affluent Western country, while the other is from a developing country and is forced to work in a sweatshop that produces shoes for the Western boy. The video is split-screen, showing the stark contrast between the two boys’ lives.
The video was a critical and commercial success, winning 16 awards, including the UNICEF–CASBAA Asia-Pacific Child Rights Award, the Bronze ANDY for Film at the International Andy Awards, the In Book for Music Video at the 2009 D&AD Awards, and the Bronze Lion for Film at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Burn The Witch (2016)
Radiohead first started working on the song “Burn The Witch” during the recording sessions for their fourth album, Kid A (2000). They didn’t complete the song until ~15-years later when it was and included on the album A Moon Shaped Pool (2016).
Although taking multiple years to complete a song isn’t unusual for Radiohead, “Burn The Witch” was definitely one of their longer creative efforts. In 2013, Radiohead’s producer Nigel Godrich was asked Radiohead’s other unreleased songs, and responded, “Everything will surface one day… it all exists… and so it will eventually get there, I’m sure.”
How to Disappear Completely (2000)
“How to Disappear Completely” is a standout track from the band’s fourth studio album, Kid A (2000). The inspiration for the song comes from both Doug Richmond’s 1985 book “How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found” and a phone conversation between Thom Yorke and R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe. The chorus, “I’m not here / This isn’t happening” is a trick from Stipe on how to deal with his stress from touring. Stipe told Yorke to repeat the phrase, “I’m not here, this isn’t happening” to himself.
House Of Cards (2007)
Radiohead’s music video for “House of Cards” is a unique and impressive work of art. Unlike traditional music videos, it was created without the use of cameras or lights. Instead, 3D plotting technologies were used to collect data on the shapes and relative distances of objects.
The video was then created entirely using visualizations of that data, resulting in a stunning and surreal visual experience that perfectly complements the song’s haunting melody. The music video was directed by James Frost.
“Daydreaming” is a pivotal song for Radiohead because it helped shape the sound of their ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool (2016).
The band wrote the song around a jam session by Jonny Greenwood on piano. Thom Yorke described it as a “breakthrough”, and during the recording session for the cello section, he said, “That’s it – that is the sound of the record.”
The first song on the album In Rainbows, “15 Step,” has a handclap rhythm that was inspired by the song “F**k the Pain Away” by Peaches. Radiohead also recorded cheers from a group of children from the Matrix Music School & Arts Centre in Oxford to add to the song.
Pyramid Song (2001)
“Pyramid Song” was inspired by the song “Freedom” by jazz musician Charles Mingus. The lyrics were inspired by an exhibition of ancient Egyptian underworld art that Yorke attended while Radiohead were recording in Copenhagen, and ideas of cyclical time found in Buddhism and discussed by Stephen Hawking.
“Airbag” is the opening track on Radiohead’s 1997 album OK Computer. The lyrics of the song are about a car accident, and singer Thom Yorke’s subsequent feeling of being reborn after being saved by an airbag.
Radiohead’s “Idioteque” was a critical and commercial success. Completely void of any guitar chords, the song was developed while the band was experimenting with modular synthesizers and sampling for their 2000 album Kid A. Pitchfork named it one of the best songs of the decade, and Rolling Stone ranked it number 48 on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
Lotus Flower (2011)
“Lotus Flower” was not released as a commercial single, but it still managed to enter several music charts, including the UK Singles Chart, the US Alternative Songs chart, and the Billboard Japan Hot 100. “Lotus Flower” is a great song, but the viral popularity of its music video likely contributed to the song’s breakthrough success.
Featuring Thom Yorke erratically dancing alone in a warehouse, the music video for “Lotus Flower” was an instant hit with fans, who praised Yorke’s energy. But then the Internet did its thing with the footage. Yorke’s dance moves quickly became an Internet meme, with fans editing countless mash-ups of Yorke dancing to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” or even auditioning for “Black Swan”.
A double-edged-sword, these mashups were both tributes and critiques of the music video. Many people had difficulty believing that York’s spastic dance moves were choreographed at all. The video’s dance choreographer, Wayne McGregor, even had to go on the defensive against critics doing interviews defending himself.
But with over 70 million views, “Lotus Flower” is still one of Radiohead’s most popular music videos on YouTube. In fact, “Lotus Flower” has more YouTube views than some of the band’s bigger hit songs, like “Fake Plastic Trees”.
The Most Popular Songs By Radiohead On Spotify
Radiohead has been making incredible music for several decades and have a vast discography of great songs. This short list of Radiohead’s most popular songs on Spotify was curated in May 2023. It is important to note that this list is not definitive and may change over time, as Radiohead is a constantly evolving band and their popularity continues to grow.
|#||Song Title||Total Streams||Daily Streams|
|2||No Surprises – Remastered||426,633,863||530,401|
|3||Karma Police – Remastered||403,331,869||214,141|
|4||High and Dry||311,008,071||212,594|
|5||Fake Plastic Trees||231,157,047||124,170|
|6||Paranoid Android – Remastered||175,037,294||95,049|
|7||Exit Music (For A Film) – Remastered||160,250,311||137,277|
|8||Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi||134,250,472||134,212|
|9||Everything In Its Right Place||107,598,589||54,916|
|12||Jigsaw Falling Into Place||93,896,964||159,381|
|13||Street Spirit (Fade Out)||86,201,907||64,903|
|14||Let Down – Remastered||79,620,151||61,790|
|15||All I Need||78,230,500||92,746|
|16||Burn the Witch||75,915,794||17,487|
|17||How to Disappear Completely||74,400,204||70,615|
|19||House Of Cards||67,927,946||48,891|
|23||Airbag – Remastered||56,140,276||28,824|
Missing from this list are some of the band’s most notable tracks like “The National Anthem”, “Decks Dark”, “There, There”, “Black Star”, “Codex” and many more. You can checkout a list of the top 200 most popular Radiohead songs on Spotify here.
As new songs are released and old songs are rediscovered, it is likely that this list will change. However, this list provides a good starting point for anyone who is interested in learning more about Radiohead and their music.
What are some of your favorite Radiohead songs? Please let us know in the comments.
Frank Wilson is a retired teacher with over 30 years of combined experience in the education, small business technology, and real estate business. He now blogs as a hobby and spends most days tinkering with old computers. Wilson is passionate about tech, enjoys fishing, and loves drinking beer.