We take a look at 10 of the best and most interesting covers of one of history’s greatest bands: Radiohead.
Radiohead is quite the anomaly in the music world. They’re one of the 90s’ most successful, influential, and critically acclaimed rock bands, but unlike almost all of their peers they’ve managed to maintain that acclaim from fans and critics alike through more than three decades of constant reinvention.
They’re a band that strike the perfect balance between the experimental and the proven, pushing the boundaries of rock and pop whilst still creating music that is both accessible and listenable.
With a diverse discography of eight beloved albums (and one Pablo Honey), it’s no surprise that Radiohead’s work has birthed hundreds of fantastic covers from the musicians most inspired and influenced by them.
While it would be very easy to just pick a list of 10 famous people covering Creep, there’s an incredibly diverse world of truly inspired and exciting reimaginings of Radiohead songs out there. Some of the world’s best musicians have blended Radiohead’s music with the sounds of country, classical, jazz, R&B, and reggae to great effect, resulting in a series of incredible covers that any self-respecting fan simply must listen to.
Here then, in no particular order, are the ten Radiohead covers that I deem the most essential.
Lianne La Havas – Weird Fishes
Beginning with the now-iconic stuttering drum beat of Radiohead’s gorgeous track Weird Fishes / Arpeggi before quickly transitioning into a slowed and more grounded groove, Multitalented and multigenre singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas makes it clear from the very start that she’s made this track her own.
La Havas’ cover is nothing short of phenomenal.
Regina Spektor – No Surprises
No one has done justice to Radiohead’s gut-wrenching lullaby for the broken quite like Regina Spektor.
In this cover from 2010, Spektor perfectly captures the fragility and crushing sadness of one of the famously dour band’s gloomiest songs.
Sia – Paranoid Android
Recorded very early in the Australian artist’s now illustrious career. Sia’s interpretation leans heavily into the haunting elements of Ok Computer’s prog-esque epic Paranoid Android.
Stripping the instrumentation back to strings, vocals, and a piano. Sia’s cover is equal parts chilling and magical, and does perfect justice to one of Yorke & co’s most celebrated tracks.
I’m Not A Pilot – Creep
It wouldn’t be a Radiohead covers list without at least one cover of Creep, the track that both made Radiohead the band they are today yet almost destroyed them. One of the most interesting covers of Creep is by a little-known Milwaukee indie rock outfit named I’m Not A Pilot, and it’s my pick of the bunch.
This cover uses the main motif from Bach’s legendary Cello Suite No. 1 as its driving force, transposing the motif up and down the neck of the Cello to follow the chord progression of the alt-rock classic. The result is arguably the most unique entry into the great pantheon of Creep covers.
Phoebe Bridgers and Arlo Parks – Fake Plastic Trees
Phoebe Bridgers, Arlo Parks and Fake Plastic Trees, could there be a combination in this world more perfect?
Recorded for BBC Radio 1’s Piano Sessions, it’s easily one of the most fragile, tender and downright beautiful covers of Fake Plastic Trees the world has ever seen, and we’d expect nothing less from two of modern music’s most celebrated singer-songwriters.
Perhaps YouTube commenter @JGrunds put it best when they said “I’m a 7 month old developing fetus that’s usually focused on absorbing nutrients from amniotic fluid. Not Phoebe’s typical demographic, but wow, this makes me want to be born.”
Echo Collective – Hunting Bears – Like Spinning Plates
A neo-classical take on Radiohead. This cover is taken from an entire Amnesiac cover album by Brussels-based orchestra ensemble Echo Collective. This two-for-one cover is my favourite from the album, as it perfectly captures and amplifies the haunting soundscapes that make the Radiohead’s fifth studio album so impactful.
Beginning with a chilling harp rendition of the free-time guitar jam Hunting Bears, the orchestration moves seamlessly to piano and finally the viola, before the full orchestra springs into life for an instrumental rendition of Like Spinning Plates. It’s a masterclass in orchestration.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Videotape
A modern jazz take on In Rainbows’ iconic closer Videotape. Six-time Grammy nominee and two-time Edison Award-winning jazz trumpeter/composer Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah (formerly Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah) gave us this inspired instrumental take on the Radiohead classic.
Gillian Welch – Black Star
Nashville singer-songwriter Gillian Welch gave Radiohead’s 1995 song Blackstar the Tenessee treatment with this folk-country reimagining of the track back in 2005.
Complete with banjo and vocal harmonies dripping in Southern drawl, it’s a unique and effortlessly catchy cover that has the distinction of being one of the few country music reinterpretations of Radiohead, certainly one of the few that’s truly great.
Easy Star All-Stars – Karma Police
This version of Karma Police is taken from Easy Star All-Stars’ now-famous reggae cover album, Radiodread, and it’s easily the standout cover from the album in my mind.
It’s a version that just feels right, which is perhaps an odd thing to say about a reggae cover of 90’s alt-rock, but that’s a testament to the Easy Star All-Stars’ abilities. With their Karma Police cover, the group manage to perfectly blend the seemingly disparate musical styles.
Thom Yorke – Bloom
I know what you’re thinking, ‘Wait, Thom Yorke is the frontman of Radiohead – can you really count this as a cover?’ yes, because I make the rules.
Thom Yorke’s solo version of Bloom is a complete reimagining of The King of Limbs‘ opening track with stunning results.
The track is stripped back to just ambient loops, a grand piano, and Yorke’s vocals, with the minimalist arrangement letting you really appreciate all the little details of the performance: the dynamic range of the grand piano, the way the ambient looping decays and distorts, the sound of fabric sliding against fabric as Yorke shifts in his seat, and of course all the nuance in Yorke’s vocal performance.
In my mind this is the definitive version of Bloom, and might even be Yorke’s greatest single performance. It’s that special