Feb 222011
Authors: Matt Miller

Every girl I have ever gone on a date with has been submitted to a simple test.

It is highly scientific and aimed at finding the answers to two important questions.

The questions are A) do you like sushi, and B) do you like Radiohead.

I do this simple survey discreetly of course. I don’t hand them a Scantron or force them to bring an iClicker.

The first question can be answered by taking the subject to a sushi restaurant, and the second question can be answered by either working Radiohead into my charming small talk or simply playing Radiohead and judging the reaction.

The reason for this test is that I cannot imagine spending an extended amount of time with someone who I couldn’t casually chat with about the joys of spicy tuna, eel and Radiohead.

This doesn’t make me a music snob, an elitist or even picky when it comes to women. I have had such a deep connection to this band that, in a way, not liking Radiohead is not liking me.

I have recently been asked what band I would define as the music of our generation. This is a question that cannot be answered. We live in a world where music can be distributed so freely that it is impossible to put a broad label on our music ADD, iPod-inflicted tastes.

But if I were asked: What band has changed music production, marketing and recording, defied corporations, defied genre and broken out of the shell of what is considered popular music –– I would say Radiohead.

In 1985 in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, the band On a Friday formed consisting of Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway. After signing to the record label EMI in 1991 the band changed its name to Radiohead, paying tribute to a song by the Talking Heads.

The band, which was first marketed toward a “Beavis and Butt-head” generation faced initially scathing reviews and distaste by both music fans and critics. Then, Radiohead did what makes the band still so successful today after 20 years –– they evolved. In the years that I was growing from a newborn to a teenager, Radiohead was doing the same thing.

I first heard their debut single “Creep” 14 years late. I was 15 –– a pudgy, slightly nerdy sophomore in high school, and the song changed how I could connect with music. They were telling me that everything was okay, I’m not alone and that the hormones, the angst and the anger were all normal.

When I was in elementary school they were getting their first taste of critical acclaim with the album “OK Computer;” when I was just a month into middle school they took a leap into an electronic sound with “Kid A;” when I was a rebellious teenager they were protesting the government with “Hail to the Thief.”

I was in my senior year of high school, mature (well as much as I could be) and about to break free from my parents when Radiohead broke away from their record label and released “In Rainbows” on their own.

Then, a week ago on my 21st birthday, Radiohead announced they were releasing their latest album later that week. And on Feb. 18, when I was listening to “The King of Limbs,” I wondered what stage of my life was coming next.

In those 20 years, the band has created a legacy. They reached commercial success in ways the music industry would never approve. They defy the status quo and constantly challenge us to wonder what could happen next with music. On “Kid A,” they amazed critics and audiences with an electronic album that ripped apart normal song construction.

With “In Rainbows,” they truly showed their defiance of popular music and the music industry by cutting ties with their record label and releasing the album for free online. It was a move that shocked the business and proved that they could push the limits of music not only to the edge, but over the cliff.

Thom Yorke once defended his trademark murky attitude by saying, “It’s just that I’m surrounded by a world of grinning idiots, and I don’t think I want to be another one.”

I may be a grinning idiot for Radiohead. But I like to think I’m grinning for the right reasons.

Entertainment Editor Matt Miller is a junior journalism major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to verve@collegian.com.

Check these out

  • Radiohead “The King of Limbs”: It came out on Feb. 18, this column is about it, get it.
  • The 83rd Academy Awards: They’re on Feb. 27 and a big deal, kind of.
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