|Single by Radiohead|
|from the album OK Computer|
|Released||25 August 1997|
|Radiohead singles chronology|
"Karma Police" is a song by the English alternative rock band Radiohead, released as the second single from their third album OK Computer (1997) on 25 August 1997. The song charted at number 8 on the UK Singles Chart and at 14 on the US Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. It was included on the Radiohead: The Best Of (2008).
"Karma Police" is in a 4/4 time signature and played in standard tuning. The first half of the song is in the key of G major. The second half (starting with the line "For a minute there") is in B minor. Acoustic guitar and piano are the most prominent instruments in the song. During the second section, an analog synthesizer imitating a choir is featured.
The song progresses from the intro into a mid-tempo section which alternates between two verses. The first verse begins with the line "Karma police", and the other begins with the line "This is what you'll get". After this section cycles through twice, the song switches into a second section which is based around the line "For a minute there, I lost myself". During this section of the song, Yorke's voice is put through an echo effect and a sliding melodic figure serves as a counterpoint to his vocals.
In the last minute of the song, Ed O'Brien plays a few guitar notes that are distorted by overloading an AMS rackmount digital delay unit. The song ends with the distorted notes 'melting' as he turns the delay rate knob down to a low frequency. "Karma Police", like several other songs that would make up OK Computer, was debuted live in 1996, when the band briefly supported Alanis Morissette on tour.
The title lyric originates from an in-joke; the Radiohead band members would threaten to call the "karma police" if they did something bad. Yorke explained that the song was about stress and "having people looking at you in that certain [malicious] way". In 2006, he explained to The Independent: "It's for someone who has to work for a large company. This is a song against bosses. Fuck the middle management!"
Yorke and Jonny Greenwood emphasised in interviews that the song was humorous. Yorke said: "[It's] not entirely serious. I hope people will realise that." The line "He buzzes like a fridge / He's like a detuned radio" refers to distracting, metaphorical background noise that Yorke calls "fridge buzz", one of the primary themes of OK Computer. "Karma Police" also shares themes of insanity and dissatisfaction with capitalism.
Release and reception
"Karma Police" was released as the second single from OK Computer on 25 August 1997. The single was released in two versions. The single peaked at number eight on the UK Singles Chart. In late March 2010, almost thirteen years after its initial single release, the song went to number fifteen on the Danish Singles Chart. In a song review, AllMusic referred to Karma Police as "haunting, mystifying, and exquisite", labelling it "one of the cornerstones of one of the greatest albums of the '90s."
The music video for the song was directed by Jonathan Glazer, previously responsible for Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" clip. The video was premiered in August 1997 and featured Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke as well as Hungarian actor Lajos Kovács. Glazer won MTV's Director of the Year award in 1997 for his work on this, as well as Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity". Despite this Glazer said he considers the video to be a failed attempt. According to MTV.com, Glazer had pitched the concept of the "Karma Police" video months earlier to Marilyn Manson, who disliked it.. In an interview with The Culture Show, Yorke stated that the music video was his favorite, because he was so "pissed" in the production of the video. 
The video is shot from the perspective of the driver of a car pursuing a man along a dark road. Yorke sits in the back seat. The man falls to his knees and the car reverses, revealing that it is leaking fuel. The man produces matches from his pocket and ignites the trail of fuel. Yorke vanishes and the car is engulfed in flames.
- Thom Yorke – lead vocals, acoustic guitar
- Jonny Greenwood – piano, mellotron, analogue synthesizer
- Colin Greenwood – bass
- Ed O'Brien – electric guitar, backing vocals
- Phil Selway – drums
Charts and certifications
- CD1 (CDODATAS03)
- "Karma Police" – 4:23
- "Meeting in the Aisle" – 3:08
- "Lull" – 2:28
- CD2 (CDNODATA03)
- "Karma Police" – 4:23
- "Climbing Up the Walls" (Zero 7 Mix) – 5:19
- "Climbing Up the Walls" (Fila Brazillia Mix) – 6:24
- Griffiths, 2004. p. 92.
- Footman, 2007. p. 79
- Griffiths, 2004. p. 61
- Randall, 2000. p. 209.
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- Randall 2000, p. 224
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- Randall 2000, p. 223
- Footman 2007, p. 140
- Footman 2007, pp. 144–147
- Randall 2000, p. 248
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- "Canadian single certifications – Drake – Fake Love". Music Canada. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
- "Italian single certifications – Radiohead – Karma Police" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
- "British single certifications – Radiohead – Karma Police". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 9, 2017. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Enter Karma Police in the search field and then press Enter.
- Footman, Tim (2007). Welcome to the Machine: OK Computer and the Death of the Classic Album. Chrome Dreams. ISBN 0-634-04619-5.
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- Osborn, Brad (2013). "Subverting the Verse–Chorus Paradigm: Terminally Climactic Form in Recent Rock Music." Music Theory Spectrum 35, no. 1, pp. 23–47.
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