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True Love Waits (song)

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"True Love Waits"
Song by Radiohead
from the album I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings and A Moon Shaped Pool
Released 12 November 2001 (I Might Be Wrong)
8 May 2016 (A Moon Shaped Pool)
Length 5:02 (I Might Be Wrong)
4:43 (A Moon Shaped Pool)
Label Parlophone, Capitol (I Might Be Wrong)
XL (A Moon Shaped Pool)
Songwriter(s) Radiohead
Producer(s) Nigel Godrich (A Moon Shaped Pool)

"True Love Waits" is a song by the English alternative rock band Radiohead. Its lyrics address love, ageing, and abandonment. Radiohead first performed "True Love Waits" in 1995, and singer Thom Yorke performed it alone on acoustic guitar or Rhodes piano numerous times in the following years. The band and producer Nigel Godrich attempted to record it for the albums OK Computer (1997), Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001), but could not settle on an arrangement, and it became one of their best-known unreleased songs.

A live recording of "True Love Waits" from the Amnesiac tour was released on I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (2001). In 2016, a studio version was finally released as the closing track on Radiohead's ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool, rearranged as a minimal piano ballad. Both versions of the song received positive reviews; several critics felt the long wait made the studio version more powerful. Though it was not released as a single, "True Love Waits" entered the French SNEP and US Billboard Hot Rock Songs singles charts.


Yorke at the 2009 Latitude Festival, where he performed "True Love Waits" solo on acoustic guitar

Radiohead first performed "True Love Waits" in December 1995 in Brussels while touring for their second album, The Bends.[1] The arrangement saw singer Thom Yorke on acoustic guitar accompanied by an "airy" keyboard melody.[2] It was performed again several times in the following years, becoming a fan favourite and one of Radiohead's best-known unreleased songs.[3][4]

Radiohead recorded a version of "True Love Waits" for their third album, OK Computer (1997), but discarded it.[2] They worked on it again during the joint sessions for Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001). During this time, guitarist Ed O'Brien kept an online diary of the band's progress, and wrote in January 2000: "['True Love Waits'] has been kicking around for about four years now and each time we approached it we seemed to be going down the same old paths. It actually sounds like the start of something exciting now."[2] One month later, he wrote: "This is something like approach number 561 but it is a great song. It's simply trying to find a way of doing it which excites us. And we may have found a way, at the very least we've found a new approach … It may of course be utter crap and we have so lost the plot on this song. Please don't let that be the case."[2] The band failed to settle on an arrangement and the song remained unreleased.[2]

In a 2001 BBC Radio 1 interview, Radiohead spoke of their continuing enthusiasm for the song and desire to find an arrangement beyond "just acoustic guitar". Their efforts led to new material, such as the electronic track "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" on Amnesiac, which uses elements of a version of "True Love Waits" recorded in the OK Computer sessions.[5]

Yorke performed "True Love Waits" solo several times on acoustic guitar during Radiohead's 2001 Amnesiac tour; a recording of one performance is included on I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (2001).[2] He performed it six more times in 2003.[2] From 2006, he began performing a slower version of the song on Rhodes piano as an introduction to performances of "Everything in its Right Place", with guitarist Jonny Greenwood sampling and manipulating his vocals live.[1] Yorke performed "True Love Waits" on acoustic guitar again on several occasions, including his solo performances at the 2009 Latitude Festival[2] and the Cambridge Corn Exchange in 2010.[6]

In 2012, longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich said of the song: "We tried to record it countless times, but it never worked. The irony is you have that shitty live version [on I Might Be Wrong]. To Thom's credit, he needs to feel a song has validation, that it has a reason to exist as a recording. We could do 'True Love Waits' and make it sound like John Mayer. Nobody wants to do that."[7] In 2016, more than 20 years after it was written, "True Love Waits" was finally released as the last track on Radiohead's ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool, in a minimal piano arrangement.[8]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

A clip of the acoustic version of the song, released on I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (2001)

The live version of "True Love Waits" released on I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings has Yorke performing the song alone on acoustic guitar.[2] According to Pitchfork, it features unexpected chord changes[9] and "vehement" guitar strumming.[10] The Phoenix New Times likened the "earnest" and "simple" arrangement to Radiohead songs written in the same era, such as "Fake Plastic Trees" and "Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was", both from The Bends.[1]

A clip of the studio version, released on A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

The studio version of the song, released as the final track on A Moon Shaped Pool, features no guitar; instead, it is built around a minimal, four-note piano figure, over which pianos are gradually overdubbed,[8] creating polyrhythmic loops and textures.[10] Bass enters in the second verse.[1] Chart Attack described it as "slow and melancholy" and in the tradition of Radiohead album closers such as "Videotape" from In Rainbows (2007).[11]

According to Yorke, the first verse — "I'll drown my beliefs / To have your babies / I'll dress like your niece / And wash your swollen feet" — addresses the "difference between young and old", when people grow out of childish behaviour; the narrator is offering not to grow up to keep someone they love.[2] The lines "And true love lives / On lollipops and crisps" were inspired by a story Yorke read about a child who was left alone by his parents for days and survived by eating junk food.[2] The song features a "pleading" refrain: "Don't leave, don't leave."[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Reviewing I Might Be Wrong in 2001, Matt LeMay of Pitchfork wrote that "True Love Waits" is "absolutely gorgeous ... it can hold its own against any song on OK Computer." He felt that the song, along with the performance of "Like Spinning Plates", "justified the existence" of the EP.[9] Ted Kessler of the NME praised Yorke's vocals as "clear and true".[12] Nicholas Taylor of PopMatters praised the song as "a bittersweet victory of love" which "shows that behind all of Radiohead's modernist nightmares is a fragile, desperate desire to connect, fully and meaningfully, with just one person."[13]

Reviews for the studio version, released on A Moon Shaped Pool, were also mostly positive. Rolling Stone[14] and Arizona Republic[15] named "True Love Waits" the best song of May 2016; Arizona Republic critic Ed Masley wrote that the new arrangement "heightens the sense of desperate yearning in Yorke's vocal as he begs his lover not to leave."[15] Pitchfork named it the week's best new track, with critic Jillian Mapes writing: "You don't throw true love away. You don't walk out. People who mean this much to each other wait it out, they fight. We should be grateful that Yorke did the same with 'True Love Waits'."[10] In December 2016, Pitchfork placed the song #9 in its list of the best songs of the year; critic Nathan Reese wrote: "'True Love Waits' is an elegiac coda to one of Radiohead's most inward-facing albums and a fitting treatment to a song that many already considered a classic. The wait was worth it."[16]

Though Quietus critic Mike Diver was critical of the rest of A Moon Shaped Pool, he praised "True Love Waits" as Radiohead's most affecting song since their 2008 single "Nude".[17] Steve Jozef of the Phoenix New Times felt the new arrangement captured the best elements of Yorke's acoustic and Rhodes piano performances, saving it from sentimentality, and was "the most straightforward, unpretentious, and emotionally raw composition on the album."[1] GQ critic Jake Woolf, however, wrote that the studio version was "a disappointment", with "mushy piano that weighs the song down emotionally ... the guitar version had a brightness that the studio version lacks."[4]

Several critics felt that having waited years for a studio version of the song made it more powerful. Mapes wrote of the "sense that an older, wiser man" was singing, and that the lyrics were more heartfelt "now that he seems resigned to haunting the afterlife".[10] Nina Corcoran of Consequence of Sound wrote that the long wait "allowed Radiohead to peel its words when riper than ever."[18] Phoenix New Times writer Jozef speculated that the studio version was influenced by Yorke's recent separation from his partner of almost 25 years, Rachel Owen; whereas the early arrangement, likely written shortly after Yorke met Owen, has a "hopeful, proud character", the Moon Shaped Pool version sounds "resigned, isolated, lost".[1] Rolling Stone critic Andy Beta wrote that "the effect is like stumbling upon an old love letter years after a relationship has grown cold", and that whereas the "Don't leave" refrain once suggested redemption, it now sounded like a goodbye.[14]


Chart (2002) Peak
France (SNEP)[19] 181
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[20] 43





  1. ^ a b c d e f Jozef, Steve (12 May 2016). "Did A Broken Heart Lead Radiohead's Thom Yorke to Finally Record "True Love Waits"?". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Reilly, Dan (10 May 2016). "The 21-Year History of Radiohead's 'True Love Waits,' a Fan Favorite Two Decades in the Making". Vulture. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  3. ^ Letts, p.174.
  4. ^ a b Woolf, Jake (9 May 2016). "Did Radiohead Just Ruin Its Fans' Favorite Song?". GQ. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  5. ^ Lamacq, Steve (29 May 2001). "BBC Radio 1 Evening Session". BBC (Interview). Interview with Steve Lamacq. 
  6. ^ Green, Toby (2 March 2010). "Thom Yorke, Corn Exchange, Cambridge". The Independent. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  7. ^ Fricke, David (26 April 2012). "Radiohead Reconnect". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c Pareles, Jon (8 May 2016). "Review: In Radiohead's 'A Moon Shaped Pool,' Patient Perfectionism". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  9. ^ a b LeMay, Matt (17 December 2001). "Radiohead: I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings". Pitchfork. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d Mapes, Jillian (9 May 2016). ""True Love Waits" by Radiohead Review | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  11. ^ Trapunski, Richard (9 May 2016). "The long history of Radiohead's "True Love Waits"". Chart Attack. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  12. ^ Ted Kessler (6 November 2001). "Radiohead: I Might Be Wrong". NME. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Nicholas Taylor (13 November 2001). "Radiohead I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings". PopMatters. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  14. ^ a b "Radiohead's 'A Moon Shaped Pool' Album Is a Haunting, Stunning Triumph". Rolling Stone. 2016-05-08. Retrieved 2016-05-11. 
  15. ^ a b Masley, Ed (7 June 2016). "Best May singles: Radiohead, Ty Segall, Justin Timberlake, Speedy Ortiz, the Kills, Rihanna, Drake". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  16. ^ "The 100 Best Songs of 2016 - Page 10 | Pitchfork". Retrieved 2016-12-12. 
  17. ^ Diver, Mike (13 May 2016). "Reviews: Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool". The Quietus. Retrieved 14 September 2016. 
  18. ^ Corcoran, Nina (11 May 2016). "Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  19. ^ " – Radiohead – True Love Waits" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  20. ^ "Radiohead Chart History (Hot Rock Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  21. ^ I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (booklet). Radiohead. 2001. 
  22. ^ a b c d "Hear Radiohead's New Album "A Moon Shaped Pool" at 11 pm tonight on the FTW New Music Show". 91X FM. 8 May 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 

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