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True Love Waits (song)

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"True Love Waits"
Song by Radiohead
from the album A Moon Shaped Pool
Released8 May 2016
Producer(s)Nigel Godrich

"True Love Waits" is a song by the English alternative rock band Radiohead. Radiohead first performed it in 1995, and singer Thom Yorke performed it solo on acoustic guitar or Rhodes piano in the following years. The band and producer Nigel Godrich attempted to record the song 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 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 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] In this arrangement, singer Thom Yorke performed on acoustic guitar accompanied by an "airy" keyboard melody.[2] He performed the song unaccompanied several times in the following years; it became 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),[2] hoping to find an arrangement beyond "just acoustic guitar".[5] Guitarist Ed O'Brien kept an online diary of the band's progress, and wrote in January 2000:[2]

["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.

One month later, he wrote:[2]

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.

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.

Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, 2012

The song remained unreleased.[2] However, Radiohead's 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 was released 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 on Rhodes piano as an introduction to performances of "Everything in its Right Place".[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 2016, more than 20 years after it was written, "True Love Waits" was released as the last track on Radiohead's ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool, in a minimal piano arrangement.[7] Radiohead performed this arrangement on the Moon Shaped Pool tour, until their 2018 tour of South America, when Yorke performed "True Love Waits" on acoustic guitar again.[8]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

A clip of the version of "True Love Waits" released on I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (2001), performed on acoustic guitar

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 from the same era, such as "Fake Plastic Trees".[1]

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

The studio version, released as the final track on A Moon Shaped Pool, features no guitar; instead, it uses a minimal, four-note piano figure, over which pianos are gradually overdubbed,[7] 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 has a "pleading" refrain: "Don't leave, don't leave."[7]


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 described the song as "a bittersweet victory of love" that "shows that behind all of Radiohead's modernist nightmares is a fragile, desperate desire to connect, fully and meaningfully, with just one person".[13]

Rolling Stone[14] and Arizona Republic[15] named the studio version of "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[10] and, at the end of the year, the ninth best song of 2016; 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] In 2017, Consequence of Sound named it the 12th greatest Radiohead song, writing that it "shimmers with rainfall piano instead of mopey guitar".[17] In 2019,Vulture named it the greatest Radiohead track.[18]

Though Quietus critic Mike Diver was critical of A Moon Shaped Pool, he praised "True Love Waits" as Radiohead's most affecting song since their 2008 single "Nude".[19] Steve Jozef of the Phoenix New Times felt the new arrangement captured the best elements of Yorke's guitar 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, felt 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. Vulture journalist Marc Hogan wrote that "the difference between the studio cut and its various predecessors floats over the proceedings like a ghost in the machine".[18] Pitchfork critic Jillian 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".[20] 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)[21] 181
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[22] 43




  • Letts, Marianne Tatom. Radiohead and the Resistant Concept Album: How to Disappear Completely, 2010. ISBN 978-0-253-22272-5


  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 l 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. ^ a b "BBC Radio 1 Evening Session". BBC (Interview). Interviewed by Steve Lamacq. 29 May 2001.
  6. ^ Green, Toby (2 March 2010). "Thom Yorke, Corn Exchange, Cambridge". The Independent. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Trendell, Andrew (24 April 2018). "Thom Yorke brings back original acoustic version of Radiohead's 'True Love Waits'". NME. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  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. 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 Beta, Andy (8 May 2016). "Radiohead's 'A Moon Shaped Pool' Album Is a Haunting, Stunning Triumph". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 14 May 2016. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  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. ^ Gerber, Justin; Caffrey, Dan; Corcoran, Nina; Barry, Sean (28 June 2017). "Ranking: Every Radiohead Song from Worst to Best". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  18. ^ a b Hogan, Marc (28 March 2019). "I Might Be Wrong: Every Radiohead Song, Ranked". Vulture. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  19. ^ Diver, Mike (13 May 2016). "Reviews: Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool". The Quietus. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  20. ^ Corcoran, Nina (11 May 2016). "Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  21. ^ " – Radiohead – True Love Waits" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  22. ^ "Radiohead Chart History (Hot Rock Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  23. ^ 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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