In Rainbows is the seventh studio album by the English rock band Radiohead. It was self-released on 10 October 2007 as a pay-what-you-want download, followed by a retail release internationally by XL Recordings in December 2007 and in the United States on 1 January 2008 by TBD Records. It was Radiohead's first release after their recording contract with EMI ended with their previous album Hail to the Thief (2003).
|Studio album by|
|Released||10 October 2007|
|Recorded||February 2005 – June 2007|
|Radiohead studio album chronology|
|Singles from In Rainbows|
Radiohead began work on In Rainbows in early 2005. In 2006, after initial recording sessions with new producer Spike Stent proved fruitless, the band toured Europe and North America performing new material. After re-enlisting longtime producer Nigel Godrich, Radiohead recorded in the country houses Halswell House and Tottenham House, Godrich's London studio, and Radiohead's Oxfordshire studio. In Rainbows is more personal than previous Radiohead albums, with singer Thom Yorke describing most of the songs as his versions of "seduction songs". Radiohead incorporated a variety of musical styles and instruments, using electronic instruments, strings, piano, and the ondes Martenot.
The pay-what-you-want release, the first for a major act, made headlines around the world and sparked debate about implications for the music industry. The retail release debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200, and had sold over three million copies worldwide by October 2008. The album received critical acclaim and was ranked one of the best albums of 2007 and of the decade by various publications. It won two Grammy Awards for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package. In 2012, Rolling Stone placed In Rainbows at number 336 on their updated list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In 2004, after finishing the world tour for their sixth studio album Hail to the Thief (2003), Radiohead went on hiatus. As Hail to the Thief was the last album released under their six-album contract with EMI, the band had no contractual obligation to release new material. According to the New York Times, in 2006, Radiohead were "by far the world's most popular unsigned band".
Drummer Philip Selway said: "It was definitely time to take a break. There was still a desire amongst us to make music, but also a realisation that other aspects of our lives were being neglected. And we'd come to the end of our contract, which gives you a natural point to look back over at what you've achieved as a band." Singer and songwriter Thom Yorke recorded his first solo album, The Eraser (2006), and multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood composed his first solo works, the soundtracks Bodysong (2004) and There Will Be Blood (2007).
In March 2005, Radiohead began writing and recording new music in their Oxfordshire studio without their longtime producer Nigel Godrich. Guitarist Ed O'Brien said they chose to work without Godrich to "get out of the comfort zone ... we've been working together for 10 years, and we all love one another too much". Bassist Colin Greenwood later denied this, saying Godrich had been busy working with Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beck.
At the Ether Festival in July 2005, Greenwood and Yorke performed a version of the future In Rainbows track "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" with the London Sinfonietta orchestra and the Arab Orchestra of Nazareth. Regular recording sessions began in August 2005, with Radiohead updating fans on their progress intermittently on their new blog, Dead Air Space. The sessions were slow, and the band struggled to regain confidence; according to Yorke, "we spent a long time in the studio just not going anywhere, wasting our time, and that was really, really frustrating." O'Brien said the band considered splitting up, but kept working "because when you got beyond all the shit and the bollocks, the core of these songs were really good". They attributed their slow progress to a lack of momentum after their break and the lack of deadline and producer.
In December 2005, Radiohead hired producer Spike Stent, who had worked with artists including U2 and Björk, to help them work through their material. O'Brien told Mojo: "Spike listened to the stuff we'd been self-producing. These weren't demos, they’d been recorded in proper studios, and he said, 'The sounds aren't good enough.'" However, the collaboration with Stent was unsuccessful.
In an effort to break the deadlock, Radiohead decided to tour for the first time since 2004. They performed in Europe and North America in May and June 2006, and returned to Europe for several festivals in August, performing many new songs. According to Yorke, "We basically had all these half-formed songs, and we just had to get it together. And rather than it being a nightmare, it was really, really good fun, because suddenly everyone is being spontaneous and no one's self-conscious because you're not in the studio ... It felt like being 16 again."
After the tour, Radiohead scrapped their work and re-enlisted Godrich, who, according to Yorke, "gave us a walloping kick up the arse". In October 2006, recording started at Tottenham House in Marlborough, Wiltshire, a country house scouted by Godrich where Radiohead worked for three weeks. The band members lived in caravans, as the building was in a state of disrepair; Yorke described it as "derelict in the stricter sense of the word, where there's holes in the floor, rain coming through the ceilings, half the window panes missing ... There were places you just basically didn't go. It definitely had an effect. It had some pretty strange vibes." The sessions were productive, and the band recorded "Jigsaw Falling into Place" and "Bodysnatchers". In October, Yorke wrote on Dead Air Space that Radiohead had "started the record properly now ... starting to get somewhere I think. Finally."
In December 2006, sessions took place at Halswell House, Taunton, and Godrich's Hospital Studios in Covent Garden, where the band recorded "Videotape" and "Nude". In January 2007, Radiohead resumed recording in their Oxfordshire studio and started to post photos, lyrics, videos and samples of new songs on Dead Air Space. In June, having wrapped up recording, Godrich posted clips of songs on Dead Air Space.
Excluding "Last Flowers", which Yorke recorded in the Eraser sessions, the In Rainbows sessions produced 16 songs. Feeling Hail to the Thief had been overlong, Radiohead wanted their seventh album to be concise. They settled on ten songs, saving the rest for the limited edition. The album was mastered by Bob Ludwig in July 2007 at Gateway Mastering, New York City.
In Rainbows incorporates elements of art rock, experimental rock, and art pop. The opening track, "15 Step", features a handclap rhythm inspired by "Fuck the Pain Away" by Peaches. Radiohead planned to record handclaps by a group of children from the Matrix Music School & Arts Centre in Oxford; when the clapping proved "not quite good enough", they recorded the children cheering instead.
Radiohead recorded a version of "Nude" during the OK Computer sessions, but discarded it. The OK Computer version was inspired by Al Green, and featured a Hammond organ, a "straighter" feel, and different lyrics. During the early sessions for In Rainbows, Colin Greenwood wrote a new bassline for the song, which, according to Godrich, "transformed it from something very straight into something that had much more of a rhythmic flow".
Radiohead performed a song with the working title "Reckoner" in 2001. During the In Rainbows sessions, they abandoned the original "Reckoner" and created a new song with the same name. Yorke released the original song as a solo single, "Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses", in 2009.
"Bodysnatchers", a song Yorke described as sounding like Wolfmother and "Neu! meets dodgy hippy rock", was recorded when he was in a period of "hyperactive mania". On "All I Need", Jonny Greenwood wanted to capture the white noise generated by a band playing loudly in a room, a sound which never occurs in the studio. His solution was to have a string section play every note of the scale, blanketing the frequencies.
Yorke described the process of composing "Videotape" as "absolute agony", stating that the song "went through every possible parameter". One day, Yorke left the studio, returning to find that Godrich and Jonny Greenwood had stripped the song down to the final version, a minimal piano ballad.
Yorke said that the In Rainbows lyrics are based on "that anonymous fear thing, sitting in traffic, thinking, 'I'm sure I'm supposed to be doing something else' ... it's similar to OK Computer in a way. It's much more terrifying." He said that whereas Hail to the Thief was a "very angry" record, there was "very little anger in In Rainbows. It's in no way political, or, at least, doesn't feel that way to me. It very much explores the ideas of transience. It starts in one place and ends somewhere completely different." In another interview, Yorke said the album was "about the fucking panic of realising you're going to die! And that any time soon [I could] possibly [have] a heart attack when I next go for a run."
Ed O'Brien described the lyrics as "universal. There wasn't a political agenda. It's being human". The song "Bodysnatchers" is inspired by Victorian ghost stories, the 1972 novel The Stepford Wives and Yorke's feeling of "your physical consciousness trapped without being able to connect fully with anything else." "Jigsaw Falling into Place" is about a set of observations and different experiences, partly of the chaos witnessed by Yorke when he used to go out on the weekend in Oxford. Yorke said "The lyrics are quite caustic—the idea of 'before you're comatose' or whatever, drinking yourself into oblivion and getting fucked-up to forget ... [there] is partly this elation. But there's a much darker side."
The In Rainbows artwork was designed by longtime Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood. Donwood worked in the studio while Radiohead worked on the album, allowing the artwork to convey the mood of the music. He displayed images in the studio and on the studio computer for the band to interact with and comment on. He also posted images daily on the Radiohead website, though none were used in the final artwork.
Donwood experimented with photographic etching, putting prints into acid baths and throwing wax at paper, creating images influenced by NASA space photography. He originally planned to explore suburban life, but realised it did not fit the album, saying "it's a sensual record and I wanted to do something more organic". He described the final artwork as "very colourful ... It's a rainbow but it is very toxic, it's more like the sort of one you'd see in a puddle." Radiohead did not release the cover for the digital release, preferring to hold it back for the physical release. The limited edition includes a booklet containing additional artwork by Donwood.
On 1 October 2007, Jonny Greenwood announced Radiohead's seventh album on Radiohead's blog, writing: "Well, the new album is finished, and it's coming out in 10 days; we've called it In Rainbows." The post contained a link to inrainbows.com, where users could pre-order an MP3 version of the album for any amount they wanted, including £0—a landmark use of the pay-what-you-want model for music sales. Colin Greenwood explained the internet release as a way of avoiding the "regulated playlists" and "straitened formats" of radio and TV, ensuring listeners around the world would experience the music at the same time, and preventing leaks in advance of a physical release.
Formats and distributionEdit
For the In Rainbows download, Radiohead employed the network provider PacketExchange to bypass public internet servers, using a less-trafficked private network. The download was packaged as a ZIP file containing the album's ten tracks encoded in a 160 kbit/s DRM-free MP3 format. The staggered online release began at about 5:30am GMT on 10 October 2007. On 10 December, the download was removed.
Fans could also order a limited "discbox" edition from inrainbows.com, containing the album on CD and two 12" heavyweight 45 rpm vinyl records with artwork and lyric booklets, plus an enhanced CD with eight additional tracks, digital photos and artwork, packaged in a hardcover book and slipcase. The limited edition was shipped from December 2007. In June 2009, Radiohead made the second In Rainbows disc available for download on their website for £6.
Radiohead ruled out an internet-only distribution for fear that some fans would not have internet access. In Rainbows was released on CD and vinyl in Japan by BMG on 26 December 2007, in Australia on 29 December 2007 by Remote Control Records, and in the United States and Canada on 1 January 2008 by ATO imprint TBD Records and MapleMusic/Fontana respectively.
Elsewhere, the album was released on 31 December 2007 by independent record label XL Recordings, which had released Yorke's solo album The Eraser. The CD release came in a cardboard package containing the CD, lyric booklet, and several stickers that could be placed on the blank jewel case to create cover art. In Rainbows was the first Radiohead album available for download in several digital music stores, such as the iTunes Store and Amazon MP3. On 10 June 2016, it was added to the free streaming service Spotify.
Radiohead retained ownership of the recordings and compositions for In Rainbows. The download and limited editions of the album were self-released; for the physical release, Radiohead licensed the music to record labels. Licensing agreements for all releases were managed by the band's publisher, Warner Chappell Music Publishing.
The pay-what-you-want release, the first for a major act, made headlines worldwide and sparked debate about the implications for the music industry. According to Mojo, the release was "hailed as a revolution in the way major bands sell their music", and the media's reaction was "almost overwhelmingly positive". Time called it "easily the most important release in the recent history of the music business" and Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote that "for the beleaguered recording business Radiohead has put in motion the most audacious experiment in years". The NME wrote that "the music world seemed to judder several rimes off its axis", and praised the fact that everyone, from fans to critics, had access to the album at the same time on release day: "the kind of moment of togetherness you don’t get very often." Singer Bono of U2 praised Radiohead as "courageous and imaginative in trying to figure out some new relationship with their audience".
The release also drew criticism. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails thought it did not go far enough, calling it "very much a bait and switch, to get you to pay for a Myspace-quality stream as a way to promote a very traditional record sale". Reznor independently released his sixth album Ghosts I-IV under a Creative Commons licence the following year. Singer Lily Allen called the release "arrogant", saying: "[Radiohead have] millions of pounds. It sends a weird message to younger bands who haven't done as well. You don't choose how to pay for eggs. Why should it be different for music?" In the Guardian, journalist Will Hodgkinson wrote that Radiohead had made it impossible for less successful musicians to compete and make a living from their music. Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth told the Guardian the release "seemed really community-oriented, but it wasn't catered towards their musician brothers and sisters, who don’t sell as many records as them. It makes everyone else look bad for not offering their music for whatever."
Radiohead's managers defended the release as "a solution for Radiohead, not the industry", and doubted "it would work the same way [for Radiohead] ever again". Radiohead have not used the pay-what-you-want system for subsequent releases. In February 2013, Yorke told the Guardian that though Radiohead had hoped to subvert the corporate music industry with In Rainbows, he feared they had instead played into the hands of content providers such as Apple and Google: "They have to keep commodifying things to keep the share price up, but in doing so they have made all content, including music and newspapers, worthless, in order to make their billions. And this is what we want?"
Dispute with EMIEdit
As Radiohead's recording contract with EMI ended after the 2003 release of Hail to the Thief, Radiohead recorded In Rainbows without a record label. In 2005, Yorke told Time: "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'Fuck you' to this decaying business model." In August 2007, as Radiohead were finishing In Rainbows, EMI was acquired by the private equity firm Terra Firma for US$6.4 billion (£4.7 billion).
EMI executives including Keith Wozencroft, who had signed Radiohead to EMI, travelled regularly to Radiohead's Oxfordshire studio in hopes of negotiating a new contract. Radiohead wanted the rights to their back catalog, which new EMI owner Guy Hands refused. However, even in the days leading to the album announcement, the executives believed a deal could be made, and were "devastated" when Radiohead's team informed them of the self-release plan a day in advance. Hands said he believed that Radiohead would only have canceled it with a "really big" offer. According to Eamonn Forde, author of The Final Days of EMI, Radiohead had lost faith in EMI and thought the new ownership would be a "bloodbath". O'Brien said: "It was really sad to leave all the people [we'd worked with] ... But Terra Firma don't understand the music industry."
An EMI spokesman stated that Radiohead had demanded "an extraordinary amount of money" for a new contract. Radiohead's management and Yorke released statements denying that they had asked for a large advance, but instead wanted control over their back catalogue. According to Hands: "They wanted a lot of money ... And they wanted their masters back, which we valued even more. At our valuation, it was millions and millions that they wanted." Responding to Hands's statement, Yorke told an interviewer: "It fucking pissed me off. We could have taken them [Terra Firma] to court. The idea that we were after so much money was stretching the truth to breaking point. That was his PR company briefing against us and I'll tell you what, it fucking ruined my Christmas."
Days after Radiohead signed to XL, EMI announced a box set of Radiohead material recorded before In Rainbows, released in the same week as the In Rainbows special edition. Radiohead were reportedly "incensed" at the release; commentators including the Guardian saw it as retaliation for the band choosing not to re-sign with EMI. Hands defended the reissues as necessary to boost EMI's revenues: "We have a bank that is staring us down and now [Radiohead] have basically told us to eff off, I don't think we have a huge amount of reasons to be nice to them. We need the money for the bank, so let's do it." In 2019, O'Brien told an interviewer: "I had no idea that we mattered that much to [EMI]. That probably sounds really naive. But there weren't people going, 'You're so important.' We were just one of the bands on their roster."
Following the album release, Radiohead recorded two webcasts in their Oxfordshire studio: "Thumbs Down", broadcast on their website in November 2007, and "Scotch Mist", broadcast on New Year's Eve. In the US, "Scotch Mist" was also broadcast on Current TV. The webcasts featured performances of In Rainbows songs, plus covers, poetry, and music videos created with comedian Adam Buxton.
In March 2008, Radiohead partnered with animation site Aniboom to create a contest whereby entrants submitted storyboards for an animated music video for an In Rainbows song. The winner, who would receive $10,000 to create a full-length music video, was chosen by AniBOOM, Radiohead, TBD Records, and Adult Swim; Adult Swim aired the winning video. The band awarded $10,000 each to four different winners, plus $1,000 to each of ten semifinalists to create a one-minute clip. Radiohead toured North America, Europe, South America and Japan in support of In Rainbows from May 2008 until March 2009.
|The A.V. Club||A−|
In Rainbows received widespread critical acclaim, earning a rating of 88 out of 100 on review aggregate site Metacritic, which indicates "universal acclaim". Various reviewers, such as The Guardian's Alexis Petridis, attributed the album's quality to Radiohead's performance in the studio and that the band sounded like they were enjoying themselves. Others, such as Billboard's Jonathan Cohen, commended the album for not being overshadowed by its marketing hype. Andy Kellman of AllMusic wrote that In Rainbows "will hopefully be remembered as Radiohead's most stimulating synthesis of accessible songs and abstract sounds, rather than their first pick-your-price download."
The NME described the album as "Radiohead reconnecting with their human sides, realising you [can] embrace pop melodies and proper instruments while still sounding like paranoid androids ... this [is] otherworldly music, alright." Will Hermes, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called In Rainbows "the gentlest, prettiest Radiohead set yet" and stated that it "uses the full musical and emotional spectra to conjure breathtaking beauty". Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone praised its "vividly collaborative sonic touches" and concluded: "No wasted moments, no weak tracks: just primo Radiohead." In 2011, The Rolling Stone Album Guide described it as Radiohead's "most expansive and seductive album, possibly their all-time high."
Jon Dolan of Blender called In Rainbows a "far more pensive and reflective" album than Hail to the Thief, writing that it "formulates a lush, sensualized ideal out of vague, layered discomfort." Spin's Mikael Wood felt that the album "succeeds because all of that cold, clinical lab work hasn't eliminated the warmth from their music", while Pitchfork's Mark Pytlik dubbed it a more "human" album that "represents the sound of Radiohead coming back to earth." Robert Christgau, writing for MSN Music, gave In Rainbows a two-star honourable mention and noted that the album, having been developed in concert, was "more jammy, less songy and less Yorkey, which is good." The Wire was more critical, finding "a sense here of a group magisterially marking time, shying away... from any grand, rhetorical, countercultural purpose."
In Rainbows was ranked among the best albums of 2007 by many music publications. It was ranked number one by Billboard, Mojo and PopMatters, third by the NME and The A.V. Club, fourth by Pitchfork and Q, and sixth by Rolling Stone and Spin. It was also ranked one of the best albums of the decade by several publications: the NME ranked it 10th, Paste 45th, Rolling Stone 30th, and the Guardian 22nd, while Newsweek fifth. Rolling Stone ranked In Rainbows number 336 on their updated 2012 version of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 2019, the Guardian named it the 11th greatest album of the 21st century so far.
In Rainbows was nominated for the short list of the 2008 Mercury Prize and nominated for several awards at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards: Album of the Year, Best Alternative Music Album, Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical (for Nigel Godrich), with three Grammy nominations also for "House of Cards" for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Best Rock Song and Best Music Video. In Rainbows won awards for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package.
In early October 2007, a Radiohead spokesperson reported that most downloaders paid "a normal retail price" for the download version, and that most fans had pre-ordered the limited edition. Citing a source close to the band, Gigwise.com reported that the album had sold 1.2 million digital copies before its retail release; however, this was dismissed by Radiohead manager Bryce Edge as "exaggerated". In December 2007, Yorke stated that Radiohead had made more money from digital sales of In Rainbows than the digital sales of all previous Radiohead albums combined.
In October 2008, one year after the album's release, Warner Chappell reported that although most people paid nothing for the download, pre-release sales for In Rainbows were more profitable than the total sales of Hail to the Thief, and that the limited edition had sold 100,000 copies. In 2009, Wired reported that Radiohead had made an "instantaneous" £3 million from the album. Pitchfork saw this at proof that "Radiohead could release a record on the most secretive terms, basically for free, and still be wildly successful, even as industry profits continued to plummet," thanks to the support of their fan community.
Because inrainbows.com is not a chart-registered retailer, In Rainbows download and limited edition sales were not eligible for inclusion in the UK Albums Chart. On the week of its retail release, In Rainbows peaked at number one on the UK Album Chart, with first week sales of 44,602 copies. After some record stores broke street date agreements, the album entered the Billboard 200 at number 156. However, in the first week of official release, it sold 122,000 copies in the United States, making it the 10th independently distributed album to reach number one on the Billboard 200. In October 2008, Warner Chappell Music Publishing reported that In Rainbows had sold three million copies (1.75 million of which were physical format sales) since its retail release. The vinyl edition of In Rainbows was the bestselling vinyl album of 2008.
In the US, "Nude" reached number 37 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was Radiohead's first single to appear on the Billboard Pop 100 chart. "Bodysnatchers" reached number eight on the US Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. "Jigsaw Falling into Place" peaked at number 69 in airplay on alternative rock-oriented stations.
All tracks are written by Radiohead.
|5.||"All I Need"||3:49|
|8.||"House of Cards"||5:28|
|9.||"Jigsaw Falling into Place"||4:09|
In Rainbows Disk 2Edit
|In Rainbows Disk 2|
|Released||3 December 2007|
The special edition of In Rainbows included a second disc, In Rainbows Disk 2, which contains eight additional tracks. In 2009, Radiohead made the tracks available to purchase as downloads on their website. In October 2016, Disk 2 was made available to stream and purchase on services such as Apple Music, Spotify and iTunes.
All tracks are written by Radiohead.
|2.||"Down Is the New Up"||4:59|
|6.||"Up on the Ladder"||4:17|
|7.||"Bangers + Mash"||3:19|
|8.||"4 Minute Warning"||4:04|
|Australian ARIA Albums Chart||2|
|Austrian Albums Chart||12|
|Belgian Album Charts (Flanders)||2|
|Belgian Album Charts (Wallonia)||7|
|Canadian Albums Chart||1|
|Danish Album Charts||7|
|Dutch Album Charts||7|
|Finnish Album Chart||2|
|French Albums Chart||1|
|Germany Albums Chart||8|
|Irish Albums Chart||1|
|Italian Albums Chart||7|
|Japan Oricon Albums Chart||11|
|Mexican Albums Chart||50|
|New Zealand RIANZ Albums Chart||2|
|Norwegian Albums Chart||6|
|Polish Albums Chart||7|
|Spanish Albums Chart||19|
|Swedish Album Chart||6|
|Swiss Albums Chart||2|
|UK Albums Chart||1|
|US Billboard 200||1|
|Canada (Music Canada)||Platinum||100,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||300,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||1,020,000|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
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