It’s true that Radiohead hasn’t yet filed a lawsuit demanding royalties from Lana Del Rey for allegedly copying “Creep” in “Get Free,” the album closer from Del Rey’s recent Lust for Life. Yet it’s unlikely that Lana Del Rey would tweet about the prospect of being sued by Radiohead unless it were a serious possibility. It’s undeniably true that, though lovely, “Get Free” is no “Blurred Lines” or “Uptown Funk.” Even if the chord progression in the verse sections of both it and “Creep” are parallel and music law makes a successful lawsuit plausible or even likely, the royalties to be gleaned, relative to the wealth of both parties, would be minor at best, making pettiness on the part of Thom Yorke & Co. the leading if not primary motive in this whole weird affair. Potential or real, win or lose, the lawsuit is a bad idea; you’d have to look back to Metallica suing Napster to find a case that sunk the plaintiff’s image with comparable speed. Which leads us to ask: Couldn’t Radiohead just do something … else? In the absence of any real substance in the issue, we compiled a series of things the band could do that would be smarter than suing Lana Del Rey.
Infringement-wise, mirroring a few chords from “Creep,” a mewling Anglo-grunge hit whose tone Radiohead did everything not to repeat, is nothing compared to the heist pulled off by Coldplay. Chris Martin’s band took everything pop-compatible in Radiohead’s sound and ran with it all the way to the bank. Though music law won’t mandate an actual payout, Radiohead deserves a fraction of every dollar Coldplay has made since their debut.
Go to California and eat some grass.
Rampaging fires, sexual-assault scandals, and predacious nerd orgies aside, California remains the most beautiful region in the English-speaking world, and all that beauty is sure to come through extra colorful when influenced by marijuana, which is legal in the Golden State, and extremely legal especially for rich Europeans like, I don’t know, Radiohead? We’re not saying Radiohead has fallen off in recent years, but if they were, a thick dose of tetrahydrocannibinol might be just the ticket to restore their flagging creative spirits.
Form a supergroup with other titans of ’90s beta male rock.
More of a comment than a question, but given that we’ve heard everything that Radiohead and Weezer and the Smashing Pumpkins are ever going to say on the passive fantasies, agonies, and ecstasies of being a guy looking enviously at, and retreating into seclusion from, the world populated by more assertive men, machines, and women who won’t look back at them, would it really be such a bad idea for them to join together and pool their old ideas? Yorke revisiting “Today,” Corgan covering “In My Garage,” Cuomo doing “High and Dry” — it’s nice to imagine, but given the way these guys are, they’ll probably just imagine it without making it happen.
Learn to surf.
Surfing is vigorous fun, and it dramatically improves your skin tone. This shouldn’t be read as implying that Radiohead is a gang of pasty Brits inclined toward fragile, miserymongering music, but then again it shouldn’t not.
Buy a castle in Scotland.
For whatever reason, investing in Scottish real estate has long held great appeal for wealthy English natives. It’s not just aristocrats, either: Paul McCartney has owned a picturesque farm property on a southwestern peninsula for over 50 years, and even wrote a hit song about it, complete with bagpipes. (To be fair, Paul — sorry, Sir Paul — is now an aristocrat.) Given that a Beatle has already paved the way, no one will look sideways if Radiohead buys a mist-enshrouded castle and records a Scottish-sounding album there. They could probably be knighted, too, and no one would care.
Sue Taylor Swift.
Prior to the release of their last album, 2016’s A Moon-Shaped Pool, Radiohead deleted all their previous posts on social media; prior to the release of her last album, 2017’s Reputation, Taylor Swift deleted all her previous posts on social media. Coincidence? Maybe, but if chords are fair game for a lawsuit, then why not publicity strategies? Though they’d surely fail to carry the case against Taylor’s legion of attorneys, at least they’d gain some indie cred by punching up.
Disband, take a break, then get back together.
In the later ’90s, Radiohead nearly broke up under the pressure of newfound fame. To their credit, they stuck it out and channeled their internecine strife into lasting albums. Some two decades later, it seems likely that the band could use a break. The most interesting music being made by its members isn’t being made within the band; it’s lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s scores for Paul Thomas Anderson films, beginning with the score for There Will Be Blood. Giving all five members time to branch out individually seems like the surest way to revitalize their output as a collective.
If Coldplay was the band that profited the most by doing less effective renditions of Radiohead in the aughts, the band that profited the most by doing less effective renditions of Radiohead in the current decade is Radiohead.
Remember that time they let people pay what they wanted for an album.
It was only a decade ago that Radiohead released an album for download online and let fans pay whatever sum of cash they deemed fit: 2007’s In Rainbows ended up making the band more money than they would have normally; since it was also a superb album, Radiohead ended up garnering an inordinate level of critical and popular goodwill while making solid bank. It looked good then, but it looks kind of hypocritical when contrasted with the legal tug-of-war the band is indulging in presently.
Listen closely to Lana Del Rey, and her fans.
Though it’s doubtful that Radiohead at this point would be able to learn anything from Lana Del Rey, that hardly means that listening to her music would be a waste of time. She’s wicked smart and sings beautifully about violent male power and feminine myth — what’s not to like? Certainly paying attention to her music would make it easier to start inferring that she’s built a fan base teeming with the kind of smart women ill-inclined toward Radiohead, a band they’re likely, through experience, to associate with men who think they’re smarter than they are. Rhetorical clashes between Radiohead stans and Lana zealots will not be battles that end well for the former party; the band’s reputation will be punctured past the point of all repair. In short, the more one hears what Lana Del Rey communicates with her music, the more one realizes how terrible of an idea suing Lana Del Rey would be.
Because, unlike Radiohead, doing less is underrated.