Music

Call for Papers - All Things Reconsidered: Radiohead's 'Kid A'

With this feature, PopMatters is going to dissect Kid A from every angle, from track-by-track rundowns to a series of provocative, insightful essays about what created this daring piece of pop music.

Pitch Deadline: 27 September 2010 (Sunday)

Final Deadline: 8 October 2010 (Friday)

Contact: Evan Sawdey

Email: sawdey at popmatters dot com

On October 2nd, 2000, the most anticipated album of the decade hit record store shelves -- and it blew away everyone's idea of what a rock album could sound like.

Of course, what Radiohead did was not revolutionary. After releasing one of the greatest rock albums of all time, the twisty, emotional, dissonant & complex OK Computer, Kid A came out after the band was exhausted from a massive tour, creatively spent, and wondering how -- if ever -- they'd one-up what some critics were calling the greatest album of all time (thank you, Q Magazine). They found refuge in the Warp Records catalog, dropped the guitars almost entirely (in fact, on Kid A's 10 tracks, a bass didn't appear until track 3, "regular" guitars stopped by on the track following), and created one of the strangest, darkest, and most daring albums to ever top the charts in the U.S. It wasn't long until it was hailed as their next true masterpiece.

Yet Kid A's legacy is multi-faceted. The genesis of the album is not typical, nor was its promotion. How the band got from OK Computer to Kid A is a long story, because along the way we have the whole of Amnesiac, the group's decision to drop promotion in the U.S. completely (the only music video released was a small live clip of the band playing "Optimistic" in concert), celebrating the use of the then-stable CD market by including a whole bonus booklet underneath the tray of the CD itself, and essentially messing with fans expectations by doing the exact opposite of what was expected of them, alienating several while at the same time proving why Radiohead is, in fact, the most important band working today.

With this feature, PopMatters is going to dissect Kid A from every angle, from track-by-track rundowns to a series of provocative, insightful essays about what created this daring piece of pop music. Although you are encouraged to pitch your own ideas for features, here are the ones I got in mind:

Please send in essay pitches based on these general concepts...

  Audio File: The album's place in history, within its genre, and within the artist's career.

  Echoes: The lingering influences of the record... discuss the musical outgrowths the album engendered.

  In Practice: Performance and production... discussions of the musicianship and record production and the technology involved as well as live performance of the music.

  Words and Music: Songwriting... discussion of the lyrics and composition, both content and process.

  The Auteur: Discussion of the artist(s) and his/their body of work.

SPECIFIC IDEAS...

  Influencing the Kid -- Radiohead is a band that always managed to synthesize their influences so fluidly that younger listeners wound up just thinking that the band originated all these ideas themselves. Yet we know far better: having spent a long time listening to what was going around in the underground electronic scene, Radiohead were definitely looking for something different, using Warp Records as an influence and dropping a lot of guitar work if not just because Jonny Greenwood was "bored" with guitars by this point. The drum-n-bass touchstones of "Idioteque", the hushed synth washes of "Treefingers", the avant-jazz horns in "The National Anthem" -- genre influences fly all over the place. This essay would dissect them, show how Radiohead utilized them, and what was accomplished in doing so ...

  Seperated from Birth: Kid A's Twin Brother, Amensiac -- It's not widely known, but Kid A was initially conceived of as a double-album. Thom Yorke was all excited about the idea when the band finally talked him out of it and the sessions were split in two: Kid A and Amnesiac. The discs shared a song with "Morning Bell", albeit with radically different interpretations of the same song. Yet even with putting out two massive albums less than a year apart, people still couldn't help but characterize Amnesiac as the "leftover songs" from Kid A. Even then, the band really ramped up the promotion this time out, filming videos for "Pyramid Song", "I Might Be Wrong", and the Smiths-aping "Knives Out", hitting the circuit for this one. So what do the albums have in common? Why is one heralded as a downright masterpiece and the other viewed as just a decent Radiohead album? How did the B-sides from this era come into the picture? One writer will answer all these questions and more upon taking this one up.

  How to Disappear Completely: The Non-Promotion of Kid A -- As mentioned before, the band did almost nothing to promote this disc, doing one small magazine cover and that ... well, that was about it. It was atypical for a group of Radiohead's stature to do such a move, but not promoting the album was promoting it in its own way, as the rabid music press pretty much did the rest, tossing around theories, early reviews, predictions, and launching into furious debate over the album and what it all meant. The group was shocked upon learning that the album debuted on top of the U.S. charts upon release, but they shouldn't have: around music stores across the nation, the Greatest Band Alive was living off their reputation, and things were reaching fever pitch. So what did this lack of marketing accomplish? How "intentional" was it? What effect did it have on other major marketing efforts in the years that followed? Could any other band that wasn't named "Radiohead" pull off a move of this nature? Did the marketing eerily reflect the dissonant album itself? So many questions ...

And there are even more topics to be tackled aside from that: the production (notice how Yorke's voice is distorted to the point of non-recognition on tons of the songs here?), the bonus track on the end, an opposing viewpoint, the reaction from alienated fans and why those exact fans weren't satisfied by "OK follow-up album" Hail to the Thief, etc. There's tons of ideas at work here, and much to cover. I know you've been thinking about this album for some time, so pitch an idea towards me and let's form something brilliant.

Pitch Deadline: 27 September 2010 (Sunday)

Final Deadline: 8 October 2010 (Friday)

Contact: Evan Sawdey

Email: sawdey at popmatters dot com

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