1. Lyrics:

“Karma Police”

Karma police, arrest this man
He talks in maths
He buzzes like a fridge
He’s like a detuned radioKarma police, arrest this girl
Her Hitler hairdo is
Making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party

This is what you get
This is what you get
This is what you get when you mess with us

Karma police
I’ve given all I can
It’s not enough
I’ve given all I can
But we’re still on the payroll

This is what you get
This is what you get
This is what you get when you mess with us

For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself
Phew, for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself

For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself
Phew, for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself

Name of this song refer to the Hindu theory of cause and effect, also known as karma. Most of Radiohead songs are very abstract, it allows audience to interpret it in their own way. This song  is sarcastic and has political theme, which is dissatisfaction with capitalism. First verses says ‘arrest this man, he talks in maths’. Capitalism does not protect civil rights such as freedom of speech and expression. There is defined model of person with certain political views and interests. Karma police, in this case stands for people obligated to make citizens follow these codes. When Thom Yorke sings ‘arrest this girl her Hitler hairdo is making me feel ill’, he is being sarcastic saying that there are also specific requirements for persons appearance.
Also it might be a reference to a modern fashion and morals. Society don’t like people with different views, people who are different. In modern society people who differentiate from majority usually are being rejected.
Political interpretation of choirs, which is ‘This is what you get x3, when you mess with us’, represent government power. Even if it is democracy in the country, you can’t go against government. The example will be Putin and ‘The Pussy Riot’ situation. What they did was hooliganism and it had to be prosecuted. However, punishment they got was too big for what they did. They got it because of the government fear of disobedience. These verses say that we are not in position to stand out against government, as they are powerful and can harm us. When he sings ‘I’ve given all I can, It’s not enough, I’ve given all I can, but we’re still on the payroll’, he says that he is depended on government. Verses ‘For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself’ talk about government wish to suppress individuals. Yorke sings that he lost his identity. There is strong reference to 1984 by George Orwell. This novel talks about public mind control by government, how individualism and independent thinking was prosecuted and finally, how government forcibly can make people to change their believes, political views and even feeling for particular person.
Video is not that important in this case, as lyrics themselves give loads of information. However in this video they used 1976 Chrysler New Yorker. It confirms theory of referring to George Orwell’s novel, as that car was quite popular in 1984. However video gives audience different theory about meaning of this song.

2. Narrative:

Music video is not as abstract as lyrics of the song. However, it is quite unconventional, as most part of it is just one cut. In the video they referring to karma, by showing that Hindu theory was right and people will pay for their doings.

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Video has three characters, faceless driver, guy chased by the car and Thom Yorke on the back seat. Most part of the video was just one cut of the faceless driver chasing a guy. Sometimes camera was panning, showing Thom. Next cut was shot from another perspective, close up shows audience face of the chased guy, he looks frightened. Eventually he can’t run anymore and he falls on the ground, ready to face the death. However eye-line match shows audience that he sees a petrol leaking from the car. Chased man gets matches from the pocket, lights one and throw it down. Car slowly catches the fire and camera pans to the back seat again and the are no Thom anymore, he disappeared. It might represent that karma police helped the man to fight back. Also, if car is a metaphor for karma fire proves that government  still has all the power and even karma cant pay them back.

I would say that guy with the bad karma was faceless driver and Thom Yorke was Karma police in this situation, as in the end of this video he disappears from the car. He brought justice into this world.

There are loads of ways to interpret this music video. One more is that man in the suit represent people who run the country, politicians, dictators, government. They are doing loads of wrong things, they are selfish and greedy. In this case politician was chased by the karma. However, man in a suit is powerful and eventually he is a winner. It shows that government has all the power in the world and nothing can stop them from what they are doing.

3. Costume/makeup:

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In this video we can see two characters. One is wearing a suit, which is ripped and dirty. He is being chased by a car with Thom Yorke on the back seat. He dressed casually, in t-shirt and black, leather jacket. Costumes define target audience for this song, it is targeted on mature people.

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Appearance of the chased guy affects music video, as he looks like office worker and it brings in new theory about music video meaning. It seems like office worker is trying to run away from his boss who pressures him. Even in interview Thom Yorke says, “It’s for someone who has to work for a large company. This is a song against bosses”.

Also, suit can represent government chased by the karma police.

4. Performance:

Thom Yorke played passenger on the back seat of 1976 Chrysler New Yorker. He looked very unemotional, what was a big contrast to the emotions shown by the chased guy, who was very terrified. When it was lip singing, Thom was almost mumbling his lyrics, it shows that he is not surprised by everything what is happening around and he is kind of used to all of that. Moreover, in the end of the music video, when car catches the fire he disappears. All of that might mean, that he is Karma police, he is used to all these things and it doesn’t scares or surprise him anymore.

Another character of this video is a chased guy. Audience can clearly see that he is terrified and he almost ready to give up. His acting make audience to stand on his side and want to protect him, even though that he doesn’t have nicest appearance.

Their performance help audience to take a right side in the narrative and feel everything what happens in the music video.

5. Camera/lighting:

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For the first half of this video, static camera was used, which time out of time was panning on the back seat showing Thom. This big cut made music video more unconventional. Yorke was changing his seating position each time camera was panning on him, it showed him from the different angles. Second time camera showed him in a close-up, but there were hardly any emotions seen. Getting back to the idea that Thom Yorke was one of the Karma police, it is getting clear that purpose of that close-up was to show absence of any emotions on his face, as he is already used to that. As a contrast to it they used close up of the chased guy, who was terrified for his life.

Video style is based on the internal spinning arc shot and the POV of the car. This kind of shooting style gave car a personality. It seems like it is not just a vehicle, but something more, like it was a metaphor for the karma police.

In the scene, when chased guy fells on his knees and there is a car standing behind him. First expression is that car is a bad character, because it will run over the guy. However light represent good, in this particular situation it shows that first of all chased guy is good, as light creates some kind of angel wings behind his back. Guy is in light as well, while everything behind is dark.

Moreover, night time of the shooting was picked, to show that there is something illegal going on. It is a crime and no one can see it. If the same music video will be shot in day time, it will have completely different impact on audience. Also, chosen location supports this suggestion, as it is isolated. Nobody is there, so nobody will see the crime.

6. Edit, Special FX and overdubbed sound:

Opening scene of this music video has non-music sound element in it, which is sound of the steps. It suggests that someone is coming to the car, but I don’t think that it has big influence on this music video. There are also not that much of editing going on, because of the use of long cut. However pace of edit goes with tempo of the song.

Combined absence of all of that with the narrative, shows audience, that this music video was shot in the old, American gangster movie style. It bring brutality to this music video and helps audience to understand narrative better.


This music video is designed neither for male or female gaze, theme of the song and video is very different, so there is no need to attract particular sex to this music video.

Radiohead are known for their abstract lyrics and music videos. They represent themselves as wise, smart and deep-thinking people. Also in this music video they show that they are open-minded and mature, it is represented by the theme of the video.

Yorke is known for his performance, emotionless, alternative play style is his trade mark. This performance is a clear representation of of the bands lyrics, which often can be challenging. This performance also represents Radiohead, as alternative band. On the time when most part of the bands are trying to show emotions in a very straight way, Radioactive want their TA to get it themselves.

This music video represent big part of Radiohead’s target audience, as chased guy stand for office worker, being pressured by his boss. Also, it shows people that there is something we don’t know about like karma. So, people have to think carefully about their decisions.

Also, concept of this video and the song represent band as a left wing supporters, going against capitalism. Lyrics are supporting this idea very strongly and it attracts people having same views as a band.

8.Target audience:

I would say that first of all theme of the song defines its target audience. It is mature and deep, to fully understand this song, person has be educated enough and has to have a wide range of interests (politics, literature and spiritual knowledges, etc.). They will be attracted with the idea carried by this song. Audience of Radiohead and this song in particular have to be open-minded for the

Chased guy in the music video was dressed in the suit. As target audience of Radiohead are mature people, they will be familiar with the office dress-code and might feel themselves closer to the character, as the know how is it to be pressured by bosses.

9. Intertexuality:

As i mentioned earlier, lyrics of this song refer to Hindu theory of cause and effect. Also, there is a reference to the 1984 novel, as lyrics of this song have strong political references. They are talking about freedom of expression and speech, which government is trying to take of us, as they want to get rid of individuals and people who think differently. It is why target audience particularly for this song would be people with wide range of interests, open-minded and well educated people. This song shows their political views and view on way of life, as they are referring to spiritual things like karma. It is why in the narrative they also referring to the Hindu theory. Also, this music video has very strong reference to old American gangster movies, in which victim will be chased on the car nighttime and then bury in shallow graves.


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