Kid A Reaches Adulthood: Radiohead’s Mesmerizing Fourth Record Turns 20

380608 09: Lead singer Thom Yorke, left, and bassist Colin Greenwood of the band Radiohead perform October 20, 2000 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. Radiohead only had two U.S. performances, one in New York and the other in Los Angeles. (Photo by Troy Augusto/Newsmakers)

A little over three years after releasing their atmospheric masterpiece OK Computer, Radiohead set the tone for the rest of their career with Kid A: a radical and beautifully bizarre collection that relied less on guitars, more on fragmented electronics and ambient experimentation.

As writer Zev Borow observed in SPIN’s November 2000 issue, Radiohead’s fourth LP was the most anticipated rock album since Nirvana’s In Utero. But Radiohead did little to promote it, eschewing press interviews and promotional photoshoots. Critics weren’t provided with advanced copies, and there wasn’t a music video. In a clear sign of the times, Kid A was leaked on Napster three weeks ahead of its release — shocking an unsuspecting public with its beguiling rhythms.

With Kid A, released 20 years ago today, Radiohead proved that great art often requires more than great talent — it demands great risk. The uncompromising record introduced the world to several beloved tracks (“Everything in Its Right Place,” “The National Anthem,” “Idioteque”), pushing the band outside the “rock” format altogether.

As Kid A approaches legal drinking age, we reached out to several musicians — along with one very successful screenwriter — for their takes on what makes the album so special.

Amanda Palmer


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