Radiohead’s “Creep” Lyrics Meaning
Radiohead members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have offered two different explanations for this song. The former, who is actually its original author (and singer), has stated that this piece is literally being relayed from the perspective of a creep, i.e. a drunk dude that is basically stalking a woman whom he is attracted to.
But Jonny has rather interpreted this piece as an exercise in self-recognition on the part of the vocalist. And Thom has also put a more complex explanation behind the meaning of this piece, pointing to somewhat of a similar idea, that maybe the narrator isn’t that much of a bad guy after all. Or let’s say that if the vocalist is indeed a “creep”, he doesn’t appear as an overly-confident one.
Instead the character we are introduced to in the first verse leading into the chorus is one who is thoroughly infatuated with the addressee all right but lacking the courage to straight-up approach her. Or put differently, he does in fact consider himself to be a “creep” and “weirdo” in relation to her. That is to say that she is someone who, in his eyes, is actually superior, primarily due to her beauty.
But there is also a harrowing clue at the end of the first verse, whereas the vocalist refers to the addressee as being “so f*cking special” (a line that significantly altered in the radio version of this song). This implies, if nothing else, that he possesses what we will most simply classify as misogynistic tendencies.
But even into the second verse, he doesn’t come off as being too harmful. Or instead, the focus of his hatred really appears to be aimed more towards himself than the addressee. In other words, he wishes he was just as “perfect” as he perceives her to be. And that definitely reads as the thesis sentiment of this song, i.e. a vocalist with low self-esteem relatedly wishing he was worthy of a certain lady’s attention.
I’m truly a “creep” that is unworthy of her love
However, by the time we get to the bridge, something has definitely gone wrong as now the addressee is depicted as “running out the door”. This would imply that perhaps the vocalist has done something to offend her accordingly.
But in reality, the lady who reportedly inspired this song was one that Thom thought was too good for him but eventually mustered up the courage to step to anyway. And in response, she gave him a reaction that appears to have been equivalent to “running out the door”.
So in a way, the addressee verifies to the narrator what he believes about himself, that he is indeed a creep or inherently inferior. So he fully understands why she would reject him, and the narrative ends as it begins, with the vocalist deeming himself unworthy of the addressee’s attention.
So in putting all of the above together, maybe what Thom is trying to say is something like if you are attracted to someone, even if you think she is above your league it’s better to step to her than feen from afar.
Or hypothetically speaking, maybe the lady who inspired this song noticed Yorke creeping around her, which is why she reacted the way she did once he approached her. She was probably under the impression that he was akin to a stalker.
Or another way of theoretically interpreting it all is if you really feel a romantic interest is of a higher class, maybe it’s best just to leave the person alone than to potentially get dejected and feel even worse about yourself.
In any event, even if murderers are known to have a special affinity for this song, some listeners are likely to walk away feeling sorry for the vocalist, which doesn’t necessarily appear to be the intended effect.
Thom Yorke talks about “Creep”
In a 1993 interview with The Boston Globe, Thom said the following:
Who wrote “Creep”?
Radiohead is a band from Oxfordshire whose commercial heyday was around the turn of the century.
Throughout its existence, from its earliest incarnation in 1985 up until now, the membership of Radiohead has consisted of the same musicians –
- Thom Yorke
- Jonny Greenwood
- Colin Greenwood
- Ed O’Brien
- Philip Selway
And all five of them are credited as writers of “Creep”. However, it should be noted that the original writer is Yorke, who did so prior to the formation of the band.
Moreover, Albert Hammond and the late Mike Hazlewood (1941-2001) are also officially acknowledged in that regard. And that is because this song interpolates a tune Hammond came out with in 1972 entitled “The Air That I Breathe”, which he and Hazlewood wrote. However, Hammond and Hazlewood were not officially acknowledged until legally yet peacefully settling the matter with Radiohead.
The two producers that worked on this song are Paul Q. Kolderie and Sean Slade.
When was “Creep” released?
The track’s release occurred on 21 September 1992. It served as the lead single from their debut studio album, 1993’s “Pablo Honey”. This therefore makes this the first song in Radiohead’s discography.
Parlophone Records and Capitol Records are behind the release of this track.
Upon release in 1992, this song failed to blow up in the UK, i.e. the most important market as far as a British band is concerned. However, it did catch initially in Israel then in some other countries and also performed pretty well stateside. This led to Radiohead reissuing the single in their homeland in 1993. And that time around, it managed to peak at number seven on the UK Singles Chart.
Also to note, in addition to having charted in many countries, “Creep” has proven to be a multi-platinum hit in Italy. And more notably in Canada, it went quintuple-platinum in the (as of 2021).
More Facts about “Creep”
Radiohead recorded this song in just a single take.
Radiohead suffered from a song being too successful, in a manner of speaking, as far as “Creep” is concerned. It proved to be a couple of years before they were able to come out with a tune comparably successful.
To note, even to this day, “Creep” soundly remains the biggest hit in the band’s discography. So back then, it was really the only song the audience wanted to hear during their live performances. And accordingly, they got sick of playing it “over and over again”.
In 2021 Thom Yorke released a remix of this tune entitled “Creep (Very 2021 Rmx)”. The first time said remix saw the light of day was during a fashion show held during March of that year hosted by a famous fashion designer named Jun Takahashi. And Takahashi also created an animated music video for that version of the song.
And as for the music video for the original version of “Creep”, that outing was directed by filmographer Brett Turnbull.
In 2018, Radiohead got into some beef with Lana Del Rey after accusing her of plagiarizing “Creep” on a track she came out with the year prior entitled “Get Free”. By the looks of things that matter was eventually settled. However, to note, to date none of the members of Radiohead are credited on “Get Free”, nor has “Creep” been officially identified as being interpolated or sampled into it.
Notable Covers of “Creep”
This song has been covered by a plethora of well-known musicians throughout the years. At the top of the list currently being Prince (1956-2016), who did so in 2008. And another interesting name who lent his vocal talents to this tune is best-selling comedian/actor Jim Carrey. Jim laid down his rendition during an open mic session in 2011.
Some other prominent artists who covered “Creep” include:
- Kelly Clarkson
- Frank Bennett
- The Pretenders
- Tears for Fears
- Haley Reinhart