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Opinion

Radiohead’s Hype-Fueled Release Strategy for ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ was Part of the Band’s Artistic Statement

The 'hype train' has pulled into the station.

radiohead a moon shaped pool

Radiohead’s new album, A Moon Shaped Pool, is here. On first listen, the album is haunting, seductive, fragile, beautiful (‘Decks Dark’ is an instant standout). The music is what matters most –but for many fans who waited in breathless anticipation, the experience of A Moon Shaped Pool will forever be linked to memories of the band’s clever, mysterious release strategy. Radiohead used digital media like a canvas and a playground during the weeks leading up to the album’s release.

For months, it seemed like Radiohead’s devoted fanbase would do all the work for them; fans salivated over ‘LP9’ tidbits like a leaked story regarding a video made by Paul Thomas Anderson or a manager’s pronouncement that the album would be “like nothing you’ve ever heard.” Roughly a week ago, Radiohead jumped into the fray, dropping its own hints about an imminent release. First, the band sent a mysterious postcard to fans. The postcards contained the ominous phrase ‘we know where you live.’ Next, the band disappeared from the internet completely, erasing its social media presence. It’s a totally contrarian statement that only one of the world’s biggest bands could use as a stroke of artistry. Fans went apeshit, and the ‘LP9’ hype train plunged full speed ahead into the beginning of May. Last week, the band broke its deafening silence with a brief teaser video, followed by the full ‘Burn the Witch’ video and the aforementioned P.T. Anderson-directed video for ‘Daydreaming‘ which included today’s release date for A Moon Shaped Pool. 

The release strategy of A Moon Shaped Pool is reminiscent of Banksy’s 2013 residency in New York City. In October of 2013, the British street artist held a residency titled “Better Out Than In” on the streets of New York, releasing a daily clue regarding the whereabouts of each day’s work of art. Just as every diehard Radiohead fan turned into a minor league sleuth in recent weeks, Banksy’s fans spent that October dissecting every clue and following every lead. Radiohead and Banksy both used social media to drop mysterious hints for fans. Both Radiohead and Banksy made the hunt for their art an inextricable part of the art itself.

It’s not the first time Radiohead has made an album that transcends the songs themselves. 2007’s In Rainbows, for example, was a Radiohead album and an innovative release that altered digital music commodification with its surprise release and ‘pay what you wish’ format (both became major trends in music). It was a Radiohead record inextricably linked with a newsworthy chapter in the band’s career as a cultural innovators.

The beauty of A Moon Shaped Pool will take time to absorb. As you listen to the record, consider how the anticipation of hearing it informs your experience of enjoying it.

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