Radiohead Resurrects Their Hidden Ballad, I Promise
  • MONDAY, JUNE 05, 2017

  • Posted by: Jake Holzman

Radiohead is no stranger to digging up things from their past and making them work for the future. For example, their song "Nude," off of In Rainbows, was a live hit under a different name for years. And, most memorably, when the band released A Moon Shaped Pool last year, there was a collective gasp heard around the world when fans realized that the last song on the track listing was an old live favorite: "True Love Waits." What they heard, though, was a totally new reinterpretation of the song. What was once a solo Thom Yorke guitar strumming effort became a spacious, somber piano ballad that fit perfectly with the tone set by the rest of the album. However, the upcoming release of OKNOTOK will see Radiohead unearthing unused material without feeling the need to repurpose the old tracks for a new sound. The most notable of these will surely be "Lift," a song that many fans thought would finally be brought into the studio for A Moon Shaped Pool. But last night, Radiohead revealed the track "I Promise," and the song feels like a time capsule to some time between The Bends and OK Computer. It's a straightforward acoustic guitar ballad that sounds like it was destined to be played at wedding receptions for the past couple of decades, had the song actually been released when it was written in the 90s. The lyrics themselves sound like wedding vows. "I won't run away no more, I promise/ Even when I get bored, I promise."

The song is unapologetically simplistic, stripped down, and emotional. Phil Selway sounds like a drummer in a marching band, strings swell behind Thom Yorke's crooning vocals, and the guitar part would have fit in perfectly with other memorably catchy acoustic ballads from the OK Computer era. "I Promise" is the kind of song that makes you realize how hard Radiohead is on themselves, because it just goes to show that a song as good as this one apparently isn't good enough for them to release (well, until now that is). It's a hauntingly beautiful reminder of who the band used to be and how far they've come.


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