It’s strange to watch Tori Amos, a famous (Grammy-nominated) artist, cover “Creep,” the song that earned Radiohead their fame, a song that Radiohead has refused to play live for years. Several years ago, I used to listen to the song quite a bit. It’s easy to relate to. Everyone has felt like “a creep”, “a weirdo,” or an outsider at some point. Everyone wants a “perfect body” or a “perfect soul.” The clean guitar in the verses juxtaposed with the distorted guitar in chorus echo the mess of despondency and anger we call “teenage angst.” It’s a classic song and there’s a reason so many great artists have felt compelled to cover it (including a choir (not kidding) and an almost obnoxiously upbeat version, courtesy of Richard Cheese).
Many dedicated fans of Radiohead hate the song, and the whole album it came from. It’s not surprising. Diving into the extensive, intricate discography of Radiohead almost leads to bitterness that the band is “known” for a song so early in their career, when they could have been just another grunge band. Radiohead themselves hate the song.
What’s still notable about the song to me, several years since I’ve last hear it, is the build-up, how all the suffocated emotion bursts free the last time Thom Yorke utters the word, “runs.” Tori Amos takes this concept further. Just before the climax, her singing contains so much restrained energy she is physically shaking. She extends the build-up quite a bit, singing the “running” part three times before the final release. When she finally reaches the climax of the song, she lets out a long, coarse scream, before the audience fills her silence with applause.