"Karma Police" as written by Thomas Yorke, Edward John O'brien, Colin Charles Greenwood, Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood and Philip Selway....
Karma police
Arrest this man
He talks in maths
He buzzes like a fridge
He's like a detuned radio

Karma police
Arrest this girl
Her Hitler hairdo
Is making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party

This is what you'll get
This is what you'll get
This is what you'll get
When you mess with us

Karma police
I've given all I can
It's not enough
I've given all I can
But we're still on the payroll

This is what you'll get
This is what you'll get
This is what you'll get
When you mess with us

For a minute there
I lost myself, I lost myself
Phew, for a minute there
I lost myself, I lost myself

For a minute there
I lost myself, I lost myself
Phew, for a minute there
I lost myself, I lost myself


Lyrics submitted by piesupreme

"Karma Police" as written by Thomas Yorke, Edward John O'brien, Colin Charles Greenwood, Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood, Philip Selway

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Karma Police song meanings
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  • +16
    General Commentit seems to me like the song is intentionally self-defeating in order to exaggerate the criticisms people make of others to the extent that they seem ridiculous. the first stanza demonstrates complaints that people have in reference to others. the second stanza then demonstrates how people are unwilling to accept blame for their own actions. it seems to suggest that despite his actions, society holds him down. then, at the end of the song he realizes how easy it is for a person to get caught up in himself and realizes that he has been wrong in criticizing others so harshly.
    mbc4nyon April 23, 2002   Link
  • +14
    My InterpretationMan, some of the ridiculous interpretations given here make me sick. Do people even read the lyrics before they post? Where are the moderators to put end to all this foolishness?
    Sorry, for the flame everyone. I think I lost my head, but now I've come to my senses.

    You might notice that the comments above are illustrative of my interpretation of Karma Police. ;-)


    First the narrator of the song wishes ill on a man because the man is jabbering on about something or other. The irony is that the narrator is probably irritated because he doesn't actually understand the "maths" that man is talking about.

    Then the narrator wishes ill on a woman because he doesn't like her haircut. The irony is that he's eating her food and drinking her wine at a party he wasn't even invited to.

    Then he realizes how petty and ridiculous HE is being.


    I think it's as simple as that.
    turantualon August 21, 2010   Link
  • +12
    General CommentKarma Police/Arrest this man/He talks in maths/He buzzes like a fridge/ He’s like a detuned radio.
    This is the first stanza in Karma Police. From this Stanza, we can hear that the song is being sung from the point of a narrator, who is requesting the “Karma Police” to arrest someone. So what is Karma?

    Karma is a concept developed in ancient India whereby a full cycle of cause and effect takes place. It means that an action that one takes, whether it’s positive or negative, will eventually come back to the person who carried out the action and the effect of it as well. So good actions will give the person who carried out the action a positive consequence, and if someone was to carry out a negative or bad action, then they would receive a negative consequence. In simple terms, what goes around comes around. Because there is obviously no such thing as the karma police, the use of the term “Karma Police” is used metaphorically as bad karma, or negative consequences.

    We can then see that the lyric “Karma Police, Arrest this man” is a cry from the narrator, claiming that negative consequences should be delivered to this ‘man’, because in the narrators’ eyes, this man has done something wrong, and therefore deserves the negative consequence. The next lines of the song show the use of similes, “He talks in maths, he buzzes like a fridge, He’s like a detuned radio” The listener of the song can then deduce that the narrator wants the “Karma Police” or a negative consequence to act on this man for apparently doing nothing at all. The lyric “He buzzes like a fridge” refers to how the narrator can’t understand him, and he carries on and on. It is clear that the narrator hates the sound of his voice because “He’s like a detuned radio”. It is as if the narrator is dobbing in the man to the Karma Police.

    The second stanza re-enforces the first stanza, and shows clear repetition in the first two lines, only replacing “Arrest this man” with “Arrest this girl”. The lines “Her Hitler hairdo is making me feel ill, and we have crashed her party” again show the narrators intolerance to people who are different to himself. It appears that the narrator doesn’t like the hairstyle of a young lady, and in his eyes, is a bad person. The Narrator has judged both the man and woman on small aspects of their personality which are no way crimes, but still wishes bad karma, or the “Karma Police” to act on them. By saying “And we have crashed her party”, the narrator is saying that the Karma Police, or negative karma will act upon not only the young girl and the young man, but all people that the narrator judges and despises, thereby upsetting them, and “crashing their party”. The man and the girl mentioned are representing the people the narrator has intolerance towards.

    The chorus of the song then kicks in.

    This is what you’ll get/this is what you’ll get/this is what you’ll get/when you mess with us.
    Here is a very obvious use of repetition of the phrase “This is what you’ll get”, and the effect that this has is that it re-enforces the message that narrator is trying to convey to the listener. The chorus gives the listener the image of the Narrator being quite pleased at the expense of the group of people, in this case the man and the girl, as they have had negative consequences put on them. “When you mess with us” it is interesting that Radiohead chose to use the word “us”, this implies that the narrator is representing a group, not just himself. Perhaps the group the narrator is representing is society, as people are judged and faced with enormous prejudice for minor things, such as a difference in their personality. This marks the end of the “Action” stage for the narrator. The action stage is the part of the song where the narrator is judging people, and making the requests to the karma police.
    Again in the next stanza, it starts off by repeating the phrase and title “Karma Police”, as if the narrator is addressing the karma police, constantly requesting things from them, and this is repeated throughout the first three stanzas.

    The next stanza shows the narrator almost complaining to the karma police. “I’ve given all I can, it’s not enough, I’ve given all I can but we’re still on the payroll”. The narrator himself may be receiving bad karma, negative consequences, but this is confusing him because he has gone to all the lengths he can by having the Karma Police arrest the people that his values conflict with. “But we’re still on the payroll”, again the use of “we’re” instead of “I’m” implies that the narrator is representing the group. In this stanza there is even more repetition, possibly re-enforcing the narrators frustration as he himself receives negative karma from the karma police, even though he has helped them by dobbing in the people he thinks should be arrested by them. This is why this stanza is the second stage to the song, the confusion or frustration stage.

    Then the music changes key, and the tone and mood of the song does as well. The next stanza goes: “For a minute there/I lost myself, I lost myself/Phew for a minute there/I lost myself, I lost myself.”
    The song now enters the third and final realization stage. This shows that the narrator has realized what he has been doing, and that for a minute, he had lost his own character whilst judging others. The narrator realized that judging people on aspects of their personality is an action that is deserving of bad karma itself, and explains why he was still on the karma polices payroll earlier. This stanza is repeated until the song finishes. The narrator was blinded by his hate and intolerance for the other types of people he became the very thing that he was requesting the karma police to bring down.
    As mentioned before, the narrator represents a group, and that group could very well be society. Overall the song could be about how society judges people on insignificant in non-incriminating things such as their physical appearance and their personality. Society wishes that these people have negative consequences placed on them. However towards the end of the song, with the key change and tone change, society realized that they themselves are the very thing that they were complaining about and it is themselves who have the personality defects, which is why they were to receive “bad karma”. The overall message is the song then is that in judging people for small things such as personality differences, it is you yourself who is the one who deserves of negative consequences.
    Davoson September 30, 2011   Link
  • +9
    General CommentHere's what Thom Yorke himself had to say about this song:

    "You know, when you meet these people and they just talk to you 'cause they want something from you. They really know you're the key, you have something they want. And you want to take a cold shower afterwards. You know what I'm talking about?"

    During performance @ Coachella 2012
    leo45on April 16, 2012   Link
  • +6
    General CommentMy interpretation of the video suggests that no one should be responsible for serving karma to others, or you too will get karma served on you. The whole video is the “karma police” chasing someone, but by the end of the video it ends up coming back to the one trying to serve karma and punishing him for his actions. This song reminds me to not seek revenge on those who do wrong on me because karma will take care of that for me. I am able to remain at peace with whatever has happened because I know that karma will serve justice appropriately. Even if the motive is revenge, karma will be served.
    jpfohon April 05, 2012   Link
  • +5
    Song MeaningI think I finally understand the meaning of this song. I'm pretty sure it's talking about hot shot rock stars and music artists who spout out shit and practically eat the money being thrown at them.

    "Karma police
    Arrest this man
    He talks in maths
    He buzzes like a fridge
    He's like a detuned radio"

    Thom's calling the karma police on a pop artist because:

    He talks in maths = his lyrics are a bunch of bull shit,
    He buzzes like a fridge = There's no emotion. It's like a fridge buzzing.
    He's like a detuned radio = Kinda obvious, it sounds like shit.

    "Karma police
    Arrest this girl
    Her Hitler hairdo
    Is making me feel ill
    And we have crashed her party"

    Pop artist with a crazy hair-do. "we have crashed her party" is referring to Creep, I believe. For a little while, I guess Radiohead saw themselves as these people, and that's why they "crashed her party." Their song was more popular and they got ahead of her on the charts.

    Not really sure about the next part, with all the "this is what you get". I think maybe it's referring to the industry poking around at Radiohead and Radiohead is saying Karma Police (song) is what they get in return, something that exposes all of their bullshit.

    "Karma police
    I've given all I can
    It's not enough
    I've given all I can
    But we're still on the payroll"

    They've tried to move past who they became with Creep, for example, My Iron Lung, but it's still in the spotlight and they're still cashing in money from it, possibly making them feel guilty.

    "For a minute there
    I lost myself, I lost myself
    Phew, for a minute there
    I lost myself, I lost myself"

    Again, directed at the band they were when Creep was released.
    ethan93on August 01, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentLick your own crack, you beastly bollocks!
    thom yorkeon May 07, 2002   Link
  • +3
    My Interpretationfeel like karma police is an internal dialogue, like everytime the male protagonist of the song has to deal with external reality, they know they'll look at him like a freak/weirdo, and they don't even have to say anything, his own internal paranoia and guilt will seize him like he's being arrested by real police, emotionally, and they keep coming after him over and over again.

    then it shows the same situation from a female perspective, like how she's used to being judged for her unorthodox dressing or whathaveyou, maybe even just mindset, and how her own internal guilt comes after her late into the night, no one needs to say anything compared to what her own self-doubt will say to her.

    and at the end, they both come back, saying "For a minute there, I lost myself" in this really overarching sadness that kinda indicates they know they will be slipping back to that place in a matter of time, the sadness of how easily they can get lost, how lost they feel, but still relieved to found even if just for one more moment

    [also, the line, 'i've given all i can / it's not enough / we're still on the payroll' seems to me that they've gone through this process and tried to get past the self-doubt/paranoia/anxiety, but they just keep coming back to it]
    AndrewVSon July 13, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentCan somebody tell what this wonderful song is about?
    Don Jeroneon December 14, 2001   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIts just about them not liking certain people, sounds like their in a rage and then calms down-"for a minute there, I lost myself"- and regains his cool.
    OwnPersonalDemonon January 08, 2002   Link

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