"Fitter Happier" as written by Thomas Yorke, Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood and Dan Rickwood....
Fitter, happier, more productive,
Comfortable,
Not drinking too much,
Regular exercise at the gym
(Three days a week),
Getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries,
At ease,
Eating well
(No more microwave dinners and saturated fats),
A patient better driver,
A safer car
(Baby smiling in back seat),
Sleeping well
(No bad dreams),
No paranoia,
Careful to all animals
(Never washing spiders down the plughole),
Keep in contact with old friends
(Enjoy a drink now and then),
Will frequently check credit at (moral) bank (hole in the wall),
Favors for favors,
Fond but not in love,
Charity standing orders,
On Sundays ring road supermarket
(No killing moths or putting boiling water on the ants),
Car wash
(Also on Sundays),
No longer afraid of the dark or midday shadows
Nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate,
Nothing so childish, at a better pace,
Slower and more calculated,
No chance of escape,
Now self-employed,
Concerned (but powerless),
An empowered and informed member of society
(Pragmatism not idealism),
Will not cry in public,
Less chance of illness,
Tires that grip in the wet
(Shot of baby strapped in back seat),
A good memory,
Still cries at a good film,
Still kisses with saliva,
No longer empty and frantic like a cat tied to a stick,
That's driven into frozen winter shit
(The ability to laugh at weakness),
Calm,
Fitter,
Healthier and more productive
A pig in a cage on antibiotics.


Lyrics submitted by piesupreme

"Fitter Happier" as written by Thomas Yorke, Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood, Dan Rickwood

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Fitter Happier song meanings
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  • +22
    General CommentVery weird song, but good. Immediately, you notice that speaker is actually a computerized voice, which lets you know that the lifestyle it describes is too scheduled and perfect according to examples set by "experts" and such that it couldn't possibly be real. He goes on, desribing how fit, happy, and productive he is, and how he's kind to all animals, has a very safe car, is a patient and better driver, eats well, etc... As the song goes along, you notice the tone of the music getting more ominous and sad, hinting that there's still something missing in this "ideal" lifestyle. He says "Concerned, but powerless" which reveals that the speaker can do nothing and is, basically, as he proclaims later like "a pig in a cage on antibiotics". Apparently, living the so-called "Ideal" lifestyle is so dehumanizing that it basically rots your soul into an oblivion, and you basically become a shell of a person, not feeling or loving, which is a fate even worse than death. Man...
    deadeye093on April 24, 2002   Link
  • +9
    General CommentI definitely hear this as a commentary on our society's tendency toward medicating people into normalcy. Although most of the song describes the blandly idealized lifestyle of the fitter and happier individual, there are lines strewn about that hint at a very dark past for this person.

    "No killing moths or putting boiling water on the ants"

    "No longer afraid of the dark or midday shadows"

    "Slower and more calculated"

    and of course... "No longer empty and frantic..."

    I think it's these lines that deal with the PAST of this individual that tell the true story. This individual has been medicated somehow, through antidepressants or something, and we are expected to look at their new "calm" lifestyle through the lens of a dark and chaotic past. So from this angle, every positive statement in the poem is really drawing attention to its opposite. I imagine a character who was once unfit, unhappy, drinking too much, not sleeping well, paranoid, etc. And while the medication may have brought them into some state of idealized normalcy, it also took a depressing tax on the person's soul:

    "Fond but not in love."

    The idea that this is about being medicated is epitomized in the final line. The pig in a cage is a metaphor for a trapped person, who is only surviving through medication, not true freedom. To raise a truly healthy pig, you don't just shoot it up with antibiotics, you give it freedom to graze. I suppose for the person, true freedom would mean a release from the bleak and suppressive expectations of our culture, like settling down, becoming a parent, being responsible and following a routine (all things the song alludes to). But instead this person is medicated and conforms to the prescribed path, driving a safer better car, raising a child in some traditional manner, with only the memory of an "empty and frantic" past.

    As other people have mentioned, there is really way too much to say about this song. You could write a whole essay on it. On top of this general analysis there are the interesting contradictions, repetitions and juxtapositions:

    "Concerned, but powerless. An empowered and informed member of society."

    "Not drinking too much" ... "Enjoy a drink now and then."

    "Will not cry in public" ... "Still cries at a good film"

    "Fond but not in love" ... "Still kisses with saliva"

    I think these are meant to express the bizarre hypocrisies, contradictions and double-standards in what our culture considers normal, acceptable behavior.

    It's dark stuff. Given that Thom has spoken about his own experiences with depression (especially around the time of OK Computer), I would imagine these ideas come from deep within his own thoughts and feelings.

    Incidentally, the song reminds me lyrically of Nirvana's "Lithium." I think Lithium does not have as much poetic depth or subtlety (I don't blame it considering it's written as a rock song, not a poem over music like "Fitter Happier"), but both songs dwell on the calming effects of medication by making ironic juxtapositions and contradictions. The Nirvana line "I'm so horny, but that's okay my will is good" reminds me of lines in this song like "fond but not in love." Both evoke an emotion but show that it has been blunted into a passive and weaker state, while ironically casting this in a positive, yet unsettling light.
    RaceYouAnyTimeon April 29, 2012   Link
  • +4
    General Commentthis song(?) depresses me more than any other Radiohead or Eels song combined. truly some hopelessly powerful imagery here.
    roger wilcoon May 13, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentWe are trapped by the life we aspire to; the life we aspire to traps others. To be healthier, we have to cage pigs to produce our insulin; billions of chicken eggs to produce our vaccines. I think Thom Yorke is quite aware of this - it resonates when you hear him say "all the unborn chicken voices in my head" during Paranoid Android.

    As we get older we laugh at the naivete of youth and favour pragmatism, not idealism. We revile the desperation that comes with our failure to reach our previous ideals. We know we are failures - as we age, we idealize a "sensible" lifestyle and herald the "ability to laugh at weakness" - it's a shared joke among adults. We are all failures. We are so enervated by failure that we don't feel anymore. We just spout common-sense attitudes and lifestyle tips at each other in our old age.

    There is a deep dissatisfaction that nobody will talk about as we head into old age and death - like a cat, tied to a stick, that's driven into frozen winter shit. Dying cold and alone and trying not to think about it.
    avavaon October 09, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis is a good one. This is the prototypical lifestyle-- the ideal. But throughout it is clear something isn't quite right-- clues leak out here and there, and become increasingly desperate as the piece continues. Our speaker is about to burst. There's really too much to say about this one.
    gordopolis82on February 11, 2002   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationThis is always a good listen.

    This was a sort of "90's checklist" they wrote up for a song, then Thom Yorke happened to try out the speech function on the old iMac and thought it sounded right for this. The piano is indeed Thom Yorke playing drunk, and the rest of the track was built around these two things. It seems to me that the track isn't necessarily about "fitting in" or being the "perfect citizen," since this list of things doesn't really seem to fit either of those two molds. It's more like a series of catchphrases, thoughts, and ideals from the 90's. It's haunting (some say depressing), but not purely negative: it's more like nostalgia that's missing the positive filter: it's a society of people confusedly trying to figure out who to be, and what to do, to be happy, and being just about as successful as every other generation.
    Ditocoafon March 04, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAs has been said, the lyrics for this song were taken from magazine clippings, and read by a Macintosh computer. The lyrics, taken right from the horse's mouth, show us what we have taken to believe as the ideal lifestyle. A lifestyle where we are all fitter, happier, and more productive. But the final line gives us a twist: it shows us what we've really become: a pig in a cage on antibiotics. The perfect tongue-in-cheek line to slap us all in the face with.

    We've given our lives away. We didn't lose them, they weren't stolen, we handed them away. We handed them to the very magazines that Thom got his lyrics from. We turn to them to learn how to live our lives. We turn to them to learn what the ideal lifestyle is. And as a result we are all identical slaves. We are all pigs in cages on antibiotics. Because we have stopped thinking for ourselves and deciding the best way to live our individual lives. Now we have no individual voice, just the voice of the computer that we are shackled to. We have no words, for we have given them to the magazines which must now provide our lyrics.

    We are not men. We are enslaved pigs with computerized voices, taking antibiotics because we're told they will help.
    anderjaoon July 03, 2009   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationFitter or Happier?

    In its third studio album OK Computer, English rock band Radiohead examines the theme of social alienation in modern society. In the song “Fitter Happier”, Radiohead explores how we arrive at emotional estrangement and the consequences of allowing it to happen. The track is less of a song, so much as a list poem recited by the emotionless computer voice of the Macintosh SimpleText software.

    On the surface, “Fitter Happier” is a positive song. It is composed of a collection of self-improvement slogans. One of its first lyrics reads: “regular exercise at the gym, three days a week.” Many would agree that exercise is a productive activity, and exercising routinely is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In modern society, moderate exercise is universally accepted as a good thing and almost everyone strives to exercise more. The main obstacle that prevents many people from exercising is laziness, since it takes considerable energy and self-motivation to go to the gym. Thus, the lyric “regular exercise at the gym, three days a week” seems to tell us that we should resist our desire to be lazy in order to become fitter beings.

    Upon closer examination, however, we find the lyric also seems to preach conformity. Rather than only telling us to exercise, it indicates where and how often. The lyric tells us to exercise specifically at the gym. The exercise machines at the gym provide an artificial workout when compared to more primitive forms exercise, such as playing sports. Rather than allowing exercise to be a natural byproduct of activity, the song tells us to exercise specifically for the purpose of exercising. Additionally, the song prescribes a specific amount of exercise (three days a week). Regardless of individual differences, the song says we should all exercise the same amount. It is probably true that exercising at the gym is more efficient than playing sports. It is also fair to say that three days of exercise per week is good amount. However, following the song’s advice on physical self-improvement seems to come at the cost of individuality.

    It is important to note that the key to exercising regularly is resisting laziness. The idea of resisting impulses seems to be prevalent throughout the song. For instance, the song encourages safety through the following lyric: “a patient better driver, a safer car, baby smiling in back seat.” The lyric claims that a patient driver is a better driver, which certainly seems like an accurate statement. Patience involves resisting the urge to drive above the speed limit, and it means to fight the temptation of passing the slow car ahead of you. If people were more patient drivers, there would probably be less car crashes and less people would be injured or dead. The lyric then uses the image of a smiling baby to link the ideas of patience and safety with the idea of happiness.

    The message seems clear: pursuing patience and safety will result in happiness. However, this idea is challenged by a parallel lyric near the end of the song: “shot of baby strapped in back seat”. This lyric is identical to the previous one except the word “smiling” has changed to the word “strapped”. The new image no longer has elements of happiness. Rather, it conveys a sense of terror and fear. The driver is so fearful of his baby’s safety that he has strapped it down. The fear of danger has also metaphorically strapped down the driver through his pursuit of safety and resisting urges. The song is implying that restricting ourselves to an extreme will exterminate our happiness.

    Thus far, there seems to be a tension forming within the messages of the song. The lyrics tell us to restrict our desires in order to become healthier and safer. Yet it also implies that this restriction will diminish our individuality and happiness.

    This tension is further complicated by the multiple instances of animals in the song. A total of five animals are mentioned in the song. They are referred to in the following order: spider, moth, ant, cat, and pig. It is interesting to note that the number of legs diminishes from one animal to the next. The spider has eight legs; the moth has six legs with two wings; the ant has six legs. Both the cat and the pig have four legs, but the pig is anatomically closer to humans. As the song progresses, it seems to bring us closer to humans, which have two legs. Thus, the song implies that following its list of prescriptions will lead us to become “more human.”

    To emphasize that we are becoming more human, every instance of animals is linked with the idea of not killing them. It tells us “never [to wash] spiders down the plughole”, “no killing moths or putting boiling water on ants”, and no driving the cat “into frozen winter shit.” The song also says “a pig in a cage on antibiotics”, which implies that we should give medicine to sick animals. By telling to resist the impulse to kill animals, the song implies that we are no longer bloodthirsty barbarians. Rather, we are progressing towards a more civilized society by following the song’s decrees.

    The message of becoming more human is undermined, however, by the presence of water at every instance that an animal is mentioned. Specifically, water is always the agent that kills the animals. The idea of water killing animals is ironic, since the lack of water kills life. However, the song is against using water on the animals. The song seems to view water as an adversary on other occasions as well. For example, one lyric states “tires that grip in the wet”. In this case, water is threat to safety.

    Throughout the song, water seems to be symbol for emotion. Both share the quality of mutability, and both undermine the rigid structure of restraint that the song encourages. Furthermore, both water and emotion are essential to human life.

    The song seems to present a mixed message. It claims that we become more human through restraint, even though that restraint will lead to a loss of emotion. This tension relates back to the title of the song, “Fitter Happier”. Does becoming fitter lead to becoming happier? Or must we choose one over the other? Although the answer is not stated explicitly, the song implies that the latter is true. As the song progresses, the listener is supposedly becoming more and more fit from following the advice of the song. The words of the song become darker and more negative as it plays. Initially, the lyrics include positive words such as “happier”, “comfortable”, “at ease”, and “smiling”. Towards the end, the lyrics are dominated by depressing words such as “desperate”, “powerless”, “empty”, and “frantic”. The shift in tone demonstrates that the listener becomes less happy as he becomes fitter.

    The listener’s transformation is explicitly shown through the first and last lines of the song. They are almost identical except for a key difference: the word “happier” in the first line is replaced with “healthier” in the last line. Thus, the song tells us that losing happiness is the price we pay in order to become healthier and fitter. It warns us of the consequences of losing individuality and emotion. And if we do follow the prescribed path, we will become no more than test tube subjects for advancing our species. In other words, we will be “pigs in cages on antibiotics.”
    jacksun23on October 18, 2010   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningI'd just like to add this one thing. Today I was listening to this song and I came to line "tires that grip in the wet / shot of baby smiling in back seat" and I had a vision.

    It was an old car commercial for brand new expensive tires. The scene was a car climbing a mountain in a torrential downpour. It was cut like an action movie almost, the car weaving, narrowly avoiding danger on account of these hi-tech tires that funnel water out with increased efficiency. Then, the last shot of the advert is a baby, strapped in the back seat, smiling.

    I thought, Thom was probably watching tele one day (most likely stoned) and felt something profound and disturbing upon seeing this ad. If I had to guess, it's to do with the emotional manipulation employed by modern advertising--shamelessly guilting parents into springing for better tires, for the sake of their precious children. It's capitalism ruthlessly plucking at our vulnerable heart strings. That commercial, that IMAGE is a microcosmic example of the subtle, encroaching darkness that is enveloping our society. And I believe, that subject is mostly what Fittier Happier, and Ok Computer, and even Radiohead are about.

    I've heard Thom say that this song has to do with rather bleak rules for the 90's that were sort of implied by the culture. As in, you must do these things to be a good person. Certainly most of the song is easy enough to fit into that framework (with a few good ol Yorke strangeness tossed in). I think having the expensive tires to protect your children aligns with that pretty well.

    I know it's a stretch to think Thom's seen that very commercial, but it's fun to think so anyway... :)
    Wisemeisteron May 13, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentEvery time I listen to this song it reminds me my "Rubik" , If you have already solved the Rubik's cube so you know that there are some formulas (RU'R'U and ...) for solving but when you finish that you are not happy , you feel like computer or robot !
    Peymanon December 06, 2012   Link

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