NPR logo About a Song: Everything In Its Right Place

About a Song: Everything In Its Right Place

So here's how this works: I give you the lyrics to a song and you tell me what they mean. It could be what it means to you or what you think it means for the writer, in this case Radiohead's Thom Yorke. The song is "Everything in It's Right Place," the opening track from Radiohead's Kid A, one of music's most brilliant songs.

What do you think:

Kid A, Kid A, Kid A, Kid A
Everything, everything, everything, everything
In its right place
In its right place
In its right place
Right place

Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon
Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon

Everything, everything, everything
In its right place
In its right place
Right place

There are two colours in my head
There are two colours in my head
What is that you tried to say?
What was that you tried to say?
Tried to say, tried to say
Tried to say, tried to say

Everything in its right place

And here is one fans video interpretation of the song.



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On the surface, Kid A is a prototype human clone, 'everything in it's right place' refers to a strictly regimented world and waking up sucking a lemon is the uncomfortable feeling of living in this world.

Transfer these to the way Thom Yorke felt about touring OK Computer, the expectations of perfection and the horrible feeling of waking up and going out to meet that world.

I feel boring for giving such a simple answer.

Sent by Louis | 7:34 PM | 7-3-2008

I think this must have something to do with being at school in England. Anonymity, conformity, rigidity. The stifling of creativity and personality for the sake of "order", and what that does to the children and the teachers (Actually, I think these words come from a teacher's perspective)

Sent by Amy Angus | 5:13 AM | 7-4-2008

Does he say "Everything goes up in smoke" at the beginning?

I always think of this song as a companion to Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box from Amnesiac - "After years of waiting, nothing came.Then you realised you were looking in the wrong place"

Sent by Cillian | 9:24 AM | 7-4-2008

It is about someone with debilitating OCD, similar to the end of "The Aviator" they repeat a thought multiple times and must organize everything they see. Sucking on a lemon is the metaphorical bad taste they feel at the disorganization of the world everyday they wake up.

Sent by David | 11:00 PM | 7-4-2008

Although I'm not sure what Thom meant, I always relate it to my high school experience. At the time I was very depressed. Everyday, I would wake up, go about my day, and come home. There was nothing to my life. I was "Kid A" very blank and boring. But I would lie to myself, constantly saying "everything is in it's right place" always reassuring myself nothing was wrong. The line "yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon," for me at least, was again reassuring myself that yesterday was bad, but today would be ok. The last part I always thought the two colors were the lie and the hidden truth. I'm really not sure about the "tried to say part" other than for me, I was so distracted by my own depression to really focus on anything else. But it could also mean the suppressed conscious trying to break out, hence the repeating of "tried to say." More like "I tried to say," rather than someone else. But in the end the lie won, and I kept telling myself "everything in it's right place." I should also note I'm much happier and better now, I wouldn't want anyone to read this and be concerned. That's my take on "Everything in it's right place."

Sent by Jeff C. | 7:15 PM | 7-5-2008

I've read in interviews that some of Kid A's lyrics came from Thom writing random phrases on a peice of paper and pulling them out of a hat, which was inspired by avant-garde jazz and beat poetry if i remember correctly. I always saw it as a song about Thom's discomfort and severe anxiety during the OK Computer era. "Everything im it's right place" referring to the exspectations of perfection forced upon Thom."Sucking on a lemon" referrs to Thom's anxiety and general dicomfort, and "Two Colors in my head" could possibly refer to Thom's ailments and situation striking a dischord with where he wants to be, either a dissatisfaction with the direction his music is heading or possibly him considering leaving radiohead in pursuit of an occupation with fewer pressures and commitments.

Sent by Mike C. | 10:50 AM | 7-7-2008

this is a beautiful song and God bless radiohead and thom yorke's writing. i think its meaning is a lot like the wink the lineman at the end of this video gives us. it's a meditative pure aloe that displaces life's waves, cycles of sadness, despair, and numbness with its epic, awakened and patient perspective: everything in its place, a place for everything. love, love, love it; this song is truth.

Sent by jehan | 2:42 PM | 7-7-2008

I once went through a debilitating stretch of anxiety, and remember listening to this song and hearing profound clarity in the lyrics.

I no longer am in that space, and I also no longer see much meaning in the words, nor can i recall what I gleamed out of them at the time. Are the "two colours" Red and Green (for Stop and Go) or Black and White or something else entirely?

I think that pretty much sums up the song for me.

Sent by David W. | 5:31 PM | 7-7-2008

During the production of Kid A, Thom Yorke , the Greenwood bros., O'Brien, and Selway, were going through a rocky period and not getting along very well. Yorke was going though some depression due to many mental blocks, causing him deep writers block. There are a few interviews you can find on youtube of Thom speaking about it.

'Yesterday I woke up sucking on lemon' - 'Sucking on lemon' is a common phrase in the UK, meaning that you look or feel miserable.

'There are two colours in my head' - Think about it on a simplistic basis. What two colours are the most common metaphor for strife, and lack thereof? The answer is white and black. Good and Evil. Right and Wrong. Alpha and Omega. This symbology is used throughout history. Yorke was reminding himself not to complicate things. To just understand whether or not something would positively or negatively affect him.

And of course, when finality came to this song, many of his and his bandmates issues had been resolved, and finally, everything was in it's right place.

Sent by Jered Leisey | 10:46 PM | 7-7-2008

I always kind of felt that, like a lot of their music, RH's lyrics were always more about textures and the feelings that result than any literal meaning.

That said, I feel like Everything in its Right Place is sort of the thesis of KidA; the song, along with the album, is about the struggle to look past the anxiety, discomfort and randomness that may plague the world around you, and finding beauty. I think ultimately, Yorke decides that beauty will win out, which is why those gorgeous opening notes are so persistent, and always come surging back to the front of the mix.

It's a theme I love, and I don't know if it is common to the music I love, or if I just assign it to music that speaks to me. But whatever the reason, I hear those opening notes, and I instantly feel better - Kid A is by far my number one album of all time. The rest of the list is impossible to make, but that first spot is always easy for me.

Sent by Ian | 2:00 AM | 7-8-2008

Kid A songs don't tend to mean much of anything to me.

Sent by lionel | 4:17 AM | 7-8-2008

Reminds me of Underworld lyrics... but if you sucked the fun and sexiness out of them.

Sent by daniel | 9:40 AM | 7-9-2008

As far as I am aware, this song is nearly meaningless. I believe I have heard in an interview, where Thom said he chose the words entirely based on sound and not based on their meaning.

Sent by Eron | 4:45 PM | 7-10-2008

I think these lyrics are contemplative. Think about it.

Sent by Real Fake | 9:15 AM | 7-11-2008

I think Chuck Klosterman postulated that the entire Kid A album, despite being released in October 2008, is a pre-meditative synopsis of 9/11 and post 9/11 society. The article is in his collection of essays Killing Yourself To Live. I love the vagueness of Thom Yorke's lyrics because they can mean anything to anybody.

Sent by Maddie | 1:38 PM | 7-11-2008

I don't think it means anything. Maybe "Kid A" is a motif of alienation across the entire album (nothing new for Thom, of course), but I don't think these lyrics mean a darn thing. Thom even admitted to David Byrne in an interview that he sometimes just sings a melody until suitable syllables/words come out. I think that's what has happened here.

Sent by Stacia | 2:51 PM | 7-12-2008

Such an amazing song. Kid A is by far my favorite Radiohead album. I will always remember the first time I heard it, because it completely astonished me.

Anyway, I've always imagined this song as being the voice of someone who's aware that he's going mad. As another listener posted, the words "Everything In Its Right Place" reflect a debilitating OCD. Then, "sucking on a lemon" means waking up with anxiety and depression.The "two colors in my head" are something like visions or voices that come between him and reality--in the next lines he is aware that he is being spoken to but can't follow what is being said. For me, this song is sort of unsettling and thrilling to listen to because it paints such a vivid picture of a disturbed mind.

Sent by Suzy | 3:05 PM | 7-12-2008

all this him him him. Music is in the eye of the beholder .. it's about you!

Sent by daniel | 5:42 PM | 7-18-2008

my interpretation of this song is definitely circumstantial, but i think that that is true of most musical interpretation. i'm sure that thom would probably get a kick out of reading all of these interpretations of his lyrics.

anyway, to me this song brings to mind the two truths regarding the nature of reality offered by buddhism - conventional truth and ultimate truth. the conventional nature of something would describe its form, the feelings that it evokes, the way in which it is perceived, etc. however, ultimately, all things are empty and have arisen dependently.

so, these would be the "two colours in my head" through which he perceives the world. by asking the question "what was that you tried to say?" he is evaluating the nature of life according to these two principles. even though "yesterday i woke up sucking a lemon," that is just the way that "i" chose to perceive my situation and orient my consciousness. however, in the end, "everything is in its right place" - empty.

Sent by steve | 11:01 PM | 7-19-2008

I have no idea how you all missed the point of this song, it is so simple.

This song is about Thom's childhood, and his overbearing mother. I don't know about you all, but I completely empathize with the punishment he endured [forced to suck lemons] as punishment for not putting away his toys [in the right place]. Her screaming at him to apologize was especially biting for me [what was that you tried to say].

Finally, I admit I've been in therapy for a while, but it didn't take therapy for me to see that his love for his mother was inappropriate, although admittedly he really only makes that clear later in the album.

Sent by keith | 2:46 PM | 7-22-2008

Personally I believe the song has to do with Thom's experience with manic depression. Its very difficult to describe unless you have it yourself. I could be very wrong, but those suffering from manic depression have to have everything in order and usually if things dont end up coming out as you planned in your head you enter a state of deep depression, some more than others. I suffer from it and grew up in a hip hop influenced environment and by chance was asked to listen to this song among others from RH and never before have I ever been able to relate that feeling with anyone. Needless to say I really enjoy there music and at least for me its very easing to know someone out there has similar experiences that at times you cant really describe to others for various reasons. You cant really explain to anyone whats going on in your head most of the time, just so many random thoughts when you are out of your daily pattern that it can be disturbing and lead to either really high highs or really low lows. Anyway just my two cents.

Sent by Joel | 3:03 PM | 7-22-2008

I always thought it could be said this way:

Sucking a lemon might refer to the face that you make when you're sucking a lemon, and to wake up in such a state is suggestive of the hostile or uncomfortable nature that the narrator of the song is experiencing

"two colors in my head"--refers to the different lobes of the brain, left and right

"what was that you tried to say"--represents confusion and how the narrator is attempting to interpret the outside world by using his "two colors" (two lobes)

"Everything in it's right place" is a statement of irony--much of the statements in the song represent hostility or confusion and this statement offers a juxtaposition to that

...or so I thought. Ha! I agree that this song is brilliant, though.

Sent by Rachael | 3:56 PM | 7-22-2008