It’s been 20 years since the release of Radiohead’s OK Computer, and it seems as though nothing has changed. Of course, the band itself shifted toward a more electronic and experimental rock with the release of Kid A and every subsequent record, but 1997’s OK Computer was a foundational record that propelled rock music into the 2000s. The record has remained an important part of the pop culture, because of how it foresaw life in the 21st century, touching on themes of social isolation and consumerism. For the anniversary this record, Radiohead issued a re-release that included three previously unreleased tracks, including “Lift.”
In this case, context is important, because “Lift” fits perfectly well alongside the rest of OK Computer; after all, it was recorded in 1997. The video, directed by Oscar Hudson, serves to emphasize many of the themes of the record. In summary, Thom Yorke walks into an elevator (or ‘lift’) on the 18th floor, and as he descends towards the ground floor, feelings of alienation bring about an existential crisis. The camera is positioned, for the majority of the video, in the corner of the elevator. In this instance, the use of a wide-angle lens helps emulate the look of security camera footage, making us feel voyeuristic.
As people enter and leave the elevator, Yorke’s feelings of loneliness only become more pronounced. This is never explicitly stated, but we can understand his emotions by simply examining his demeanor. This video, in some ways, is reminiscent of the Radiohead’s music video for “Daydreaming,” a track from its 2016 record, A Moon Shaped Pool. Both videos conjure feelings of isolation by having Thom briefly enter the lives of others, giving us the impression that he doesn’t have a life of his own. Even though Radiohead’s sound has changed since 1997, the band still seems interested in exploring how our modern society accentuates feelings of loneliness.
By the end of the video, Yorke reaches the ground floor only to find an adjacent elevator with a doppelgänger standing inside it. We soon become unsure of who the real Yorke is, and that’s the point. In the end, Radiohead warns that we may lose our sense of self.
Featured Image by EMI Records