What does Karma Police mean?

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Radiohead: Karma Police Meaning

Tagged: Karma [suggest]

Song Released: 1997


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Karma Police Lyrics

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...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    #1 top rated interpretation:
    bobdylan
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    Dec 28th 2008 report

    This song is about the End of the World. Kidding! It's about hate and cruelty. About people punishing others and claiming that they deserve it--playing the Karma Police. Sure, Karma exists. Things come back to bite you on the ass. But, also, must people are viscous and miserable and they like to punish people for making mistakes--they love to gossip, they love to hate. Think about it. Think about all the people you hate.

  2. 2TOP RATED

    #2 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
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    Jan 10th 2006 report

    I think it's about the lack of free thought and the fear and retribution a person receives if they disobey the norm. I think the Karma police is a metaphor for the social norm and the mindless enforcement of their prescribed values and beliefs, garnered from past experiences, or 'karma', that have led them to believe that what is right is pacifying and neutral(unprovocative in terms of emotional and rational outbursts) and what is 'just' is apathy and anesthesia for the mind. The main agenda of the Karma police seems to center around busting people who think and act differently from their standards, like the girl with the hitler hairdo(controversial, historically evoking), or the guy who talks in maths and buzzes like a fridge(a man of reason who is insignificant like a flea or insect). Another part I like about this song is the ending part, where the chorus is "for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself" expressing the idea of the experience of free thought for the first time, that for a minute, the slogan of the karma police was undone in the persons head, shifting his beliefs to the persecuted. Anyway, great song. 4/5.

  3. 3TOP RATED

    #3 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
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    Nov 29th 2007 report

    In interviews, Radiohead have said that "The Karma Police will catch up with him" was a jokey phrase they started using when they thought someone was acting like a prick. The bit about the guy who buzzes like a fridge and the girl with the Hitler hairdo are examples of this, while "Karma Police, I've given all I can but its not enough" shows Thom's despair at the offensiveness of people bursting through, while "Phew, for a minute there, I lost myself" sees him regaining his outward, public composure.

  4. anonymous
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    Jul 15th 2014 report

    I think Karma Police is a very literal song in it's lyrics, however, the song is from the perspective of different people.

    The first verse is about a supposedly "responsible" person who has really done no wrong, but gets appropriate revenge on people who deserve it.

    The chorus is from the perspective of the Karma Police. They are monotonous in their justification of their actions, repeating what they said over and over.

    The second verse is from the perspective of the prosecuted. They have "given all they can" in repentance for their actions, but for the Karma Police, "it's not enough", and he's "still on the payroll". Suggesting he still has to earn himself karma in the eyes of the Karma Police.

    Then the chorus comes back, again the Karma Police reinforcing their actions.

    The last section is likely someone arrested by the Karma Police asking for forgiveness, saying "For a minute there, I lost myself", suggesting they were not in the right state of mind when they lost their good karma.

  5. anonymous
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    Sep 2nd 2013 report

    I like the original lyrics better:

    Karma Police, arrest this girl
    she looks at me as if
    she owned the world
    and we have crashed her party.

    It makes more sense (arrest this girl for her snotty, superior attitude)and it flows beautifully (try singing it).
    Can't understand why they changed it.

  6. anonymous
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    May 26th 2013 report

    I think the song is showing that if you do bad things karma will come back and bite you in the ass because if you do bad things bad things will happen to you

  7. anonymous
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    Mar 9th 2013 report

    "Karma will loose to karma someday,
    It will kill itself."

  8. Edgar J Lopez
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    Nov 19th 2012 report

    The lyrics to this song are ironical, the whole song is completely ironic.
    It talks about a karma police in a ironical way , the karma police is actually all of the worlds monopolies who have committed crimes in mass numbers and who have complete control over all of us. The people who are being attack in the song are Hawkins and lady D as an example of how bad things happen to good people , the narrator in the song represent the every day working class and how we all become part of the karma police " the monopolies". At the end of the song the narrator becomes aware of this and in a way he tries to do right but ultimately goes back to being part of the karma police.

  9. anonymous
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    Nov 12th 2012 report

    Karma, what goes around comes around. I think this song deals with how stupid revenge is. How we seek to punish those that offend us, no matter how petty or ridiculous that offense is. And this belief that the "those who do wrong will punished by the universe." Yet at the end of the day, when you long to see others punished, you yourself suffer. Bad Karma ironically comes back on you. Then it is like this bad cycle or way of thinking that snowballs into this entity that oppresses people, like lynch mob of sorts. When he says, for a minute there, I lost myself. I think he is say he was once part of the lynch mob/Karma Police now he is coming to his senses.

  10. anonymous
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    Feb 20th 2012 report

    I think this is a song about martyrdom. The lyrics are a metaphor for his inability to conform to the expectations of his lovers. He personifies karma by sabotaging the relationship to hurt the one who loves him. He'll get them back for not accepting him.

  11. Lee Bolles
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    Oct 27th 2011 report

    Karma Police is a joke. It's a wonderful song, but you people have put WAAAAAY too much thought into it and have made it more complicated than it really is. Simply put, it's the band poking fun at itself. Thom Yorke is writing himself off as a man who talks in math, a detuned radio, fridge buzz, and someone who is not in the mainstream. And I think that he's calling Johnny a girl with a bad haircut. Seriously, he's had that thing for years, don't you think everyone has had a laugh about it? And as for the term 'karma police' itself, that's a band in-joke.

    "For a minute there I lost myself," by extension, is saying "I'm sorry Johnny, you're not a girl. That was mean."

    Feel free to disagree, but my belief stands that Radiohead has pulled our collective leg for the past 14 years.

  12. anonymous
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    Aug 24th 2011 report

    I think it's about a guy that talks like a fucking idiot and a girl that has weird hair but thinks she's cool but karma's going to catch up with her. And that writer is trying to establish good karma but he can't and it catches up with him like he starts getting all worried about keeping his karma right but then he realizes that karma is like bullshit.

  13. anonymous
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    Apr 27th 2011 report

    I think its about the mafia or "karma police" and about how they will kill people of anything(the "this is what you get" part and the "karma police, arrest this man, he talks in math" part). I also think that on the part it says "karma police, ive given all i can, its not enough. its not enough. ive given all I can, but we are still on the payroll". i think it is the mafia talking with a victim about funds.

  14. anonymous
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    Apr 3rd 2011 report

    its about criticizing others who are openly gloom about something, when deep down, they're even better off because they can at least accept it, while you live in the shadows and judge them for that with envy

  15. Chopman95
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    Mar 15th 2011 report

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

    That verse is probably referring to a politician. We all know how good they are at lying

    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 doesn't mean we're on anyone's payroll. To me it means that we are in debt for all of our wrong-doings and no matter how hard we try to do good, we cannot do enough to undo all of the bad. So we have to endure the bad karma.

  16. jimmymagee53
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    Apr 20th 2010 report

    I Think it's about the idea that karma will eventually catch up with everyone and judge you on your life and in this instance I think Thom is singling out people who live life as robots who he sees as merely going through life on auto pilot without feeling for judgment/if someone is a prick but I think it is more focused on the former (hence the use of the machinery/ electrical equiptment imagery...e.g. fridge, de-tuned radio(always thought that was 'digital radio')). I think this idea of 'de-humanisation'(for want of a better term) is a running theme throughout "OK computer" and one Yorke is constantly pre-occupied with as he sees it as endemic in society nowadays.

    I think that although, while listening to the song you associate a feeling of foreboding with the 'karma police', Thom is quite hopeful and uplifted by the thought that karma will indeeed recognise that these people who exist as "robots"(but are perceived as successful) will get their just rewards when they will be judged by a more karma-y (??)standard.

    The 2nd verse i.e. "I've given all I can...we're still on the payroll" is Thom acknowledging that as much as he tries not to be/ doesn't want to be he is a part of soceity and has to play the game. He indulges in the behaviour he sees as superficial as much as he tries not to.

    "Phew for a minute there..." it's Thom returning to the normal perscribed socialised Thom.His moment of clarity is over.kind of an 'ignorance is bliss' kind of moment. Its safe not thinking or feeling or havingto deal with emotions. Its easier having a prescribed role and script to live from and I think this is what kinda what he's getting at.The idea that we live roles and not lives.I also think that his return to the comfort of his "role"is reflected in the the gradual uplift in mood of the song towards the end.(well I think so anyway!)

    I hope I made sense. Any thoughts would be much appreciated so I can get it straighter in my own head.

  17. delirium
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    Oct 9th 2009 report

    i dont know why but for some reason i think this song is bout the gruesome "The Moors murder" took place in UK ages ago. specially the parts where he goes "her hitler hairdo" reminds me of Myra Hindley's blonde hair she bleached to look like a nazi woman. and "karma police" refers to the fact that they were busted by someone who they thought was an accomplice in the last murder they did. "this is what u get"

    i dont think this is what karma police is really bout but it some how fits so perfectly to the moors murder story.

  18. taperjeangirl
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    Apr 19th 2009 report

    Notice how at the end, he says, "For a minute there, I lost myself,". He simply lost himself by saying mean things about the man and the girl.

    Karma, is coming back to get him for ugly remarks. It's a simple meaning, really, not complicated.

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