2+2=5

Album: Hail To The Thief (2003)
Charted: 15

Songfacts®:

  • This is about things not necessarily being as they seem: January having April showers, two and two making a five, the term "hail to the thief" instead of "hail to the chief."
  • The first sound of the song is Jonny Greenwood plugging in his guitar. It was the very first sound that was recorded when Radiohead went into the studio to record Hail To The Thief.
  • The name of the album comes from this song. It is a reference to George Bush "stealing" the 2000 US Election.
  • The intro to this song is in 7/4 time.
  • There was two versions of this single: one came with "Remyxamatosis" (a remix of Myxamatosis, unsurprisingly) and a demo of "There, There." The second came with "Skttrbrain (Four Tet Remix)" (a remix of Scatterbrain), and "I Will (Los Angeles Version)." Radiohead took to releasing singles on 2 CDs - an EP (Extended Play) disc and a full-length album.
  • Each track on Hail To The Thief has an alternate name. The alternate name of this is "The Lukewarm." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    rudi - melbourne, Australia, for all above
  • Almost exactly at 2:25 (2 + 2 = 5), the beat of the song changes into the one the song finishes on. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Josh - Fountain, NC
  • In an interview with New York magazine, guitarist Ed O'Brien talked about the unusual time signature used in this song: "One of the things that marks our band - that Thom and Jonny used to drive home all the time - is sounding different. You can do it through stuff like using unusual intervals on harmonies [in songs like "2 + 2 = 5"]. The trouble with a lot of rock music is that people are still doing their Beatles and their Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young harmonies. You can't just keep making replications of those things."
  • According to Q magazine April 2008, this song signposted the album's lyrical themes, a vision of an Orwellian, post 9-11 world where nothing adds up. The vision was inspired by Thom Yorke's compulsive tracking of BBC Radio 4 news bulletins. It was there the singer first heard the phrase "Hail To The Thief," which was originally used to describe 19th century US president, John Quincy Adams.
  • At the beginning of the song you can faintly hear Jonny Greenwood say "We're on" to which his brother Colin Replies, "That's a nice way to start, Jonny." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    alexander - whitby, United Kingdom
  • The title of the song 2+2=5 is a reference to George Orwell's novel, "1984." In the book, Big Brother was teaching individuals to reject what they once knew to be true. Where 2+2=4, he was teaching them that 2+2=5. This theme correlates to the theme of the song. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Chris - Phoenix, AZ

Comments: 26

  • Aaron from Los Angeles, Cathis song is about how a government can influence people by saying things over and over again. Like Lee Harvey Oswald killing kennedy.
  • Cole from Suwanee, GaIsnt the independent video also a slight reference to the novel "Animal Farm"?
  • John from Leicester, United KingdomJohn from Fairfax, VA I think is very close to how I see the song. I think it's about the conspiracy theories of a 'new world order'. To me it sounds like the song is about the difficulty in trying to resist the falsehood that are peddled by an 'elite' on the public so they'll believe whatever they are told and eventually accept their 'new world' vision. In this case accepting that 2+2=5 when it obviously doesn't.
    Also when Thom sings 'It's's too late now' it's a reference to the idea that this elite have reached a point in there plans when it's too late to turn things around. After all the album is called 'The Gloaming' which I think means entering s new dark age.
    At the end of the day this is just my opinion of what I think they were angling at in the song. It might all sound a bit far-fetched but if you want to research more please check out 'Zeitgeist-The Movie' on YouTube. It's a very interesting watch.
  • Diana from New Orleans, LaIsn't this a 1984 reference?
  • Matt from Wakefield, Mais the title referring to 1984 by George Orwell? I jsu started reading that and I saw "2+2=5" and thought I knew it from somewhere.
  • Dom from Swindon, United KingdomHas anyone else noticed that the video posted with this song is Song 2 by Blur?
  • Musicsteward from Berlin, GermanyI think the song is about the American goverment. Radiohead says they put all the troubles in a box so they've got nothing to worry about... BUT... If they put the box too full with troubles, the box will fall in parts and the troubles will come out. Then it is too late cuz you haven't been paying attention!
  • Musicsteward from Berlin, GermanyIt's not at 2:25! It's later in the song! more like 2:35
  • Musicsteward from Berlin, GermanyThe name of the album comes from this song. It is a reference to George Bush "stealing" the 2000 US Election.

    A lot of people think it is, but it isn't! Thom Yorke himself said that in an interview!
  • Benjamin from Birmingham, Alevery time I listen to it, I don't really pay attention to the world. It's like, all of the wierd noises and stuff kind of distract me; I think that that is the main theme of this song...
  • Allison from A Little Ol' Town In, MiThis is an awesome song, I love the beginning. This guys sound almost like Pink Floyd with a more modern edge and less psychedelics involved.
    I <3 RADIOHEAD!
  • John from Fairfax, VaBobby from England you do a pretty good job on the 1984 explanation but the 2+2=5 idea is wrong. (1984 SPOILERS BELOW)

    The 2+2=5 bit is kind of the opposite of how you have it; it is that the party forces Winston to accept the fact that 2+2=5 because a declaration by the party should be a higher source of truth than the logic that tells him 2 and 2 make 4. He tries to resist accepting that, which I think related to the song pretty well. I get from the lyrics that such denials of logic are now the norm and that resisting the institutionalized "truths" requires one to go out of their way.
  • Chris from Charleston, ScBrilliant Song. Brilliant Album. Brilliant Group.
  • David from Austin, Txeveryone knows what this song is about, so i just wanted to add if you haven't read 1984, you should! you can skip the long chapter about the history of the continents if it bores you.
  • Jimi from Reno, NvRadiohead is the only band now that really matters.
  • Bobby Bobbet from London, England2+2=5 being a reference to orwells 1984 is the characters belief in remaining fully conscious with a connection between past present and future. the protagonist winston smith is working within the mechanism of politics fully aware and part of the manipulation of facts and figures which are forms of rhetoric to direct the masses ideals. he still remains together heart body and soul, the objective of the thought police (Goldstein the head of) is to disconnect winstons motivations which are based emotionally against the totalitarian (complete control by one government) system which is opressing people consciously and unconsciously. Winston makes a packed with himself to be free to say 2+2=5 no matter whats done to him in room 101. towards the end they break winston down slowly like a cat taking its time with the legs of a centipede. they force winstons most contemptable fear on him and with that he renounces everything he bears hes soul. havin broke winstons character and person hes left disconnected from the sense of self,I. Towards the end hes still able to wright 2+2=5 but without the heart and emotion it originally carried. My own hypothesis leads me to believe this could be a allegory to schizophrenia a "mental Illness" To still know someting but remain totally emotive to it. 2+2=5=Apathy
  • Dan from Sydney, AustraliaPAYING ATTENTION! 1:54 seconds the song just goes nuts , its the best
  • Pete from Wheaton, Md"Hail to the thief" is NOT a reference to George Bush: as Radiohead put it, that would be far to obvious. The song is about how if you are an idealist and put the worlds troubles away in your mind, there gonna come back hard and you wont be able to do anything because "you have not been paying attention." The music explodes when it's to late and so also in the music, you're gonna be hit if you haven't been paying attention. Also, in the calm before the storm when he says "It's the devil's way now, there's no way out..." it's too late now etc... The chord progression is the same as in the loud part but the instrumentation, it's ALREADY the devil's way. You didn't realize that because you weren't PAYING ATTENTION.
  • Rússeo from Estância, BrazilI think that verse "I'll stay home forever where 2 n 2 always makes up 5" It's about stayin away from the world outside to be n to do what u want, cuz at home u can make 2+2 become 5 if u want."R u such a dreamer to put the world to rights?" better to hide from the contraditory world where january has april showers.
  • Gerald from Olathe, KsIronically, about a month before "Hail to the Thief" was released, a copy of the album was stolen from the recording studio and leaked to the Internet. Hail to the thief.
  • Tim from Kilkenny, IrelandIf you listen carefully to the sound of JG plugging in his guitar, you can hear Smilin' Thommy Yorke (as he is never called) saying "That's a good way to start it, Jonny."
  • Mcdaniel from Birmingham, AlSome believe the January/April reference is also from Orwell's 1984. The first line of the novel is "It was a bright cold day in April."
  • Disasterpiece089 from A Place In, Ohits doublethink, and its thinking what is correct and showing that you believe another. One of the famous lines from 1984 is "freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4"
  • Nader from Durham, NcAt 2:25 in the song (225...2+2=5...) the time signature changes, and the song goes crazy. I love that, and the time thing is an awesome touch.
  • Rudi from Melbourne, Australiayeah, i forgot that one. that principle is called doublespeak, that is, taking two contradictory ideas and knowing both to be correct.
  • James from Placentia, CaThe title 2+2=5 is a reference to the book 1984 by George Orwell. In the book the world is ruled under an opressive government and in the to prove that they can create truth they "persuade" the main character into believeing that 2+2=5.
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