Radiohead, released as a free download on the music streaming site SoundCloud on 25 December 2015. On 13 May 2016, it was released as a B-side on the 7" vinyl single "Burn the Witch". It was written for the James Bond film of the same name, but went unused; the film instead features the song "Writing's on the Wall" by Sam Smith. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who also composes the band's string arrangements, said in a BBC interview that the song was rejected for being "too dark":
"It wasn't right for the film, what we did. So we thought, "Great! Then it's ours. We can finish it how it's meant to be and we can release it." So that side of it was really positive, you know? But I guess there's lots of people interested in who does it [the Bond theme]. There's a lot riding on it and the song we did was just too dark or whatever, so that's fine. [It] means we get to have it back and it's ours and we got to put it out. We're really, really proud of it."According to Pitchfork, "Spectre" features Thom Yorke's "delicate, forlorn" falsetto with "jerky" piano chords, "decaying orchestral sweeps" and "jazzy" drums reminiscent of Radiohead's 2001 single "Pyramid Song". It was described by Consequence of Sound as "a gorgeous, orchestral ballad" and by Rolling Stone as "darkly orchestral". Variety wrote that it "retains Radiohead’s signature moody sound, with a somber sweeping grandeur that might have fit well into the Bond song canon." Pitchfork named it the week's "Best New Music" and wrote that it has "all the melodrama of a good Bond song but only a hint of the kitsch... [it is] one of the finest Radiohead songs in some years, much more than a one-off curiosity."