“Is this really what you want?”
Well, with this song, now I’m not so sure.
I was never really an R.E.M. fan. More specifically, I suppose, I’m a casual fan who’s always managed to find himself surrounded by R.E.M. fanatics (students at liberal arts colleges, fellow employees of ad agencies, readers of The New Yorker, etc.).
I appreciate the vividly odd stories found in their songs, and there’s no denying the influence they’ve had on the trajectory of pop music. But even if we set aside the societal affront of “Shiny Happy People,”and concede that Michael Stipe is paid to be a singer (not a dancer), they never quite worked their way into my heart.
And then they go and release this as their last single ever.
It is, quite simply, beautiful. A straightforward reminder that music doesn’t have to be achingly clever or stridently angry or painfully try-hard to be interesting. Sometimes songs can just be pretty. And, these days, that sometimes isn’t nearly often enough.
Farewell, R.E.M. You’ll be missed. By me, even.
To accompany this last song, the band has released the following two videos that film two famous folks listening to the song for the first time. Continue reading