R.E.M.’s Top 20 Songs

on November 08, 2017, 12:00am

10. “Everybody Hurts”

Automatic for the People (1992)

No doubt the most frequently skipped track on Automatic for the People — other than maybe “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1” — “Everybody Hurts” often gets a lousy rap from a cynical world that might file it away as over-the-top or too sentimental. Of course, R.E.M. isn’t trying to score cool points here or hop on the ballad bus. This is a direct message from the band to young people out there who are listening and struggling to find reason to go on. “When you’re sure you’ve had enough/ Of this life, well, hang on,” Stipe encourages them because we all feel that way sometimes. It’s really the It Gets Better movement in a ballad and likely has saved lives. And while it’s not a song we need to hear most days, the point is that it’s always been there for us on the days when we and others have needed it most. So, hang on. –Matt Melis
_________________________________________________________

09. “Half a World Away”

Out of Time (1991)

In the hands of many bands, “Half a World Away” — a song about the persistent ache of distance, in both the romantic and traveling sense — would sound far too busy. R.E.M.’s lush arrangements, however, have the perfect balance of texture and velocity. “Half a World Away” is dominated by harpsichord and mandolin, which are braided together to create an ornate melodic foundation, and Michael Stipe’s conspiratorial vocal tone. Swaying organ provides oceanic swells underneath. And, near the end of the song, proud strings jump into the fray to underscore the music’s sweet melancholy. –Annie Zaleski

_________________________________________________________

08. “Man on the Moon”

Automatic For the People (1992)

Out of Time made R.E.M. one of the biggest bands in the world — at least while “Losing My Religion” remained on the charts and converting listeners around the globe. Perhaps the secret to Automatic’s success, then, was never does the band seem cognizant of the fact that the entire world was now listening. Just look at some of the singles, including “Man on the Moon”. In what universe is a half-mumbled rock song about dead cult comedian Andy Kaufman a prudent plan to piggyback on recent success? And yet, it worked, as audiences demonstrated they’d continue to follow wherever Athens’ finest led them. It’s how a slow, dark album about death and loss went on to sell 20 million copies worldwide. But let’s also give credit where it’s due. As quirky as the strummy “Man on the Moon” may be with its Elvis impressions and Stipe’s talk of board games, pranksters, and historical giants, nothing’s up the song’s sleeve come the chorus other than some of the best rallying vocals in alt rock history. –Matt Melis

_________________________________________________________

07. “Fall on Me”

Life’s Rich Pageant (1986)

Very few songs about oppression sound as inviting as “Fall on Me”. Yet with veteran producer Don Gehman behind the boards, R.E.M. were sounding more and more accessible by the day, only they weren’t losing what made them so dynamic. This beautiful stunner off Life’s Rich Pageant exemplifies that notion; Stipe delivers one of his finest vocal performances, aided effortlessly by Mills, who sings alongside him on the chorus and handles the bridge by his lonesome, while Buck and Berry get us over the hill with an engine of ungodly college rock sounds. And really, you can’t write a better chant than “Don’t fall on me”, which still belongs on every picket sign out there today. –Michael Roffman

_________________________________________________________

06. “Near Wild Heaven”

Out of Time (1991)

The third single from 1991’s Out Of Time chronicles a relationship at loose ends: “Whenever we hold each other, we hold each other/ There’s a feeling that’s gone/ Something has gone wrong.” Despite the gloomy outlook, “Near Wild Heaven” sounds surprisingly upbeat. (Consider it the musical equivalent of winter’s chilly sunshine.) Chiming guitars, daybreak piano and lead vocals from Mike Mills provide graceful levity, while the chorus boasts Beach Boys-caliber harmonies dotted with longing falsetto and gorgeous counter-melodies. “Near Wild Heaven” both exemplifies Out Of Time’s plush instrumental palette and illuminates R.E.M.’s inventive perspective. –Annie Zaleski

_________________________________________________________

3 comments