REM’s Michael Stipe Reveals the True Meaning of “Losing My Religion”
You’ve probably heard REM’s “Losing My Religion” hundreds or thousands of times in your lifetime and almost always naturally assumed it was an autobiographical tale written by singer Michael Stipe. But it’s amazing how a single word can change perspective, and in a conversation with producer Rick Rubin for the Broken Record podcast, Michael Stipe reveals that a simple flip of a word made listeners think the song was about him.
“I changed a word, I remember… [Instead of] ‘that’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight,’ [it previously was] ‘this is me in the corner, this is me in the kitchen,'” Stipe said.
He continued: “So what I was holding back was being the shy wallflower who stays at the party or the ball and doesn’t go up to the person you’re madly in love with and say, ‘I’ have a bit of a crush on you. What do you think of me ?’ So there’s this whole relationship that just happens in the mind of the person. And he doesn’t know if he said too much or not enough. So he’s like, in the corner of the dance floor, watching everyone dance, watching the love of his life, on the dance floor dancing with everyone, because he’s the most exciting person. . Or he’s in the kitchen, behind the refrigerator.
It seems Stipe was basing the phrasing more on a character idea, but as he reveals, “I turned the ‘kitchen’ into a ‘spotlight’ and instantly, of course, the song became about me, which doesn’t has ever been the case, I don’t think so. I mean, I’m pretty self-aware. But the video with Tarsem [Singh] is what really pushed him over the edge. And it was probably the weirdest video ever. And it was pretty cool.”
Although REM had worked as a college radio favorite for years in the 80s and were beginning to gain mainstream attention on their previous two albums, it was “Losing My Religion” from Out of time which catapulted them to the greatest success of their career.
“When ‘Losing My Religion’ came out – you know, I’m not someone with ambitions; if they’re there, they’re unconscious or subconscious, but I always wanted to be really famous,” said Stem. “And I hadn’t realized what that really entailed. Looking to the other side, it’s nice to be anonymous again – I’m on the subway and no one knows who I am. They’re not looking at me. no, nobody under the age of 30 doesn’t even look at me because they just sign up old. And that’s fine with me. It’s totally amazing.
“But ‘Losing My Religion’ is when I went from being recognized by people my age who like a certain type of music to being universally, wildly, incredibly famous. And on the streets, I couldn’t go anywhere And I was fine. It was kind of lovely… But “Losing My Religion” was a real game-changer for me. And the only thing – if I ever had any ambition, it might be “Being to have a song of the summer, and ‘Losing My Religion’ became REM’s song of the summer. And that was exciting.”
“Losing My Religion” first appeared on REM’s 1991 album, Out of time and won two Grammy Awards (out of the group’s seven nominations that year). The song reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Mainstream Rock and Alternative Airplay charts. It was also certified platinum digital single and gold physical single in the United States.