don't you tell me how i feel.

Flashback Friday: Everybody Hurts by Steele
September 23, 2011, 11:05 am
Filed under: angsty boy alert, band breakup, flashback friday, melancholy shit, teenagers, videoz

In the light of R.E.M.’s breakup this week, let’s revisit what has been called one of the best breakup songs of all time. Some of us may still be sick of this song and the hyper-emo video, which MTV foisted on viewers in 1992 with a level of aggression matched only by “Jeremy” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” And though this was the defining monster smash of R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, it was never one of my favorites. However, the band has said that of all their hits, this drew the loudest response from around the world. The band got letters from people who said it had made them feel less alone. People walked up to Stipe on the street and told him that the song stopped them from committing suicide. With this lullabye-like ballad, the band with the mumbling lead singer and the incomprehensible lyrics created something truly universal, and relatable to billions.

People think of this song as depressing, but recently I heard it for the first time in years and was struck by the tone of hope. This attitude was not the norm in the dark world that was 1992 “alternative” music, which is why it jumped out at the time. If you step outside of the memory of the inescapable hit that it became, you’ll hear a quiet, pretty song, deceptively simple in its power. It’s the kind of poetry that made R.E.M. what they were.

Drummer Bill Berry composed most of the song, and wrote it for teenagers. Once an interviewer related to Stipe a somewhat-popular opinion: that the song was so simple and emotionally appealing, Phil Collins could have written it. Stipe responded, “But he didn’t, did he?”


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