Losing My Religion

It’s been a busy day of appointments plus a bike ride, a few phone calls and an online gathering before I took the time to sit down and complete today’s post.

During a free moment this afternoon, I thought I’d visit my YouTube feed for a song idea. Of course, several of Rick Beato’s What Makes This Song Great? videos came up, and I took a look at one, which led me to another, and on…

I enjoyed Beato’s take on the American band R.E.M.’s 1991 song, “Losing My Religion,” a fantastic piece that became perhaps an unlikely hit for the band, but a big one nonetheless. The song received a lot of airplay, and MTV (Music Television) heavily played the official music video. MTV pioneered the broadcasting of that new medium, the music video, in the early 1980s. VH1, another music video broadcaster that launched later in the 80s, also carried the video.

The song comes from Out of Time, R.E.M.’s seventh album. It is also the subject of an episode of Song Exploder ― but the Netflix series (2020), not the podcast, though both come from the creative genius of American musician, producer and composer Hrishikesh Hirway.

The band co-wrote “Losing My Religion,” basing it on a mandolin riff by guitarist Peter Buck. The song showcases the sound of a group that had developed its unique style over nine years and six other studio releases.

The online knowledge and entertainment aggregator Grunge tells of a 1991 New York Times interview in which Michael Stipe, the lead singer of R.E.M., reveals that the song title is an expression from the American south that means to be at the end of one’s rope. He goes on to say the song is a romantic expression related to unrequited love. I think it could also be about realizing that, even without intention, one has hurt their love. As if observing the situation from outside the couple, the one is desperate to bridge the gap and remove the lover’s pain, getting back to the essence of the relationship.

Oh life, it’s bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I’m choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt, lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

Consider this
Consider this, the hint of the century
Consider this, the slip
That brought me to my knees, failed
What if all these fantasies come
Flailing around
Now I’ve said too much

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
Try, cry, why try
That was just a dream
Just a dream
Just a dream, dream

(“Losing My Religion,” by Bill Berry, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Peter Buck.
Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

When Out of Time came out, I wasn’t actively following R.E.M. as I did early on in their career while hanging out with a longtime friend, but I remember hearing it played a lot on the radio. As Beato states, the song is written with a lot of “sad notes” but the tempo creates a contrast to this, creating a captivating and compelling piece of music.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from the R.E.M. YouTube account:

And, here’s Beato breaking down the song:

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