With the release of their fifteenth studio album Collapse Into Now, R.E.M. has taken a rare and exciting approach in their promotional efforts. The Athens, Georgia-based band have enlisted a plethora of directors, including James Franco and Jim Herbert, to direct long-form music videos for every track on the album. The concept is to shoot these videos and broadcast them on websites all across the Internet.
As R.E.M. continues working on the twelve videos, we reflect on some of the alternative rock group’s best music clips. They might have produced timeless records like “The One I Love,” “Orange Crush,” “Stand” and “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” but the five videos below contain the most creativity, originality and entertainment value the band has ever put forth.
Losing My Religion (1991)
“Losing My Religion” may be R.E.M.’s biggest hit, but it’s also the most artsy and most memorable video the band ever created. That’s also because the song compliments the video in every way possible. For instance, when front man Michael Stipe sings lyrics like “That’s me in the corner/That’s me in the spotlight/Losing my religion,” the characters seem weakened when the spotlight shines on them.
Between that, the artistic religious imagery, the eerie room with a water leak and Stipe’s erratic dance moves, it isn’t surprising this innovative clip won the MTV VMA for Video Of The Year in 1991 and the 1992 Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video.
Unlike most of R.E.M.’s other videos, “Animal” contains top-notch cinematography with a futuristic flair. It begins with Stipe wandering on a rooftop occupied by dark figures and overlooking dark skyscrapers. Then the singer enters a portal that leads to another dimension, where he rides an elevator, climbs a private stairwell and walks through a door that leads to the previous rooftop he was on – only this time, the skyscrapers shine and the figures are actually stylish people.
Eventually, when he is left all alone to contemplate life in this new dimension, he is surrounded by other versions of himself. So what’s the point? Other than watching something pretty cool for nearly four minutes while you're at work, R.E.M. is merely saying that a human – or an animal – has many different identities and perhaps seeing it through an apocalyptic lens is the only way society will realize that.
Shiny Happy People (1991)
R.E.M.’s perkiest song ever, “Shiny Happy People,” makes adults and children all over the world want to drop what they’re doing, wear funky clothes and perform synchronized dances in-front of colorful murals. It also makes senior citizens wanna smoke a pipe and ride a stationary bicycle with drumming monkeys by their side. That’s the vibe this feel-good record gives off and that vibe translates entirely too well into this 80’s looking music video.
Yeah, it might be cheesy to a degree, but there has never been a video made like this before and probably never will be again (well, unless Sesame Street decides to rip it off). While everyone seems happy, it’s clear guitarist/mandolin player Peter Buck is not. His nonchalant facial expressions make him look more gothic rather than “shiny happy.”
Everybody Hurts (1993)
While Stipe and company made the entire world aware that everyone - regardless of race, gender and sexuality – suffers from despair, there are other key messages to take away from “Everybody Hurts.” One thing is that people often wear masks to hide their true feelings. Another is that most people spend a lot of time doing some deep thinking inside their car. But perhaps the clearest thing people can take away from “Everybody Hurts” is that everybody absolutely and utterly hates traffic.
When there is seemingly mile-long traffic jam on the highway, Stipe gets out of his car and begins singing. Right on cue, passengers and drivers leave their automobiles, and walk on a journey together to God knows where. Basically, it’s letting the world know that they are not alone in their battles with depression.
Still, it would suck to be the dude driving in the Durango and being stuck behind 400 empty cars on the highway. Just sayin’.
Can’t Get There From Here (1985)
One of R.E.M.’s earliest music videos, “Can’t Get There From Here,” won’t be remembered for having highly polished visuals or an innovative concept. That’s because they simply don’t exist here. Instead, you get a hogwash of clips featuring various members of the band jumping over haystacks in an open field, playing in the mud, and staring at a random assortment of signs like “Cat Territory, All Dogs On Leash.” When they aren’t engaging in somewhat hilarious, yet peculiar, activities, the group is driving in-front of a blue screen that reveals some of the brightest, cheesiest graphics ever created in the history of man. Oh, and let’s not forget the partial subtitles.
The video itself might lack direction, but since then, their concepts have grown leaps and bounds. R.E.M. has already won a Grammy and several MTV Moonmen for their videos, and now, they’re collaborating with world class directors. Enough said.
For more from Bear Frazer follow him on Twitter: @BearFrazer