Song of the Day: Losing My Religion by R.E.M.(cover by The Reticent)

Conor Doherty:

Losing My Religion” is a song by the American alternative rock band R.E.M. The song was released as the first single from the group’s 1991 album Out of Time.

Lyrics:

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

……

“The Reticent is progressive in the truest sense of the term, and remain one of the best-kept secrets in metal.” – Hard Rock Haven

Built on a mandolin riff, “Losing My Religion” was an unlikely hit for the group, garnering heavy airplay on radio as well as on MTV due to its critically acclaimed music video. The song became R.E.M.’s highest-charting hit in the United States, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and expanding the group’s popularity beyond its original fanbase. It was nominated for several Grammy Awards, and won two for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Short Form Music Video.

“Losing My Religion” is based on Peter Buck’s mandolin-playing. Buck said, “The verses are the kinds of things R.E.M. uses a lot, going from one minor to another, kind [of] like those ‘Driver 8’ chords. You can’t really say anything bad about E minor, A minor, D, and G – I mean, they’re just good chords.” Buck noted that “Losing My Religion” was “probably the most typical R.E.M.-sounding song on the record. We are trying to get away from those kind of songs, but like I said before, those are some good chords.” Orchestral strings play through parts of the song. The song is in natural minor.

In the song, Michael Stipe sings the lines “That’s me in the corner/That’s me in the spotlight/Losing my religion”. The phrase “losing my religion” is an expression from the southern region of the United States that means losing one’s temper or civility, or “being at the end of one’s rope.” Stipe told The New York Times the song was about romantic expression. He told Q that “Losing My Religion” is about “someone who pines for someone else. It’s unrequited love, what have you.” Stipe compared the song’s theme to “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, saying, “It’s just a classic obsession pop song. I’ve always felt the best kinds of songs are the ones where anybody can listen to it, put themselves in it and say, ‘Yeah, that’s me.'”

R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck wrote the main riff and chorus to the song on a mandolin while watching television one day. Buck had just bought the instrument and was attempting to learn how to play it, recording the music as he practiced. Buck said that “when I listened back to it the next day, there was a bunch of stuff that was really just me learning how to play mandolin, and then there’s what became ‘Losing My Religion’, and then a whole bunch more of me learning to play the mandolin.”

Recording of the song started in September 1990 at Bearsville Studio A in Woodstock, New York. The song was arranged in the studio with mandolin, electric bass, and drums. Bassist Mike Mills came up with a bassline inspired by the work of Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie; by his own admission he could not come up with one for the song that was not derivative. Buck said the arrangement of the song “had a hollow feel to it. There’s absolutely no midrange on it, just low end and high end, because Mike usually stayed pretty low on the bass.” The band decided to have touring guitarist Peter Holsapple play acoustic guitar on the recording. Buck reflected, “It was really cool: Peter and I would be in our little booth, sweating away, and Bill and Mike would be out there in the other room going at it. It just had a really magical feel.” Singer Michael Stipe’s vocal was recorded in a single take. Orchestral strings, arranged by Mark Bingham, were added to the song by members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at Soundscape Studios in Atlanta, Georgia in October 1990.

Cover versions

  • “Weird Al” Yankovic covered the song in his polka medley “Polka Your Eyes Out” from his 1991 album Off the Deep End.
  • Post-hardcore band Scary Kids Scaring Kids covered this song in 2006 for the album Punk Goes 90’s
  • Tori Amos covered the song on the soundtrack to the film “Higher Learning”
  • Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) covered the song in the 2010 Glee episode “Grilled Cheesus”.
  • Lacuna Coil covered the song in their 2012 album, Dark Adrenaline.
  • Graveworm published a cover of the song in their album Engraved in Black, published in 2003.
  • Trivium released a cover of the song on the Japanese special edition of their 2013 album Vengeance Falls.
  • Jacqui Naylor released a cover of the song on her 2008 album You Don’t Know Jacqui.
  • House music producer Hardwell sampled the song in his 2013 single “Three Triangles (Losing My Religion)”.
  • ApologetiX released a parody, “Proving My Religion”, as a single in September, 2014. The new lyrics are of a Christian trying to live out and share his faith despite adversity.
  • Gregorian covered this song on their album Masters of Chant, it was also re-released on the video album The Masterpieces.

R.E.M.

Also known as Hornets Attack Victor Mature, Bingo Hand Job, It Crawled from the South
Origin Athens, Georgia, United States
Genres
  • Alternative rock
  • college rock
  • jangle pop
Years active 1980–2011
Labels
  • Hib-Tone
  • I.R.S.
  • New West
  • Rhino
  • Warner Bros.
Associated acts
  • Automatic Baby
  • The Baseball Project
  • Hindu Love Gods
  • The Minus 5
  • Tuatara
  • Tired Pony
Website remhq.com
Past members
  • Bill Berry
  • Peter Buck
  • Mike Mills
  • Michael Stipe

photo: Conor Doherty

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