This week’s Throwback Thursday comes from the misunderstood ’90s and the absolute quintessential alt-rock band R.E.M. Their 1991 album Out of Time is a modern classic and features what is possibly the band’s greatest hit Losing My Religion. However, this week I’m going to turn our attention to the often unheralded second single from that album Shiny Happy People.
The track is regularly featured in worst lists by music critics but it was a massive commercial success both sides of the Atlantic, hitting the top ten in both countries, which can only make it one thing – pure pop gold! This is possibly why music critics hate it so much. They were used to the awesome jangle pop of early R.E.M. and this new album featuring the aforementioned hits was more accessible and poppy which opened the band up from being a niche fancy of few to a global hit machine for the masses. Don’t you just hate it when your favourite acts that YOU discovered go mainstream and sell-out?
I however think the track showcases everything that is great about the band. It’s not my favourite track by the Georgia quartet by any stretch – see Gardening at Night (1982) – but it takes elements of their quirkiness, the early jangle pop sound and adds this magic pop fairydust that comes from melodic harmonies, orchestral strings and Michael Stipe’s whiney (in the best way possible) vocals. The addition of a female voice from Kate Pierson of The B-52s was a stroke of genius as she compliments Stipe perfectly singing that infectious line ‘shiny happy people holding hands’.
Oh yeah by the way, the video is just as awesome as the song, it’s my guilty pleasure and I don’t care! Enjoy!