Michael Stipe, the Cubist

Michael Stipe, the Cubist

Netflix has a new series called “Song Exploder”. Each episode takes a famous song and looks at how it was made, recorded, the inspiration behind it. I have watched one episode so far, the song in the spotlight was “Losing My Religion” by REM. I found it fascinating, particularly because the members of REM are such engaging and willing participants in the analysis of the song , none more so than Michael Stipe . It reminded me what a great and idiosyncratic lyricist Michael Stipe is. I won’t quote the whole lyric (I have attached a video which syncs the lyric with the song), but here’s the second verse:

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”

What struck me, on seeing this, was how each line emerges from the page like planes in a cubist painting; each line views the subject from a different angle.

Consider this, the last verse, that play between “failed” and “flailing”, the conclusion “Now I’ve said too much”. Throughout the song, he doesn’t rhyme once, he just keeps throwing out those viewpoints, those angles, those curves: pretty much a perfect lyric.

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”

Here’s the video….

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