Top 10 R.E.M. Videos
Like many American indie bands from their early ’80s, R.E.M. stumbled through their early videos. Their very first, ‘Wolves, Lower,’ was a sloppily shot performance clip; their second, ‘Radio Free Europe,’ featured the band strolling through a garden. As the decade progressed, R.E.M. started experimenting with artsier music videos that resembled film-school shorts — some starred the band, most didn’t. By the time they became huge stars in the ’90s, Michael Stipe was dancing, occasionally shirtless, in his band’s videos. Our list of the Top 10 R.E.M. Videos features a little bit of all that.
‘Losing My Religion’
‘Losing My Religion’ was the band’s first Top 5 hit from their first No. 1 album, 1991’s ‘Out of Time.’ The song’s video — four and a half minutes of spilling milk pitchers and oodles of homoerotic imagery — is artsy-fartsy awesome.
‘Man on the Moon’
It’s black and white, grainy and unspools like one of those indie movies that makes absolutely no sense to anyone but the filmmaker. Yep, it’s another artsy R.E.M. video! At least the band shows up in this video from 1992 and for one of their best songs.
‘Imitation of Life’
There’s less than a minute of footage in this video for one of R.E.M.’s last great songs. But through various editing tricks — looping, panning and scanning, running the film backward — it stretches out to four semi-hectic minutes of pool-party fun.
This 1992 song is a bit soggy, and it goes on way too long, but its video is one of R.E.M.’s most iconic. And it pulls off that rare mix of poignancy, artiness and universality that usually ends up a bloated mess. It totally works here.
‘Radio Free Europe’
One of R.E.M.’s first videos (from 1983) pretty much set the template for the next five years: artsy concept, pretentious film-school tricks, minimal input from band members. But it perfectly captures the hazy, mysterious vibe of the song, the group’s first single and one of its very best.
‘So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)’
Michael Stipe refused to lip sync in one of R.E.M.’s earliest videos, from 1984. So while the rest of the band went through the motions, playing along to a backing tape of the song, Stipe sang his vocal live, giving the video a shot of intimacy.
‘Pop Song 89′
After years playing the shy, introverted and moody indie-rock singer who mumbled his words and refused to lip sync his videos, Michael Stipe took off his shirt, danced around with some topless ladies (oh yeah, this video’s NSFW) and let his hair down. Literally.
‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’
The band doesn’t even make an appearance in this 1987 clip that features a young skater boy rummaging through an old broken-down house. We’re guessing this is what post-apocalyptic life will look like for those of us not trapped in big ‘Blade Runner’-style cities.
The band spoofs local news media in this fun clip for a song found on its 2003 best-of album. Everyone has a couple of roles to play — and none involves standing around with instruments. Compare this video with the one 20 years earlier for ‘Radio Free Europe,’ where the band barely acknowledges the camera.
Leave it to R.E.M. to make the video for one of their frothiest pop songs an artsy mash-up of images that range from an old lady bundling newspapers to a group of shiny happy kids dancing in unison. It doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, but it captures the song’s joyous mood perfectly. We think.