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"We are agents of the free."

Green, released in 1988, is the sixth studio album by American Alternative Rock band R.E.M.. The album was their first to be released through Warner (Bros.) Records, onto whom the band signed out of dissatisfaction towards the dismal international distribution of their work by their previous label, I.R.S. Records; while other labels offered the band more money, only Warner Bros. guaranteed total creative freedom, which R.E.M. adamantly prioritized.

Regarding the album itself, the sound continues the shift to more commercially-accessible music, albeit throwing in a more self-aware and sarcastic angle towards it, and refines the harder style first developed on Document. The mood is overall dour and the lyrics emphasize both sociopolitical and environmental themes; fitting this, the album was released directly to coincide with Election Day 1988, with the band using their increased profile to criticize Republican candidate George H. W. Bush while endorsing Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis (who would ultimately lose to Bush, souring the band's spirits, as later depicted on their 1992 song "Ignoreland").

The album was again produced by Scott Litt and was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, which was the home of one of their major influences, Big Star.

Green was a commercial success, peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard charts. The single "Stand" additionally became R.E.M.'s second top-10 hit, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard 100 and receiving a parody by "Weird Al" Yankovic in the form of "Spam". The album's success was bolstered by an elaborate 11-month world tour throughout 1989; a Concert Film from the tour, aptly titled Tourfilm, would release on Warner Reprise Video in 1990.

Green spawned four singles: "Orange Crush", "Stand", "Pop Song 89", and "Get Up".


Air Side
  1. "Pop Song 89" (3:03)
  2. "Get Up" (2:35)
  3. "You Are the Everything" (3:45)
  4. "Stand" (3:10)note 
  5. "World Leader Pretend" (4:15)
  6. "The Wrong Child" (3:35)

Metal Side

  1. "Orange Crush" (3:50)
  2. "Turn You Inside-Out" (4:15)
  3. "Hairshirt" (3:55)
  4. "I Remember California" (5:05)
  5. "11." (3:15)note 

TROPE! In the place where you live:

  • Animated Music Video: "Get Up", directed by recent CalArts grad and future DreamWorks Animation film director Eric Darnell.
  • Audience Participation Song: Live performances of "Get Up" feature the audience shouting the Title Drop in the chorus.
  • Auteur License: The band legally received this starting with this album, through Warner Bros' assurance of full creative freedom for R.E.M. in their contract with the label.
  • Book Ends: The opening track is "Pop Song 89", which opens each verse with a greeting. The ending track is the eleventh untitled song, written as a goodbye message to Michael Stipe's parents while he was preparing for R.E.M.'s world tour.
  • Breather Episode: "The Wrong Child" and "Hairshirt", two laid-back (if someone melancholic) acoustic songs each tucked between a different pair of more musically and lyrically aggressive songs.
  • Buffy Speak: "Turn You Inside-Out" features the line "and this is not the racy race" at the end of its first verse.
  • Censor Box: The video for "Pop Song 89" has Michael Stipe and a few female dancers. All are topless... and all have bars covering their nipples. This includes Stipe.
  • Colonel Kilgore: The narrator of "Orange Crush" is pretty enthusiastic about warfare, particularly the use of Agent Orange, to the point where he even gets a monologue harking back to the Trope Namer.
  • Color Motifs: The album cover continues R.E.M.'s association with the color yellow via its heavy use of orange, a yellow tone. Some releases of the album go an extra step and up the color contrast to make the background yellow.
  • Concept Album: Environmentalism and sociopolitical protest form the backbone of the album's themes.
  • Concert Film: Tourfilm, which captures the 1989 world tour the band did to support Green.
  • Cover Version: Not on the album itself, but across various supplementary material associated with the album.
    • The "Orange Crush" single features covers of Suicide's "Ghost Rider" and Syd Barrett's "Dark Globe" on the B-side.
    • The UK second issue B-side of "Stand" has a cover of "Skin Tight" by the Ohio Players.
    • The "Get Up" single has a cover of Iggy Pop's "Funtime" on the B-side.
    • During the album's 1989 world tour, the band would typically close out shows with a cover of "After Hours" by The Velvet Underground, as captured in Tourfilm.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The music videos for "Pop Song 89", "Orange Crush", and "Turn You Inside-Out" are all shot in black and white.
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • The album title. Does it represent starting over (this was R.E.M.'s first album on Warner (Bros.) Records)? Naïveté? Money (the new record deal did bring in more money to the group)? Environmental themes?
    • The title phrase in "Orange Crush" refers both to the soda and the devastation caused by Agent Orange attacks.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • Green, an album full of Green Aesops.
    • "I Remember California", a song about remembering various aspects of California, right down to namedropping the Redwood forests that run along the upper and middle coastline of the state.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: The music video for "Turn You Inside-Out" ends by freezing on a shot of Bill Berry while a picture of fish fades in.
  • Green Aesop: The album isn't called Green for nothing: much of the record is devoted to examining the relationship between humanity and the environment, emphasizing the need to care for it.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming:
    • The album features an "Air" side and a "Metal" side on vinyl copies, continuing R.E.M.'s trend of custom-naming their LP sides. This naming scheme seems to not only be a nod to the album's Green Aesop themes, but a Development Gag regarding the original plans for Green to be a Distinct Single Album, with "Air" representing an acoustic side and "Metal" representing a, well, metal side.
    • The single release of "Stand" also indulges in this, featuring a "Pinwheel" side for the main feature and a "Compass" side for the B-Side "Memphis Train Blues", with appropriate picture labels to boot.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: The interlude to "Orange Crush", shouted through a distant megaphone and buried under the sound of helicopters.
  • In the Style of:
    • "Stand" was written as a homage to cheesy 1960's bubblegum pop in the vein of The Monkees and The Banana Splits.
    • "World Leader Pretend" was written as a tribute to Leonard Cohen's style, with Michael Stipe particularly singling out the lyrics vividly describing an inner struggle in militaristic terms.
  • The Invisible Band: The band is absent from the "Orange Crush" video. Hell, they barely feature in the "Stand" one.
  • Letters 2 Numbers: Inverted; the back cover and disc label list the fourth track, "Stand", as being track number "R". This stemmed from a typo made while typing out the album title: because "R" and "4" are right next to each other on a QWERTY keyboard, the album title was inadvertently spelled G4een instead of Green, and the band liked the effect enough to keep it. This typo is also why 4's are spot varnished/superimposed over the R's on the front cover.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Simply "GREEN R.E.M." in large letters atop a heavily modified photograph of grass, with the number 4 lightly superimposed/spot-varnished over the R's; the most elaborate thing on the cover is arguably the microscopic image of Greco-Roman columns at the bottom.
  • Mood Whiplash: The peppy bubblegum pop pastiche "Stand" is followed up by the dour, politically-charged, and almost crooning "World Leader Pretend".
  • New Sound Album: While the album continues the harder sound of Document, the songwriting style is vastly different from previous records, with Peter Buck noting in an interview that the album marked a shift from minor-key, folk rock-influenced material to more major-key and more overtly rockist songs. Reportedly, Michael Stipe even instructed the band to avoid writing any more "R.E.M.-type" songs; this shift allowed the band to reinvent themselves for their tenure on Warner (Bros.) Records, instead of simply continuing what they had already been doing on I.R.S. Records.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Parodied in the video for "Pop Song 89", which features Michael Stipe and a group of female dancers performing topless; when MTV asked that the women have censor boxes placed over their chests, the band complied... but not without adding a censor box on top of Stipe to jab at the double-standard. The uncensored video would eventually be uploaded onto the band's YouTube channel in 2011 (albeit with an age restriction).
    "A nipple is a nipple." - Michael Stipe
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Pop Song 89", "The Wrong Child" and "I Remember California" (though "I remember" is a frequently repeated phrase in the latter). Also technically true with "11." — a title can't appear in a song if there isn't one.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The album titled Green sports an orange and brown cover. Supposedly, the intent is to stare at the cover for a while and then look away to see an afterimage of green grass, but the fact that orange's opposing color is blue hampers this.
  • No Title: The unnamed eleventh track, which isn't listed on the back cover but is given away via a timestamp on the disc label. The song is copyrighted under the name "11."note , but only out of necessity; officially, it goes unnamed, and the "11." title is an allusion to the fact that the timestamp on the disc label is the only thing next to the otherwise blank eleventh spot on the tracklist. Fans commonly refer to it as "The Eleventh Untitled Song"note , and a copy of the lyrics was sent out to members of the then-newly established fan club under the title "So Awake Volunteer".
  • One-Word Title: Green, "Stand", "Hairshirt", "11." (technically).
  • Performance Video: "Turn You Inside-Out" consists of footage of the band playing in the studio.
  • Production Throwback:
    • "Pop Song 89" reprises the lead riff of "Feeling Gravitys Pull" off of Fables of the Reconstruction, albeit in a major key and faster-paced this time around.
    • "Turn You Inside-Out" is more or less a remake of "Finest Worksong" off of Document, just with the chord progression reversed; the lyrics also act as a thematic continuation.
  • Protest Song: "World Leader Pretend" acts as an anti-Reagan anthem, while "Orange Crush" is a jab at conservative jingoism.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Get Up" was written as a jab at Mike Mills' tendency to oversleep during the album's recording sessions. Mills didn't find this out until Stipe told the story about the song during a concert in the late 90's.
  • Record Producer: Scott Litt "and R.E.M.", just like before.
  • Rock is Authentic, Pop is Shallow: "Pop Song 89" parodies "shallow" pop songs with intentionally banal lyrics.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Michael Stipe sings both lead and backing vocals on "The Wrong Child", the lead vocals being high-register and impassioned, and the backing vocals being a defeated, low-register monotone.
  • Sequel Song: "Turn You Inside-Out" lyrically continues the themes of "Finest Worksong" from the band's previous album; this is emphasized by the fact that the 1988 song is more or less identical in melody to the 1987 one, but with the chord progression inverted.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Pop Song 89" features lyrics and a melody inspired by The Doors' "Hello, I Love You".
    • The rambling monologue in the middle of "Orange Crush" where the narrator talks about how much they love using Agent Orange in battle recalls Colonel Kilgore's "I love napalm in the morning" speech from the 1979 film Apocalypse Now.
    • During the album's associated 1989 tour, Michael Stipe sported a loosely-fitting white suit directly in the vein of the one David Byrne wore during Talking Heads' tour for Speaking in Tongues, as captured in Stop Making Sense; Stipe even mimicked many of Byrne's mannerisms in Stop Making Sense in his own performances. The main difference is that Stipe's suit doesn't grow progressively larger during each show; apologies to those who hoped to see Stipe flounder around in his own version of the big suit.
  • Sleepyhead: "Get Up" is narrated by one, acting as a jab at Mike Mills' habit of oversleeping during the album's recording sessions.
  • The Something Song: "Pop Song 89"
  • Take That!:
    • "Pop Song 89" completely takes the piss out of typical pop music tropes, tossing in as many cliche pop song subjects as possible within its three-minute runtime. The name "Pop Song 89" may additionally further this; given that the album was released in 1988, the allusion to the year 1989 in the title may be a jab at the fact that subject matter in pop music remained relatively unchanged since the 1940s, and was unlikely to deviate too much from the norm in the future.
    • "World Leader Pretend" is a less-than-subtle jab at the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who was in his last year of office at the time of the album's release.
  • Talk About the Weather: The chorus of "Pop Song 89" asks "Should we talk about the weather?/Should we talk about the government?" The song itself is a mockery of pop music's banality, and its verses similarly throw jabs at pop music clichés (Love at First Sight, Silly Love Songs) in the band's typical Word Salad Lyrics manner.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Done twice on "Stand"; the Truck Driver's Gear Change Hall of Shame openly speculates that it's meant to highlight how intentionally corny the song is.
  • The Vietnam War: The subject matter of "Orange Crush", with specific focus on the U.S. Air Force's use of the infamous herbicide Agent Orange (which for those unaware was intended to raze down the jungles that the Viet Cong hid themselves in while lacking the extreme fire hazards of napalm, only for the chemical to turn out to be extremely toxic on skin contact alone, in addition to causing horrific birth defects in children of injured individuals).
  • Word Salad Lyrics: As per usual with R.E.M. In particular, Peter Buck stated about "Orange Crush" that "I must have played this song like 3000 times in concert and after all this time I still have no idea what the fuck it's about." For the record, Michael Stipe stated that the song was about the U.S. Air Force's use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.