The album stayed on the Billboard charts for 109 consecutive weeks, topping the charts twice during this time, and has sold over 18 million copies worldwide by the time of this writing. Out of Time also won the 1992 Grammy award for Best Alternative Album, with two more being picked up by "Losing My Religion" (Best Short Form Music Video and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal).
Out of Time is most famously known for its lead single, "Losing My Religion", whose surprise success (peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard charts) can be considered in hindsight to be a precursor to the boom in popularity alternative rock as a whole would see later that year with Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". The album's other most notable song, "Shiny Happy People", is best remembered for the band's sheer hatred of it.
The album produced four singles: "Losing My Religion", "Shiny Happy People", "Near Wild Heaven", and "Radio Song".
- "Radio Song" (4:12)
- "Losing My Religion" (4:26)
- "Low" (4:55)
- "Near Wild Heaven" (3:17)
- "Endgame" (3:48)
- "Shiny Happy People" (3:44)
- "Belong" (4:03)
- "Half a World Away" (3:26)
- "Texarkana" (3:36)
- "Country Feedback" (4:07)
- "Me in Honey" (4:06)
I meant to turn it off to say goodbye, to trope in quiet:
- Answer Song: Michael Stipe says "Me in Honey" is this to "Eat for Two" by 10,000 Maniacs.
- Apocalypse How: "Belong" seems to allude to an unspecified catastrophe.
- Artifact Title: "Texarkana"; the name was in the original set of lyrics Stipe wrote for the song before he tossed them and let Mike Mills write his own (Mills ended up singing lead vocals on the song as a result), also rendering the title a non-appearing one.
- Audience Participation Song: "Losing My Religion" was this during concerts.
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: KRS-One gets a verse at the end of "Radio Song", throughout which he also interjects.
- Babies Ever After: The album ends with "Me in Honey", a song about the narrator learning of his partner's pregnancy.
- Breather Episode: "Shiny Happy People", an upbeat song with upbeat lyrics on an album otherwise full of Lyrical Dissonance and occasional straightforwardly dour tracks. It's worth noting though that the instrumental backing was originally written with a darker theme in mind.
- Call-Back: Within the album itself; "Belong" opens with the phrase "Her world collapsed early Sunday morning; she got up from the kitchen table, folded the newspaper, and silenced the radio," alluding to the opening lines of "Radio Song": "The world is collapsing around our ears; I turned up the radio, but I can't hear it."
- Color Motif: This album continues the band's association with the color yellow; not only is the logo on the front color and CD label yellow, but the background on said cover has a yellow tint to it, the copyright information on the CD label is yellow, and several images on the foldout liner notes incorporate heavy use of yellow tones.
- Creator Provincialism: "Losing My Religion" comes from a figure of speech for a loss of temper, only really used in the southern United States, including the band's native Georgia. The band didn't realise that the majority of the English-speaking world would be having to guess what they were on about (and therefore make incorrect assumptions).
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Low", a minor-key song with gloomy lyrics and muttered, droning vocals.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The band continues its history of unusual names for LP sides with this album. The sides are labeled "Time Side" and "Memory Side".
- Instrumental: "Endgame," aside from wordless mumbling on Stipe's part.
- Lighter and Softer: The album is considerably less heavy in subject matter than its predecessors, moving away from themes of sociopolitical protest & environmental consciousness in favor of more introspective material, and featuring more upbeat instrumentals on most songs.
- List Song: "Country Feedback" toys with this in its second verse."Self hurt, plastics, collections. Self help, self pain, EST, psychics, fuck all."
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- Despite its more upbeat tone and avoidance of heavier subject matter, most of the songs on Out of Time still cover fairly moody themes.
- "Belong" is an inversion of how this trope usually plays out; rather than being an upbeat-sounding song with dark lyrics, it's a dour-sounding song with uplifting lyrics about maintaining one's sense of emotional strength and belonging in the face of an increasingly chaotic world.
- While no official confirmation regarding the song's meaning, "Shiny Happy People" is frequently interpreted as a parody of Chinese propaganda; note that the song and album were released roughly two years after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
- Mood Whiplash: Shifting from "Endgame" to "Shiny Happy People" to "Belong" and from "Texarkana" to "Country Feedback" to "Me in Honey" can throw an uninitiated listener for a pretty severe loop.
- This is even more prominent when one looks at the order in which singles off of this album were released. The somber mandolin led folk song "Losing My Religion" was the first single, followed up by "Shiny Happy People", an upbeat pop-rock song with string interludes and guest vocals from Kate Pierson, then "Radio Song", a funk influenced song which featured a rap from KRS-One. In Europe, "Shiny Happy People" was followed by "Near Wild Heaven", which is also a happy song, but features Mike Mills (their bassist) on lead vocals.
- New Sound Album: Out of Time continues the trend of each R.E.M. album noticeably deviating from the last; in this case, the main change is the more uptempo and poppier composition style.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Endgame", "Texarkana", "Country Feedback", and "Me in Honey".
- Notable Music Videos: The critically-acclaimed video for "Losing My Religion", to the point where it snagged R.E.M. a Grammy.
- Not Christian Rock: Despite its name, "Losing My Religion" has nothing to do with actual religion; the title is a southern U.S. idiom for losing one's composure.
- Obsession Song: "Losing My Religion"
- Old Media Are Evil: "Radio Song" doesn't exactly provide a positive view on radio broadcasting, portraying it as dangerously escapist, trite, and imprisoning.
- Precision F-Strike: Michael Stipe lets out an f-bomb on "Country Feedback", the only instance of any heavy swearing on the entire album.
- Radio Song: Take a wild guess.
- "Sesame Street" Cred: "Furry Happy Monsters", possibly the band's only usage of "Shiny Happy People" since it was disowned.
- Shout-Out: The riff during the chorus in "Radio Song" quotes David Bowie's "Fame".
- Special Guest: Kate Pierson, who provides backing vocals on "Near Wild Heaven", "Shiny Happy People", and "Me in Honey".
- Spoken Word in Music: "Belong".
- The Something Song: "Radio Song".
- Step Up to the Microphone: Mike Mills sings lead vocals on "Near Wild Heaven" and "Texarkana", having (co-)written the lyrics to both.
- Title-Only Chorus: "Low".
- Vocal Dissonance: Present with "Belong", due to it being a case of Spoken Word in Music; Michael Stipe uses his normal speaking voice for the song, which is so deep and gravely compared to his reedy singing voice that those unacquainted might think the band brought in a guest vocalist.
- Whole Plot Reference: The music video for "Losing My Religion" is one for the Gabriel García Márquez short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings".