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Music / R.E.M.

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"We are R.E.M. and this is what we do."note 

I believe in coyotes and time as an abstract
Explain the change, the difference between
What you want and what you need
There's the key: your adventure for today
What do you do between
The horns of the day?
I, I believe
— "I Believe"

R.E.M. was an Alternative Rock band from Athens, Georgia, the same city from where The B-52s came a few years before. It was formed in 1980 when University of Georgia student Michael Stipe (vocals) met Peter Buck (guitar), who worked at a record store. They discovered that they shared a similar taste for "art-punk" acts such as Television, Patti Smith, and The Velvet Underground. This led them to form a band with two other U of G students, Mike Mills (bass) and Bill Berry (drums), who had been playing in bands together since high school.

Under the name R.E.M., the band recorded the only single ever released on Hib-Tone Records, "Radio Free Europe" b/w "Sitting Still." "Radio Free Europe's" combination of punk attitude and folk-rock guitars influenced by Power Pop (especially Big Star) pretty much invented Alternative Rock as an distinctly identifiable entity and movement (not to mention a specific subgenre of it named Jangle Pop) and led to them being picked up by I.R.S. Records.

The band initially played with a "murky" style: their early albums were produced so that no one instrument was more or less prominent than any of the others — but starting with Lifes Rich Pageant, Michael Stipe began enunciating his once-mumbled lyrics more clearly, and Peter Buck's guitar parts became more prominent. Shortly after this, the band, who had previously seen high levels of critical acclaim and a lot of popularity on college radio but never really had a hit, became hugely popular. Document, the band's last studio album with I.R.S., contained the major hits "The One I Love" and the well-tossed word salad "It's The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". As the 1980s closed and R.E.M. found themselves increasingly dissatisfied with their music's dismal international distribution, the band had abandoned their old home of I.R.S. Records for the new, more mainstream label of Warner (Bros.) Records under the promise of total creative freedom, with the first release on the label being 1988's Green. Bolstered by the hit singles "Stand" and "Orange Crush", as well as a massive 1989 world tour, the band was by all accounts and appearances well on its way to rock stardom— something they ended up achieving just two years later with the album Out of Time and its lead single, "Losing My Religion". From then on, the once-cult hit was now an international household name.

As time went by the band was plagued by personal disaster— most prominently, Michael Stipe's friends River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain respectively died of a drug overdose in 1993 and committed suicide in 1994, and longtime drummer Bill Berry suffered a brain aneurysm onstage a year later, ultimately retiring in 1997— but the band still continued on. It seems their career came and went in full circle: they began as a cult band, saw massive success, and eventually dwindled to being a cult band again. Their first five (or seven, or eight, depending on where you stand) are still considered among the best albums ever, and their last two are well-regarded as a successful comeback, so it's not as though they've been forgotten.

One notable aspect of R.E.M. was their approach to making music. Whereas most bands have a clear leader, this one was a purely democratic entity. They never did anything unless all members agreed on it unanimously, and every member contributed something to the songwriting.

The band announced their amicable breakup on 21 September 2011, saying that they achieved everything they wanted as a band and wanted to simply call it a day. This was followed by a small press tour of Michael Stipe making it clear that there would never be a reunion. Buck and Stipe have since gone on to solo careers, with Buck also continuing his participation in various groups.

In 2007, the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Currently, Universal Music Group distributes the band's entire discography worldwide, they own the I.R.S. releases outright, and distribute the albums formerly handled by Warner Bros. Records on behalf of Concord (to which the band has licensed these albums), which distributes its entire catalog through UMG.


  • Michael Stipe: Vocals (1980–2011)
  • Peter Buck: Guitar, mandolin (1980–2011)
  • Mike Mills: Bass, backing vocals, keyboards (1980–2011)
  • Bill Berry: Drums, backing vocals (1980–97note )


Studio discography:

You can now vote for your favorite R.E.M. album by heading over to the Best Album crowner.

Other releases:

  • Dead Letter Office rarities compilationnote  (1987)
  • Eponymous best-of compilation (1988)
  • The Best of R.E.M. best-of compilation (1991)
  • Man on the Moon film soundtrack (1999)
  • Not Bad for No Tour promotional EP (2001)
  • In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 best-of compilation (2003)
  • And I Feel Fine... The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982–1987 best-of compilation (2006)
  • R.E.M. Live (2007)
  • Live at the Olympia (2009)
  • Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982–2011 retrospective best-of compilation (2011)
  • Unplugged: The Complete 1991 and 2001 Sessions (2014)

Oh no, I've troped too much, I haven't troped enough:

  • An Aesop: The message of "Everybody Hurts" is "Don't kill yourself; you're not alone."
  • Album Filler: The group was short on material for Lifes Rich Pageant so recorded two 1980 songs ("Just A Touch" and "What If We Give It Away"), a 1984 song ("Hyena"), a 1985 song ("I Believe") and a cover ("Superman", originally by The Clique).
  • Album Title Drop:
    • The title to the EP Chronic Town is found in the song "Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)".
    • The same happens with "Circus Envy" on Monster.
    • Stipe wonders "Have I missed the big reveal?" from Reveal's "I've Been High".
    • Also, "Begin the Begin" from Lifes Rich Pageant comes very close to doing so, mentioning "Life's rich demands." No pageants, though.
    • Collapse into Now gets its title drop from Stipe's final line in the closing track, "Blue".
    • Around the Sun and Accelerate both have an actual Title Track.
  • Alliterative Name: Apart from Mike Mills and Bill Berry, this mainly applies to song titles:
    • "Sitting Still" and "We Walk" from Murmur.
    • "Pretty Persuasion" from Reckoning.
    • "Begin the Begin" from Lifes Rich Pageant.
    • "Bang and Blame" from Monster.
    • "Supernatural Superserious" from Accelerate.
    • "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter" from Collapse into Now.
  • Alternative Rock: Widely considered the de-facto Trope Makers.
  • Animesque: The cover art for the Not Bad for No Tour EP depicts the band in this style, sketched by Motofumi Nakashima.
  • Answer Song: "Me In Honey" is one to "Eat For Two" by 10,000 Maniacs. "Eat For Two" is about an unplanned Teen Pregnancy from the mother's perspective; "Me In Honey" is from the father's perspective.
  • Anti-Love Song: "The One I Love". Many people take it as a straightforward love song, despite the aggressive music and such decidedly non-romantic sentiments as "A simple prop to occupy my time."note 
  • Arc Words:
    • Water, rain, and ocean recur on Reckoning (marked and originally intended to be titled File Under Water) and fire and lightning recur on Document (marked "File Under Fire"). Parodied with Eponymous, which is marked "file under grain," tying into both the field of grain on the cover art and the theme of hunger on "Talk About the Passion" (which is included on the compilation).
    • Fans have noted that Monster features frequent use of the words "clown" and "cartoon."
    • References to "the radio," positive, negative, and neutral, repeatedly appear throughout their oeuvre, stretching all the way to their final song, "Hallelujah", and even Michael Stipe's post-R.E.M. solo career.
  • Artifact Title:
    • "Texarkana" from Out of Time. 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.
    • Similarly, "The Lifting" from Reveal had the lyric "You said you'd found the lifting" replaced by "You said the air was singing" in the transition from demo to album.
  • As the Good Book Says...: "So. Central Rain" alludes to the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders.
    • "New Test Leper" directly quotes Matthew 7:1 ("Judge not, lest ye be judged").
  • Audience Participation Song: "The One I Love", "Man on the Moon", "Everybody Hurts", "Drive", and "Losing My Religion" all qualify.
    • The audience supplies the shouts of "Get up! Get up!" during live performances of "Get Up."
    • In the live version of "New Test Leper" from Live at the Olympia, the audience sings along with the opening line.
  • Big Applesauce: "Leaving New York", kind of. Michael Stipe considers New York his "adopted hometown".
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Bill Berry sports an impressive pair; according to him, Michael Stipe has claimed that they were the whole reason he wanted the band members to get together. They even made the cover of Lifes Rich Pageant all by themselves. As time went on, the eyebrows eventually merged into a single, bushy monobrow.
  • Book Ends:
    • "Monty Got A Raw Deal" begins and ends with the line "Monty, this seems strange to me".
    • Collapse into Now ends with a reprise of its opening song, "Discoverer".
    • The compilation And I Feel Fine begins with "Begin the Begin" and ends with "It's the End of the World as We Know It."
    • The band's first release was the single "Radio Free Europe" in 1981, with prominent references to the titular medium. Their final song, 2011's "Hallelujah", features prominent mention of the radio in its second and last verse.
  • Boxed Set: The band released The Automatic Box in Germany in 1993 as part of the marketing campaign for the previous year's Automatic for the People. The set contains B-sides from both that album and 1988's Green, plus outtakes from 1991's Out of Time.
  • Call to Agriculture: Bill Berry quit the band to become a hay farmer, a profession he maintained for several years before eventually retiring.
  • Call-Back:
    • In "Houston", Stipe sings "If the storm doesn't kill me, the government will." One album later, in the sequel song "Oh My Heart", Stipe sings, "The storm didn't kill me. The government changed." A bit of Reality Subtext plays into this, as Accelerate was released during the 2008 election, in the waning months of George W. Bush's heavily maligned final term as president, while Collapse into Now was released midway into Barack Obama's heavily praised first term as president.
    • The full-length version of "The Great Beyond" has Michael singing "Here's a little agit for the never believer, here's a little ghost for the offering" in the final couple of choruses. The lyrics originated in their previous Andy Kaufman song, "Man on the Moon", after which the film featuring "The Great Beyond" was named.
    • The Eponymous compilation calls back to the messages on the spines of Reckoning and Document to "File Under Water" and "File Under Fire" with an instruction to "File Under Grain," referring to the cover art and the theme of hunger in "Talk About the Passion" (which is featured in the compilation).
  • Canon Discontinuity:
    • While they still play material from the two albums live, Peter Buck has allegedly disowned both Fables of the Reconstruction and Around the Sun. Well, maybe not disowned Fables, just admitted to being disappointed in it. The band have reevaluated it in recent years, most notably for its deluxe edition. It's more of a case of "good songs but we killed them in the studio". Around the Sun meanwhile is still looked at by the band with nothing but disdain as a result of the band having been severely burnt out during production.
    • Also, it's probably a good idea not to bring up "Shiny Happy People" around Michael Stipe.
  • 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, Stipe included. The home media and YouTube releases feature the video uncensored.
  • Censored Title: "Star Me Kitten". The song actually says "Fuck Me Kitten", which was in fact its second titlenote , before Meg Ryan (who was filming Sleepless in Seattle in... well, Seattle, where the band recorded part of Automatic for the People) convinced Stipe to change it, saying that where she'd grown up, if such a swear appeared on any album, it wouldn't have been put on shelves (or at least would've gotten a "Parental Advisory" label).
  • Changed for the Video: The video for "So. Central Rain" has Michael Stipe doing a live vocal because he refused to lip-sync at the time.
  • Christianity is Catholic: As might be expected for a Southern band, averted in most cases; the (limited, but definitely there) references to Christianity are distinctly Protestant. What's particularly odd is the time they play this straight: the imagery used in the video for "Losing My Religion", much of which derives from Renaissance motifs—which were mostly created by Catholic artists and reflect Catholic thinking.
  • Christmas Episode: Taking after The Beatles, the band released exclusive singles to members of their fan club around Christmastime every year during their time on Warner (Bros.) Records (i.e. 1988-2011), usually consisting of a Cover Version of a famous Christmas song plus a cover of a non-Christmas track by a different artist. As time went on, they also started tossing in exclusive live recordings, remixes, and album outtakes.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Michael Stipe. His shyness and odd sense of humor are quite clear to anyone who watches an early interview.
    • Bill Berry was implied to be this in the early years, mainly because of his monobrow.
  • Color Motif: The band was quite associated with the color yellow. Dead Letter Office, Eponymous, Green, Out of Time, Reveal and Collapse into Now used it dominantly on the cover, and Automatic for the People had a yellow CD tray on early pressings. Murmur was even reissued with a yellow logo instead of a blue one (which was the one widely available in the UK for years). Also, the videos This Film Is On, Tourfilm, Parallel, Road Movie used yellow dominantly often for the logo, as did the live album Live at the Olympia.
    • Despite their association with yellow, the band initially made use of blue as their main color motif, with Chronic Town, Murmur, and Reckoning all featuring prominent blue tones on their cover art, with Chronic Town also featuring a blue back cover Murmur including blue-toned photographs of the band members on the back cover of LP copies and in the liner notes of CD ones. At the same time though, the back cover and CD liner notes for both Murmur and Reckoning would begin the band's association with yellow. In Time would briefly hark back to this earlier motif by featuring its own predominantly blue cover art and disc label.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Many listeners mistakenly perceived "The One I Love" to be a silly love song when it first came out, which most likely contributed to it being such a big hit (Epic Riff aside).
  • Concept Album: Loosely; several of the songs on Automatic for the People are about death in some way or another.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • "The Great Beyond" features the lines "Here's a little agit for the never-believer/Here's a little ghost for the offering" as a Call-Back to "Man on the Moon", where those lines are originally from.
    • "Sing for the Submarine", off Accelerate, name-checks "Feeling Gravitys Pull", "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," and Around the Sun's "Electron Blue" and "High-Speed Train".
    • "Houston", also on Accelerate, starts with the line "If the storm doesn't kill me, the government will." "Oh, My Heart", on the following album Collapse Into Now, features the line "The storm didn't kill me. The government changed."
  • Cover Version: Several.
    • Only two covers ever made it into their official studio discography: A cover of "Superman" by sixties garage rock band The Clique, which barely survived becoming a B-side to end up as the last song on Lifes Rich Pageant, and Wire's "Strange" on Document. Both are (arguably) examples of Covered Up.
    • Covers were more frequent in live performances and on their B Sides, the latter being collected on their 1987 album Dead Letter Office: "Crazy" by Pylon, "Toys in the Attic" by Aerosmith, "Pale Blue Eyes", "Femme Fatale" and "There She Goes Again" by The Velvet Underground, and a drunkenly-recorded version of "King of the Road" by Roger Miller.
    • B-side covers released after Dead Letter Office included "First We Take Manhattan" by Leonard Cohen (used for both the I'm Your Fan tribute album and as a B-side to "Drive"), "Dark Globe" by Syd Barrett, and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". The band also recorded a cover of "Number 9 Dream" for a John Lennon tribute album with Bill Berry temporarily back in the fold. The Troggs' "Love Is All Around" was a B-side on 1991's "Radio Song" single, and they also played it during their appearance at MTV's Unplugged series that same year; that version thus appeared on the album taken from that session in 2014. In terms of live performances post-1987, the band would typically close out shows on the Green tour with a cover of "After Hours", again by The Velvet Underground.
    • Several further cover versions were included on their Christmas fanclub-only singles, including "See No Evil" by Television, "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess, "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak, "Sex Bomb" by Flipper, and "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor (among others).
  • Crawl: Used in the video for "Bad Day", fitting the mock-news report style.
  • Creepy Monotone: Stipe sings "Drive" in one of these. The melody of this song is almost literally monotonous, hanging on the tonic of the underlying chord and hardly ever moving away from it.
  • Darker and Edgier: Fables of the Reconstruction, Automatic for the People, Monster, Accelerate.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The other three have/had their moments (especially Bill Berry), but Peter Buck takes the cake.
  • The Deep South: They avoided the stereotypes associated with this, in that they were and are a bunch of urbane, well-educated liberals, but it was nevertheless foisted on them in their early career, especially by the UK music press, who threw around phrases like "the glory and mystery of the Deep South" in articles about the band. They were, however, quietly proud of being from where they're from. For instance, in a 1989 interview for Irish radio, Peter Buck was trying to recall the name of the screenwriter of The Night of the Hunter, and when he finally remembered that it was James Agee, he commented "Great writer" and couldn't resist adding "Southern writer."
  • Digital Destruction: When the rarities compilation Dead Letter Office was released on CD, the entirety of Chronic Town was appended to the end as bonus material. However, due to a mastering error, the stereo channels for the EP's songs are swapped. This was later corrected for the international Boxed Set The Originals and the standalone CD release of Chronic Town in 2022.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Robert Christgau referred to Stipe and 10,000 Maniacs frontwoman Natalie Merchant as "musical kissing cousins" for the latter's similar jangle-pop sound. The two were also romantically linked for a while, and Stipe contributed vocals to "A Campfire Song" from 10,000 Maniacs' In My Tribe. Stipe also credited Merchant's influence for the political direction his lyrics went in during the late '80s.
  • Driven to Suicide: "Try Not to Breathe" may or may not be about this.
  • Drone of Dread: John Paul Jones' doomy string arrangement for "Drive" invokes this, on what's after all a very creepy song.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: "Radio Free Europe", Chronic Town, and Murmur are full of Echoing Acoustics and studio effects that later albums would mostly forgo, owed to producer Mitch Easter being a fan of Kraftwerk and wanting to try out various studio experiments in the vein of their work. Reckoning would mark the start of their transition into their more well-known sound, owed to Easter wanting to replicate the sound of the band's live performances for their sophomore album.
  • Earth Song: "Fall On Me" which is about air pollution, and "Cuyahoga" which was inspired by Ohio's Cuyahoga River which was so heavily polluted it once caught fire (which comes up in the lyrics).
  • Easter Egg: The DVD video compilation When The Light Is Mine: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987 has one. If you play the "Radio Free Europe" video from the menu, you get the video as re-edited by the record company, missing the song's introduction and with some performance footage spliced into it. If you press OK on your DVD controller while it's playing, you get the original video, with the introduction and minus the performance footage, which consists of the band wandering around Howard Finster's Paradise Gardens and convening at the end, plus some sepia-tinted B&W shots of them apparently studying in a schoolroom.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • Murmur could've hardly been a more apt title given Stipe's infamously subdued vocal performances.
    • Accelerate is a much faster and aggressive album than its predecessor Around the Sun.
    • Collapse into Now hints at their impending breakup.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: The band members met as students of the University of Georgia in Athens.
  • Face on the Cover: Subverted with Reckoning, which features all four band members' faces on its back cover instead. Played straight with Fables of the Reconstruction, which features all four members' faces on its front cover, though they're slightly obscured by slide projections. Collapse into Now also features the then-trio waving at the camera on its cover. Partial credit forLifes Rich Pageant featuring a cropped photo of Bill Berry. Most of the band’s material features photos of its members on or inside its packaging as well.
  • Foreshadowing: Collapse into Now, their last album, depicts the band on its cover waving.
  • Free Handed Performer: Michael Stipe, during the 31-year career of the band, stuck to vocal and songwriting duties, stating that he couldn't "play an instrument to save his life"; the sole exception to this was a brief stint playing guitar on the Hidden Track "I'm Not Over You". However, after the band's dissolution, he played keyboards on the soundtrack to the 2014 film The Cold Lands.
    • On the Green world tour, he would sometimes sing "We Live As We Dream, Alone" by the Gang of Four, accompanying himself by hitting a metal-framed school chair with a metal rod.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • R.E.M. is the acronym for "Rapid Eye Movement", a phase of sleep; the band sometimes refers to it being "Rapid Ear Movement". The band have also mentioned that it's not intended to stand for anything and just pulled it out of a dictionary at random.
    • News anchor Dan Rather dubbed them "Rather's Emotional Minstrels" upon the release of Monster. That album features the song "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" which was taken from an incident when Rather was attacked by a man who kept asking "Kenneth, what is the frequency?"
  • Gayngst: "New Test Leper" is about a gay man with AIDS who goes on a talk show hoping to promote acceptance and is humiliated because of the homophobic studio audience and channel executives.
  • Gratuitous Panning: The main guitar line of "New Orleans Instrumental No. 1" is panned entirely to one side. There's also a weird, mechanical, tribal percussion part in "Monty Got a Raw Deal" panned entirely to one side. It's only really audible if you're listening carefully, though.
  • Grief Song: "Camera" was written as a tribute to Carol Levy, a photographer friend of the band (and sometime girlfriend of Stipe) who died in a car accident the day after Murmur was released.
  • Hidden Track: The 11th track on Green. It's only ever even referred to on the CD, as the unnamed "11.", which it is officially copyrighted under.
    • To a lesser extent, Murmur, Reckoning and Monster each have a small instrumental tune play in between certain songs (after "Shaking Through" on Murmur, just before "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" and after "Little America" on Reckoning, and after "Bang and Blame" on Monster).
    • The CD version of New Adventures in Hi-Fi includes a short instrumental in the pre-gap before "Leave" — it's just a minute of the verse riff for "Leave" itself played at a slower tempo and re-arranged for acoustic guitar and keyboard though, so it's really an introduction to "Leave" rather than its own song. Digital versions of the album don't separate the intro from the rest of the song.
    • Collapse Into Now's closing track "Blue" has a hidden reprise of the opening track "Discoverer" when the song ends.
    • The group said that their omission of "Underneath the Bunker" and "Superman" from the track listing of 'Lifes Rich Pageant' was a deliberate attempt to surprise the listener if the listener didn't lift the needle / flip the tape when they expected the side was over. However, this didn't work as they were printed on the labels, and obviously doesn't work on CD where they are separately indexed and listed on the back.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The band loved this when it came to labeling sides on the LP versions of their albums:
    • Chronic Town: "Chronic Town" and "Poster Torn" (a reference to the lyrics in "Carnival of Sorts")
    • Murmur didn't label the sides at all, leaving the track listing on the cover and inner sleeve to determine the running order.
    • Reckoning: "L" and "R"
    • Fables of the Reconstruction: "A Side - Fables of the Reconstruction" and "Another Side - Reconstruction of the Fables"
    • Lifes Rich Pageant: "Dinner Side" and "Supper Side"
    • Dead Letter Office: "Post Side" and "Script Side"
    • Document: "Page" and "Leaf"
    • Eponymous: "Early" and "Late"
    • Green: "Air" and "Metal"
    • Out of Time: "Time Side" and "Memory Side"
    • Automatic for the People: "Drive Side" and "Ride Side"
    • Monster: "C" and "D"
    • New Adventures in Hi-Fi: "Hi Side" and "Fi Side" on cassette copies; the double-LP release uses standard numbers
    • Up: "Upside" and "Downside" on cassette copies; again, the double-LP release uses standard numbers
    • Reveal: "Chorus Side" and "Ring Side"
    • Collapse into Now: "X-Axis" and "Y-Axis"
  • Incredibly Long Note: Mills sang several different notes as backing vocals in "Star Me Kitten" and had them all looped into sounding like a single, breathless "aaaaaah."
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Good luck understanding a word Michael's saying on Murmur!
    • Or anything pre-Fables, for that matter.
    • The chorus to "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" since Stipe manages to compress the entire sentence into one second.
    Callmewhenytrytawake her up!
    • The overlaid vocals on "Star 69" makes the track almost indecipherable save the chorus.
    • "Underneath the Bunker" and the chorus of "Orange Crush", as they are both sung through a megaphone.
  • Incoming Ham: After a series of increasingly bland (though occasionally brilliant) albums after Bill Berry left, the band let everyone know they were back by opening Accelerate with "Living Well Is the Best Revenge", one of the most epically hammy rockers of their career.
    It's only when your poison spins into the life you'd hoped to live
    That suddenly you wake up in a shaking panic... WOOOOOOOOWWWW!
  • Intercourse with You: "Strange Currencies," "Tongue," "Crush with Eyeliner..." Yeah, a lot of Monster is like this.
    • "Star Me Kitten" from Automatic for the People.
  • In the Style of:
  • The Invisible Band: Many early video examples, such as "Fall on Me", "Pretty Persuasion", "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" and "Orange Crush".
    • Also right at the end: The video for "Blue" has Lindsey Lohan, but not the band members.
    • "Crush With Eyeliner" is an interesting variation- it's a montage of various Japanese teens miming to the song, with REM themselves briefly watching the footage.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: "Drive."
  • Irony: With Bill. The band were understandably burnt out by the long Green tour, and didn't perform for almost three years. Bill told the others that he wanted to be in a rock band that toured, and threatened to quit if their next record didn't have a tour. Then when they were touring for Monster, he collapsed onstage from a ruptured brain aneurysm. As luck would have it, the city where they were performing was home to a prominent Swedish neurosurgeon who saved Berry's life.
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: The opening lines from "New Test Leper" would seem to fit:
    I can't say that I love Jesus
    That would be a hollow claim
    He did make some observations
    And I'm quoting them today
    "Judge not lest ye be judged"
    What a beautiful refrain
    The studio audience disagrees
    Have his lambs all gone astray?
    • The lyrics for "Voice of Harold" are simply Michael Stipe reading off the liner notes from a gospel LP called The Joy of Knowing Jesus, so naturally they fit this as well.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: From "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite": "tell her she can kiss my ass, then laugh and say that you were only kidding, that way she'll know that it's really really really really me, me."
  • Lampshade Hanging: The final verse of the anti-Reagan Protest Song "Ignoreland" includes the lines "I know that this is vitriol, no solution, spleen-venting/But I feel better having screamed, don't you?"
  • Large Ham: While at first Michael Stipe was constrained to the point his vocals were mumbled, as time went on he really let loose - while it's easier to notice in faster tracks such as "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" and "Discoverer", the mellow musical backing of "Everybody Hurts" is contrasted by Stipe's bellowing. And live, there was that spasmic dance.
  • Lead Bassist: Mike Mills' bass playing is very melodic and especially prominent on the band's early recordings. As R.E.M was heavily democratic, he also contributed a lot of songwriting.
  • Lighter and Softer: "Shiny Happy People" — it's worth noting the instrumental backing was originally written with a darker theme in mind. Around the Sun album-wise, if not necessarily the subject matter.
    • Reveal.
    • Even Reckoning is this; it is much more jangly and upbeat than its predecessor Murmur, with only a couple of tracks that break from that format ("Time After Time" and "Camera").
    • Lyrics-wise Out of Time can be an example of this, as it showed the band's lyrics moving away from the occasional sociopolitical protests ("The Flowers of Guatemala", "Orange Crush", "World Leader Pretend") and Green Aesops ("Cuyahoga", "Fall on Me") that had become more prominent in the late eighties towards more introspective, personal material.
    • Their folk-rock leanings could be this at the outset, compared with the edgier alternative bands of their era. Their IRS-era and early Warner-era singles remain staples of adult alternative radio.
  • List Song: "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". "Imitation of Life" to a degree.
    • "Country Feedback", as well. "Self hurt, plastics, collections. Self help, self pain, EST, psychics, fuck all."
  • Lonely Piano Piece: "Perfect Circle".
  • Long-Runner Line-up: 17 years with Bill Berry (Type 1) and 13 years without (Type 2).
  • Longest Song Goes First: Fables of the Reconstruction opens with the 4:48 "Feeling Gravitys Pull".
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • Chronic Town closes with "Stumble" (5:41).
    • Document closes with "Oddfellows Local 151" (5:21).
    • Collapse into Now closes with "Blue" (5:46).
  • Loudness War: Monster, In Time, Accelerate, and Collapse into Now seem to be the worst offenders. Monster's distorted mastering was rare in its time and is at least mitigated by it being a stylistic choice (matching the more grunge-oriented direction of the album in general), but has sadly become much more common nowadays.
  • Love Is Like Religion: Zig-zagged by "Losing My Religion". The music video features religious imagery, although the song itself isn't about religion: it's derived from the Southern expression meaning "Losing one's temper" or "Being at the end of one's rope"; Thus, the song is about unrequited love.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: Several examples.
    • "Bandwagon", an outtake from Fables that eventually became the B-side to the "Cant Get There from Here" single. Later found on Dead Letter Office.
    • "King of Comedy" from Monster.
    • "The Wake-Up Bomb" and "New Test Leper" from New Adventures in Hi-Fi.
    • "Parakeet" and the hidden track "I'm Not Over You" from Up.
    • "Supernatural Superserious" from Accelerate.
    • "We All Go Back to Where We Belong."
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite." It seems like a fun song, but it's actually about dying in your sleep. Or suicide, depending on who you ask.
    • "Hollow Man", at least in the chorus and bridge.
    • "7 Chinese Bros" sounds like quite a jolly song. Then you find out it is about an affair Michael had, in which he split up a man and a woman and he went out with both of them behind each other's back. It's wrapped in the guise of a Chinese folk tale called the "Five Chinese Brothers" which is also pretty dark and is basically a metaphor for selfishness. So the song essentially is about Michael's guilt at having being part of said affair, despite having a jolly tune.
    • "Fretless" (an Out of Time out-take that was featured on the Until the End of the World soundtrack in 1991 and later the In Time best-of & rarities compilation) is about this as well. "He has got his work and she comes easy, they each come around when the other is gone. Me, I think I got stuck somewhere inbetween..." Not jolly, though.
    • For that matter, its demo version Voice of Harold which parlays the most redundant information from the liner notes to a Gospel LP.
    • "Bad Day" is a very happy song musically-speaking, but has quite gritty lyrics. It was probably meant to hearten up people who had bad days.
    • The opening lines of "Drive" are "Hey, kids, rock and roll / nobody tells you where to go", which in print looks like a line from an upbeat, fist-pumping rock & roll song...except that it's sung in a creepy monotone in a very downbeat song indeed.
  • Lyrical Shoehorn: Played for laughs in "Voice of Harold", which consists of Michael Stipe singing out the liner notes to a gospel album to the tune of "7 Chinese Bros." Many parts of the writing inevitably don't fit the meter of the song, resulting in him frequently having to either drag out, rush through, or add pauses in the middle of some of the words.
  • Military Brat: Michael Stipe's father was a serviceman in the United States Army whose career resulted in frequent relocations for his family.
  • Miniscule Rocking: "Underneath the Bunker" (1:27) and "That Someone Is You" (1:44).
  • Mood Whiplash: New Adventures in Hi-Fi opens with the jazz-inspired "How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us", a super-mellow, super-somber track with Mike Mills playing a meandering piano solo in the middle. Immediately following this is "The Wake-Up Bomb", a high-octane, fast-paced glam rock track. Immediately following this is the largely-acoustic laid-back Jesus Was Way Cool track "New Test Leper"... let's just say that New Adventures in Hi-Fi is an album rife with these.
    • Out of Time is also full of them, as evidenced by the singles 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.
  • Motor Mouth: Stipe has his moments, such as the chorus of "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" (as mentioned above) and just about all of "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)".
    • Peter Buck doesn't sing, but he does tend to talk very fast.
  • Never Heard That One Before: They quickly had their fill of people renaming Murmur to Mumble because of Stipe's early vocal stylings.
  • New Sound Album:
    • Actually, most of their catalog, but the most drastic departures were the grunge-heavy Monster and the techno-flavored Up, the latter largely as a result of Berry's departure.
    • Lifes Rich Pageant had Stipe enunciating his vocals, Buck playing more conventional riffs instead of jangly arpeggios, and the band as a whole casting off the more Post-Punk-inspired elements that had characterized their first three albums.
  • No Title: The final track on Green is untitled (Its registered title with the Library of Congress is "11", from its track number, and some of the lyrics were sent out in a fan club mailing under the title "So Awake Volunteer").
  • Non-Appearing Title: "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite", though it comes close twice.
    • "New Test Leper" from New Adventures in Hi-Fi, "Texarkana" and "Country Feedback" from Out of Time, "The Lifting" from Reveal and "Good Advices" from Fables also count. "Feeling Gravity's Pull" from the latter album comes close in the chorus.
    • "Time After Time (Anneliese)" is a subversion; "Annelise" is never heard in the song, but "Time After Time" is.
    • "Binky the Doormat", though the chorus comes slightly close with the lyric "I wore my doormat face". The rest of the title is a Shakes the Clown Shout-Out.
  • The Not-Remix: The "Mutual Drum Horn Mix" of "Finest Worksong", which differs from the Document version in that the drums are given more prominence in the mix, and a horn section (by the Uptown Horns) has been added. Similarly, there's the "Different Vocal Mix" of "Gardening at Night", featuring an alternate take of Stipe singing the lead vocals. Coincidentally, both appear on Eponymous.
  • Nothing Left to Do but Die: "Try Not to Breathe" appears to be written from the perspective of someone in this frame of mind.
  • Obsession Song: Word of God says "Losing My Religion" is this.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Supernatural Superserious" is an unusually happy and romantic variation on this theme.
  • One-Steve Limit: Possibly the reason why Michael Mills goes by "Mike". Ironically, Michael Stipe's real first name is John.
  • Ordinary People's Music Video:
    • "Crush With Eyeliner" shows Japanese fans impersonating the band members and miming to the song.
    • "Imitation of Life" is set at an outdoor party, as a 20-second clip alternately played backwards and forwards and zooming in and out on different parts of the party.
  • Pep-Talk Song: Mike Mills said that the message of "Drive" was for kids to take charge of their own lives.
  • Performance Video: "So. Central Rain" is notable for having a live vocal, as Michael Stipe refused to lip-sync.
    • The videos for "Life And How To Live It" and "Feeling Gravity's Pull" are technically these in that they show the band performing, but because they contain so much pausing, tape reversing and general fiddling with the medium, they might be the band performing almost anything. note 
  • Protest Song: Lots of these — "Fall on Me", "The Flowers of Guatemala", "Welcome to the Occupation", "Exhuming McCarthy", "Disturbance at the Heron House" (at least according to Word of God), "Orange Crush", "Cuyahoga", most of the albums Around the Sun and Accelerate (particularly "Final Straw" and "Mr. Richards").
    • "Ignoreland" was a gigantic Take That! aimed at the Reagan administration.
  • Purple Prose: Bill Berry's writings for the And I Feel Fine Greatest Hits Album is written in extremely flowery language, which can provide an amusing contrast when paired with notes about how "Gardening at Night" was named after a roadie's Unusual Euphemism for taking a piss.
  • The Quiet One: Michael Stipe was painfully shy in the band's early days, so much so that when the band appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, Stipe actually hid behind Peter Buck so Letterman wouldn't talk to him. He's outgrown it almost completely, though.
    • Bill Berry as well, though to a considerably lesser extent, at least before his aneurysm.
  • Radio Song: "Radio Song". The tune seemingly blames the radio for destroying society with monotonous low-grade crap.
    DJs communicate to the masses
    Sex and violent classes
    Now our children grow up prisoners
    All their life, radio listeners
  • Rearrange the Song: The live version of "Try Not to Breathe" is somewhat faster and heavier, sounding more desperate and pained than the already-haunting studio version.
    • Another Automatic for the People song that sounded notably different live was "Drive" - the studio version is again haunting and acoustic-based, whereas the live version they played at the time was faster, set to a funk rhythm, and featured distorted guitar. In later performances, they went back to approximating the studio arrangement, though.
  • Retraux:
    • "Mine Smell Like Honey" from Collapse into Now was designed to sound like an 80s R.E.M. song, and is quite reminiscent of "These Days" in structure. However, it's pretty obvious that it was recorded later, due to the Loudness War mastering.
    • On tracks such as "Circus Envy", Stipe's vocals are purposefully mixed low in the mix, like he was on R.E.M.'s early work. Unlike that early work, they are mostly drowned out by extremely loud distorted guitar. This raw sound was later done on "Horse to Water" from Accelerate as well.
  • Running Gag: Since the band recorded the song "Voice of Harold", the phrase "A must!" has been used constantly in reference to their work, both by the band and by fans.
  • Self-Plagiarism
    • Zig-zagged with "Bad Day." It has the same tempo and near-identical chords to "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)," but only because the former is a recycled early draft of the latter. Michael Stipe was surprised how few people noticed.
    • "Strange Currencies" from Monster lifts the melody from "Everybody Hurts".
    • Played straight with "The Great Beyond," which is a straight-up sound-alike of "Man on the Moon," better tying it into the movie which was named after their song.
  • Sequel Song: "Rotary 11" is the sequel to "Rotary 10". There were never Rotarys 1-9; it's just the band's sense of humor.
    • "New Orleans Instrumental No. 2" is the sequel to "New Orleans Instrumental No. 1".
    • "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" was written as a sequel to "Bad Day" (which was started in the Lifes Rich Pageant sessions in 1986), but "Bad Day" was never released until it was re-recorded for In Time in 2003. This means people often see it the other way round.
    • "Ages of You" is the sequel to "Burning Down". The band had gotten bored of playing "Burning Down", and wrote "Ages of You" around the parts of "Burning Down" that they liked. However, they ended up liking both songs after all, so decided to record both when it came to the Reckoning sessions. (They wouldn't see the light of day until the UK "Wendell Gee" single and the Dead Letter Office compilation album, however.)
    • "The Great Beyond" is one to "Man on the Moon".
    • "Oh My Heart" off Collapse into Now is one to "Houston" from Accelerate. The former sounds like a more cheerful version of the latter, and includes a Call-Back.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: "Furry Happy Monsters", possibly the band's only usage of "Shiny Happy People" since it was disowned.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The band's name is a nod to the similar three-letter initialism band XTC.
    • James Dean, Martin Sheen, and Steve McQueen get name-checked on "Electrolite," and "Man on the Moon" was written in memory of Andy Kaufman (and became so associated with him that... well, see Titled After the Song below).
    • The title of Lifes Rich Pageant came from a line of dialogue in Peter Sellers' Pink Panther movie A Shot in the Dark.
    • "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" name-checks a whole bunch of people with the initials LB: Leonard Bernstein, Leonid Brezhev, Lester Bangs and Lenny Bruce. This line was inspired by a dream Michael Stipe had where he was attending a party whose guests' names all started with those initials.
    • David Essex's "Rock On" is quoted in "Drive".
    • "The Wake Up Bomb" off of New Adventures in Hi-Fi tosses out two, one right after the other:
    "Get drunk and sing along to Queen
    Practice my T. Rex moves and make the scene"
    • "Feeling Gravitys Pull" references surrealist photographer Man Ray.
    • "Life and How to Live It" references Life: How to Live, a book written by Brivs Mekis, an eccentric author from the band's hometown of Athens, GA. Mekis had many copies of the book printed, but hardly sold any, and when he died, people clearing out his house found a whole closet full of them. Copies of Life: How to Live are a top collectible, not just for R.E.M. fans but for fans of the culture of Athens, GA.
    • "Little America" includes the line "Jefferson, I think we're lost" in reference to Jefferson Holt, who at the time was their manager (and bus driver, hence the phrase). Later post-Holt performances of the song changed the line to "Washington, I think we're lost", referencing the band's disillusionment with the government.note 
    • "Exhuming McCarthy" references the late U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy, who infamously accused people left and right of being Communist sympathizers, or Communists themselves, during the "Red Scare" of the early 1950s. Included in the studio version of the song is the quote "Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?", delivered to McCarthy by then-Army chief counsel Joseph Welch at hearings where McCarthy accused the Army itself of being infiltrated by Communists.
    • "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" quotes Richard Linklater. "Richard said, 'Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.'"
    • "Pop Song 89" features lyrics inspired by The Doors' "Hello, I Love You".
    • "Departure" includes the lyric "Win a eulogy from William Greider", referencing an author and journalist known for writing about economics. Michael Stipe was asked about the line in a Rolling Stone interview note , and admitted he just mentioned the writer because he needed a rhyme with "hang-glider" and "spider".
    • "Disturbance at the Heron House" is one to Animal Farm, at least according to Word of God.
    • "Monty Got a Raw Deal" is a tribute to Montgomery Clift, after whom it is also named.
    • The band's 2003 fan club holiday single features Pikachu on its front cover.
    • The music videos for "We All Go Back to Where We Belong", consisting solely of Kirsten Dunst and John Giorno reacting to the song, were directly inspired by Andy Warhol's Screen Tests.
    • "Walters Theme" is the band's attempt at recording a jingle for a barbecue restaurant in Athens, Georgia that they frequented; the restaurant closed in 1990. Additionally, the line "Hey, this is David, I've got a hat the size of Oklahoma" nods to Pere Ubu's "Lonesome Cowboy Dave".
  • Signature Style: The band's early years were characterized by Stipe's mumbling vocals, Buck's jangling Rickenbacker 12-strings and use of minor-key melodies.
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: Stipe's distinctive, reedy singing voice (an Irish music journalist once described it as "smarting like a raw and inflamed itch") is a far cry from his gravelly, baritone speaking voice. On the few occasions when he uses his speaking voice in recordings (e.g. "9-9", "Low", "Blue"), you wouldn't be blamed for thinking the band brought in a guest vocalist.note 
  • Sixth Ranger: Session drummer Bill Rieflin, who served as R.E.M.'s de-facto replacement for Bill Berry from 2003 all the way until the band's dissolution in 2011. While never considered an official member, he filled Berry's role as drummer both on-stage and in the studio and additionally contributed bouzouki, keyboards and guitars.
  • The Something Song: "Radio Song" and "Pop Song 89". Almost qualifying: "Finest Worksong".
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: The Trope Namer is "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)".
    • It's not unique in their discography. Stipe's slurred vocals were one of the band's trademarks in the early years. "Sitting Still" from Murmur is one case in point.
  • Special Guest: Kate Pierson from The B-52s provides backing vocals for several songs on Out of Time.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Several examples.
    • "Voice of Harold" has Stipe listing the address of the United Music World Recording Studios, Inc., among other items.
    • "Belong" from Out of Time, "Chance" from the Automatic for the People sessions and Departure from New Adventures in Hi Fi consist of Stipe reading song lyrics to the music track.
    • "Blue" from Collapse into Now features a distorted Stipe reading a poem while Patti Smith sings sporadically.
    • In his only vocal appearance on an R.E.M. recording, Peter Buck spoke the one verse of Roky Erickson's "I Walked with a Zombie" for a tribute album (the R.E.M. performance featured each member giving their own rendition of that verse; the other three members sung it).
  • Stealth Pun: Lifes Rich Pageant has a collage of Bill Berry and some bison as the cover, as a Visual Pun on the 19th century soldier and entertainer Buffalo Bill.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Mike Mills sings lead on their cover of the Clique's "Superman" from Lifes Rich Pageant (because Stipe disliked the cover too much and only did backing vocals), as well as "Near Wild Heaven" and "Texarkana" from Out of Time (because Mills co-wrote the lyrics to both songs). In concert, Mills also performed lead vocals on more recent performances of "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville".
    • Peter Buck never sang at all on an R.E.M. record, except for their cover version of "I Walked with a Zombie" on the Roky Erickson tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, in which every member took the lead vocal for a verse (the song is just the same verse over and over again). Even then, Buck didn't sing: he spoke the lyrics.
  • Success as Revenge: The opening track on Accelerate, "Living Well Is the Best Revenge", revolves around the narrator facing an onslaught of insults, attacks, and other vitriol and brushing them all off in favor of simply living life to the fullest. According to Michael Stipe, the song was penned as a Take That! to both right-wing pundit Bill O'Reilly and an unnamed person he admired who badmouthed the band, summarizing the song as "fuck you! Sing like this, you talented fuck."
  • Surreal Music Video:
    • The entire "L" side of Reckoning served as the soundtrack to a twentysomething-minute short film entitled Left of Reckoning, done by Stipe's art tutor James Herbert, that essentially gives one of these to each of the five songs on the album's "L" side. Through the use of arty close-ups, filters, time speed-ups and slow-downs and other avant garde film choices, it captures the band randomly wandering around the Whirligig Farm in Rabbittown, Georgia.
    • "Electrolite", helped along by inverted camera work, fisheye lenses, figures changing size...
  • Symploce: Used in the song "Driver 8":
    But it's still a ways away
    But we're still a ways away
    But it's still a ways away
  • Take That!:
    • Many of their songs are this against the government, with the Reagan and Bush (Jr.) administrations the biggest targets. "Mr. Richards" is a particular one to then-vice president Dick Cheney.
    • One of the possible alternative titles for Document was Last Train to Disneyland, suggested by Peter Buck, who had claimed in an interview that during Ronald Reagan's presidency, America for him was beginning to feel a lot like said amusement park.
    • As Stipe noted in the liner notes for Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage, an unnamed person whom Stipe had long admired ended up firing one of these at R.E.M. themselves, and an incensed Stipe wrote "Living Well Is the Best Revenge" as his response.
    • "Exhuming McCarthy" is, as mentioned above, one to U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy.
  • 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.
    • "So. Central Rain" mentions rain and "Fall on Me" is supposedly about acid rain.
    • "Find the River" seems to be the last words of a dying person who is at peace with their life and is telling their relatives not to worry. The music fits this, not being sad but being wistful and bittersweet.
    • The music video for "Bad Day" features a news cast covering severe weather, not only outside, but in a senator's office and an apartment or two.
  • Titled After the Song: "Man on the Moon" not only became the title of, and was used in, an Andy Kaufman Biopic, but R.E.M. provided the movie's instrumental underscore and a new song, "The Great Beyond".
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Catapult", "Low", "Talk About the Passion", "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)", and "Gardening at Night".
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Shaking Through" from Murmur and "Stand" from Green. The latter features two.
    • "Exhuming McCarthy" from Document does this regularly, having different keys for the verses, choruses, and bridge.
  • Uncommon Time: The chorus of "Wanderlust" alternates between 7/4 and 4/4. "Sad Professor" also has an unconventional time signature.
  • The Unintelligible: Michael Stipe was this in the band's early years; from 1981 to 1983 it was frequently impossible to tell what he was singing and, even when it was possible to tell what the words were, it was usually impossible to tell what he was singing about. In 1985, a UK pop magazine reviewing the year's releases commented "Michael Stipe's nonsense lyrics continue to puzzle the gullible." Amusingly lampshaded by Eddie Vedder when he inducted the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
  • Unreplaced Departed: The band continued as a trio after drummer Bill Berry left in 1997, hiring session drummers for their albums and tours and eventually settling on Bill Rieflin (but never actually inducting him as an official member) until the band's break-up in 2011.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • According to Bill Berry, "Gardening at Night" originated from a roadie's nickname for taking a piss. The band found it so amusingly weird that they based a song around it.
    "We were driving at night after a show (I don't remember where), and I was at the wheel of our old car, with a rental trailer in tow. One of my three passengers aimed a directive at me. Rather than inform me of his desire to evacuate his bladder, he instead suggested that I pull over so that he might engage in the task of roadside 'night gardening.' To four guys in their early twenties this was a glaring catalyst for a new song."
    • The "star" in "Star Me Kitten", a substitute for "fuck" (derived from the common use of asterisks to censor words).
  • Visual Pun: Overlapping with Stealth Pun. The cover of Lifes Rich Pageant has a portrait of Bill Berry in the top half, and a photo of bison in the bottom. Thus, Buffalo Bill.
  • Vocal Evolution: Michael Stipe was known in the early '80s for his murky singing voice, which made him notoriously indecipherable when combined with his affinity for Word Salad Lyrics. During production of Lifes Rich Pageant, producer Don Gehman got Stipe to start singing more clearly, and the result is that his voice got more articulate and higher-pitched with each successive album; he sounds substantially younger on 2011's Collapse into Now (released when he was 51) than he did on 1983's Murmur (released when he was 23).
  • Vocal Tag Team: Mostly between Michael Stipe and Mike Mills. Some of the more straight examples include instances between Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Kate Pierson in the chorus of "Shiny Happy People", Stipe and Mills in one brief instance on "Mine Smell Like Honey," and Stipe and Peaches on "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter." Stipe's "duet" with Patti Smith on "Blue" could also possibly qualify.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!:
    • KRS-One on "Radio Song".
    • Q-Tip on "The Outsiders".
  • Word Purée Title: The band's name doesn't stand for "Rapid Eye Movement", which is usually pronounced "REM" rather than "R-E-M". It wasn't meant to actually stand for anything — they stayed up late writing names on a blackboard and eventually started running through a dictionary, picking out words at random.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Chronic Town and Murmur especially, but just about every album has an example of this.
    Peter Buck: (on the song "Orange Crush") 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.note 
    • Perhaps the band's most notable aversion of this trope is "Everybody Hurts," as Stipe had aimed its lyrical content at teenagers. "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville", which (because it?) wasn't written by Stipe, also serves: it's Mike Mills asking his then-girlfriend to not return to her parents' house in Maryland.
  • You Are Not Alone: "Everybody Hurts."
    So if you feel like you're alone... No. No. No. You are not alone.