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Automatic for the People tells the story of a life in reverse.
"Drive" is more of an intro to the album and a summation of its themes (aging, loss, grief), so it's not a part of the story. Gender is pretty ambiguous in this album and Michael Stipe is bisexual so the genders of the narrator and his or her significant other are by no means certain, but I went with the idea of the main character being gay because of "Monty Got a Raw Deal."
  • "Find the River" - A child is preparing to go out into the world. Most likely he's just finished high school and is being given advice by his parent, who is telling him how dangerous but wonderful the world can be, and it's his now ("all of this is coming your way").
  • "Nightswimming" - He's off at college partying and having an overall good time.
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  • "Man on the Moon" - He goes through something of an crisis, contemplating his own philosophies and struggling with his faith; graduates from college.
  • "Star Me Kitten" - The narrator moves in with his boyfriend.
  • "Ignoreland" - He gets involved with political movements and protests.
  • "Monty Got a Raw Deal" - He starts getting worried that he'll lose his career or alienate his friends because of his sexuality.
  • "Sweetness Follows" - His parents die.
  • "New Orleans Instrumental No. 1" - He goes through a period of suicidal depression and grief.
  • "Everybody Hurts" - His boyfriend helps him to recover from his depression.
  • "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" - He lives, happy and prosperous, for many years.
  • "Try Not to Breathe" - At a very old age, he suffers from a terminal illness and subjects himself to a Mercy Kill rather than prolong his suffering.

    • The Above would make sense if "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" was not on the Album since it is about dieing in your sleep
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    • The Cut Song "Photograph", which was finished in 1993 with additional vocals from Natalie Merchant, is about seeing a photograph of his late mother and happily reminiscing about her. This helps the narrator get through his grief, as the photograph and memory will always be there even though the person is gone. However, there's still an element of sadness, as he speculates on questions he can never ask her. You could therefore put it in between "Everybody Hurts" and "Sidewinder".
Shiny Happy People is all about robots
The people are shiny cause they're made of metal and they are happy because they were programmed to be. It just so happened that a man all turned them into death machines and they go on a killing rampage... A happy killing rampage. The crowd they meet in is a squadrons of soldiers. Love in their programming is a codeword for death. They are taking it into town cause that's where all the people are and they must share their "Love" With everyone. They are putting it in the ground cause they need to plant mines. Putting it in your hands and taking it refers to them taking materials they need from them. They can't let people cry cause they need to spread "Love" to them quickly. Putting it in your heart refers to them taking materials and putting them in their chest compartment, by tomorrow it will be converted into fuel which is in fact very shiny.

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