Monday, August 24, 1987

R.E.M. “The One I Love” released

The One I Love


Writer(s): Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe (see lyrics here)

Released: August 24, 1987

First Charted: September 5, 1987

Peak: 9 US, 10 CB, 13 RR, 2 AR, 1 CO, 16 UK, 11 CN, 84 AU, 3 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 28.0 video, 59.85 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

R.E.M. formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 and immediately established themselves as one of the foundational bands for college rock radio. They were widely acclaimed through four albums which all found their way into the top 40 on the Billboard album chart in the U.S. Their big leap into the mainstream came in 1987 with their fifth album, Document. The top-10 album was their first platinum seller, thanks to the success of top-10 hit “The One I Love.”

Prior to “The One I Love,” R.E.M. had only charted on the Billboard Hot 100 with three minor hits. They developed a very “identifiable, special sound” PW with “Byrds-type guitars and rhythm section” PW with those earlier songs, but “The One I Love” is more of a tribute to Neil Young with its “guitar-sound-combined-with-this-drum-sound.” PW

Because of its refrain, “This one goes out to the one I love,” this song has become popular for loved ones to dedicate to each other on the radio. WK However, this is a misinterpretation of the song which contains lyrics which contradict the idea of love and “suggest a darker, more manipulative theme” WK as demonstrated with lyrics such as “a simple prop to occupy my time.” Lead singer Michael Stipe said, “It’s very clear that it’s about using people over and over again.” WK He initially thought the song was too brutal to record. SF

Critic Paul Williams says the song is “absolutely drenched in…the sounds and colors and textures of dissatisfied longing.” PW He says the lyrics reveal “the songer or persona’s discomfort with himself” PW as he rages “regarding his own inability to love; on some further level he is also expressing and despairing at his inability to really rage.” PW It “feels and sounds like a love song even as the content of words and vocal try to make clear that it isn’t.” PW


  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia
  • PW Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. Pages 227-9.

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First posted 10/2/2022.

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