Saturday, March 9, 1991

R.E.M. charted with “Losing My Religion”

Losing My Religion


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

Released: February 19, 1991

First Charted: March 9, 1991

Peak: 4 US, 6 CB, 3GR, 4 RR, 28 AC, 13 AR, 18 MR, 19 UK, 6 CN, 11 AU, 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, -- UK, 0.5 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 1169.8 video, 1092.15 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“With a jangly-guitar sound that was equal parts rock and folk, cryptic yet compelling lyrics, and the quirky charisma of lead singer Michael Stipe, R.E.M. steadily built a cult following until their 1987 breakthrough” SS with top-10 hit “The One I Love.” However, the song that became the band’s biggest hit happened four years later was a “morose ballad dominated by a mandolin.” TB

The instrument’s “very distinctive sound and emotional quality grabs listeners immediately.” SS OPeter Buck, the band’s guitarist, had just purchased a mandolin and recorded his results while practicing. He called it “a bunch of stuff that was really just me learning how to play mandolin, and then there’s what became ‘Losing My Religion’, and then a whole bunch more of me learning to play the mandolin.” WK

On top of that, “Stipe’s beautiful, yearning voice sings about indecision and regret and fear in an abstract lyric.” TC Stipe said, “I wanted to write a classic obsession song. So I did.” DT He told the New York Times that the song was about romantic expression and explained to British magazine Q that it was about “someone who pines for someone else. It’s unrequited love, what have you.” WK Stipe compared the song to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” WK about stalking. The phrase “losing my religion” is a phrase used in the South that refers to losing one’s temper or being at the end of one’s rope. The Times, a UK publication, called it “the first existential pop song ever to make the American Top 10.” HL

Warner Bros., R.E.M.’s record label, was not sold on releasing such an “unconventional track” as the first single WK in support of the group’s 1991 album, Out of Time. Stipe himself said, “There’s no chorus, there’s no guitar, it’s five minutes long, it’s a fucking mandolin song. What kind of pop song is that?” TC However, the company got the song established via a “critically-acclaimed music video,” WK and airplay on modern rock and album rock radio stations before promoting it to mainstream radio. One Top 40 radio station director said, “the record crosses the boundaries of being just an alternative record.” WK


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Last updated 7/14/2023.

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