Writer(s): Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe (see lyrics here)
Released: April 15, 1993
First Charted: April 17, 1993
Peak: 29 US, 18 CB, 5 GR, 9 RR, 21 AR, 7 UK, 8 CN, 6 AU, 6 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.4 UK, 0.75 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 160.13 video, 256.51 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
After R.E.M.’s seventh album, Out of Time, hit #1 and sold four million copies, it was hard to imagine they could top it. Regarding the next album, Automatic for the People, guitarist Peter Buck said, “Overall I think the record is pretty positive, but there are certain songs about death.” TC Despite some dark songs such as “Everybody Hurts,” the album racked up three top-40 hits in the U.S. That song was one of them and was even more successful in the UK, reaching #7. It was also a top-10 hit in Australia, Canada, France, Iceland, and the Netherlands.
Tony Fletcher wrote that the song “was the ballad R.E.M. had always had in them but had never dared attempt.” SS While the “acoustic ballad of profound empathy” SS is credited to all four members of the band, drummer Bill Berry wrote much of it. He “wanted to reach out to people who felt they had no hope.” SF Entertainment Weekly’s Greg Sandow called it an “almost unbearable passionate argument against suicide.” WK
Singer Michael Stipe “purposely sings indecipherably” on many R.E.M. songs, but this “features one of the finest vocal performances” TB of his career. He “sang very clearly on this one…because he didn’t want his message getting lost.” SF He said, “the reason the lyrics are so atypically straightforward is because it was aimed at teenagers…I’ve never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the idea that high school is a portal to hell seems pretty realistic to me. It’s hard for everyone.” TB
Despite his lyrical contribution, Berry didn’t actually play on “Everybody Hurts.” Instead the task was covered by a Univox drum machine. Buck said they “wanted to get this flow around…human and non-human at the same time.” SF The song is also notable for the string arrangement written by bassist John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin.
Sandow also said the song “surely will be played on radio for generations to come, right next to unforgettable anthems like ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’” WK Critic Troy J. Augusto said the “silky vocals and the song’s lush string section provide this track’s main appeal.” WK Billboard’s Larry Flick called the song a “spare, honest, and emotional track.” WK Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot said it was “a ballad that would border on the maudlin if Stipe didn’t sing with such conviction.” WK A poll by PRS for Music in the UK rated this the song “most likely to make a grown man cry.” SF The song was also
First posted 2/10/2021; last updated 4/11/2023.