This week marks the 25th anniversary of R.E.M.’s seventh studio album, Out Of Time. The album solidified R.E.M. as one of the biggest bands in the world, particularly due to the success of the single “Losing My Religion,” which proved to be one of the band’s most enduring songs. It also featured crucial deep cuts like “Country Feedback” and “Low,” which are beloved by the band’s most dedicated fans. But among those revered tracks, the albums also hosts one of their most reviled: “Shiny Happy People.”
That song is a part of the band’s history that few look at fondly. In 2004, Blender named it as one of the 50 worst songs of all-time, Michael Stipe himself has expressed his distaste for it (although he somewhat warmed to it in more recently), and perhaps most tellingly, it was left off the track list of R.E.M.’s 2003 greatest hits album In Time, despite being one of the band’s biggest hits. Ask nearly anyone, and they’ll you that “Shiny Happy People” is a skeleton in the closet of an otherwise incredible band.
But does “Shiny Happy People” really deserve that reputation? Sure, it’s not the deepest song you’ll ever hear, but it’s also a pretty fun, lighthearted song that can be pretty damn enjoyable if you’re in the right mood. And hey, it’s not as though America is averse to songs about being happy; we loved a certain Pharrell Williams song two years ago, and one could argue this R.E.M. tune was pretty much the same thing two decades earlier. With that in mind, what if the problem with “Shiny Happy People” isn’t that it’s a bad song, but rather that it’s just not the type of song one would expect from R.E.M.