Listen to R.E.M.’s isolated vocal track for “Losing My Religion”


As a youngster, I assumed R.E.M.’s 1991 single “Losing My Religion” was about just that: a lapse in faith. Perhaps it was some Freudian obsession based on my parents’ own religious turmoil (Mom’s an excommunicated Irish Catholic, dad’s an atheist Jew), or one too many viewings of the icon-heavy music video. But even after later reading Michael Stipe’s claims of it being just another “classic obsession pop song” ala The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, I wasn’t entirely sold he hadn’t experienced some spiritual crisis. Now, via a strange twist of fate (or divine being, perhaps?), I understand the song in a totally new light thanks to the isolated vocal track.

When it’s just Stipe’s vocals, free and clear of all the mandolin and the images of angels and Baby Jesus, it’s clear that this is a man at the end of his rope. Plenty of isolated tracks feature starting and stopping thanks to the editing process, but this time it adds to the performance, as if Stipe has to take breaks to collect himself and surge achingly onward. The echo of the vocals only further enhances the emotional impact, with all the extra space making his pleas of anguish and loneliness cut that much deeper. Whether the band’s talking about the love of another person or God/Buddha/Allah, you can’t help but feel the visceral heartache that’s purveyed with every pained note. Listen in below.


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