Star Me Kitten
March 28, 2007
“Star Me Kitten” is a deliberately misleading song with an arrangement that suggests gentle romance, and a title that implies sweetness and affection. Michael Stipe sings in his low register, and his words recede into the background except for a few fragments that support the notion that we’re listening to a straight-forward romantic love song. I’m not sure how long it was before I ever realized that it wasn’t — I must have known the tune for at least two or three years before I ever saw the lyrics in print with the sheet music.
“Star Me Kitten” is sung from the perspective of one half of a failed long-term relationship. The lyrics are generally dry and unsentimental, and focused on the material detritus of their broken affair — keys, cars, rings. There’s a moment of nostalgia (“you, me, we used to be on fire”), but not a single note of regret as they negotiate the terms of their separation. Even at the end, when Stipe seems to invite some half-hearted farewell sex, he is cold and aloof, and his use of the affectionate nickname “kitten” takes on a tone of cruel irony and condescension.