At My Most Beautiful
April 1, 2007
Depending on how you parse some lyrics, there’s a fair few sentimental love songs in the R.E.M. discography, but none of them are nearly as straightforward and sweet as “At My Most Beautiful.” Musically, it’s an obvious Beach Boys pastiche, and one of the few post-Berry numbers to strongly emphasize vocal harmonies. It’s a very pretty track, but without Michael Stipe’s wonderfully specific lyrics, it wouldn’t be much more than yet another tribute to Brian Wilson’s gift for evoking the innocent beauty of new love.
Stipe’s voice is soft and demure as he finds the romance in mundane details — his lover is exceeding patient when listening to his stilted poetry; he saves their phone messages to hear their voice; he’s always pleasantly surprised that they always say their name when leaving a voice mail “like I wouldn’t know it’s you.” If you have a heart, there’s only one way to respond to all of this: Awwwwwwwwwww!
Stipe seems remarkably vulnerable in this song; just helplessly in love. The title is “At My Most Beautiful,” and crucially, he makes it clear in the second verse that he only feels beautiful in the reflection of his lover’s adoration. It’s not the most assertive sentiment in the world, but it’s humble, honest, and emotionally true.