Radio Free Europe
April 3, 2007
R.E.M. began their recorded career with “Radio Free Europe,” a song that seems to deliberately challenge the audience’s compulsion to sing along with upbeat rock anthems by rendering its words either incomprehensible or nonsensical. There’s some implication of political content, but not nearly enough information to indicate the singer’s position, or what he may be railing against. Intentionally or not, “Radio Free Europe” forces the listener to question their identification with a set of lyrics that make very little literal sense, and possibly reevaluate how they respond to other songs that employ similar musical formulas to elicit an affirmative response. The song suggests an intriguing rhetorical question: If we sing along to a pop song, are we on some level agreeing with and endorsing its lyrical content, and if so, can a good tune con us into lending our passive approval to potentially harmful concepts?