The One I Love
May 7, 2007
If we learned anything from music in the ’80s, it’s that if you put loud, driving drums on a good, gentle ballad, you will probably get a hit single. Most of R.E.M.’s major singles from that era run with this basic formula, and so do a majority of other alternative rock-ish songs that take up space on “remember the 80s?” compilations and radio hours. The band have taken to occasionally performing “The One I Love” as a spare folk ballad in recent years, and though it’s a nice novelty, it never works quite as well without Bill Berry beating the hell out of his snare drum. Just like “Welcome To The Occupation,” the enormous sound of the percussion fills the negative space in the arrangement without weighing it down, and so when they hit the chorus, it just soars.
A karaoke note: Unless you have the skill and know what you’re doing, you might want to avoid this song at karaoke even if it’s the only R.E.M. song on the list and you totally love the band. It might seem easy, but once you get up there, it’s a bit too late to realize that it’s actually kinda difficult to sing that “Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiire!” chorus. Even if you can sing it, it probably won’t come off as well as you might want it to because there’s something about it that is weirdly particular to the sound of Michael Stipe’s voice. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way.
A wedding/mix tape/radio dedication note: Unless you have a very creepy relationship with your significant other, you really don’t want to make this your “song.” This is a song for jerks and sociopaths, and you’re supposed to pick up on that irony by the time Michael sings “a simple prop to occupy my time.”