May 22, 2007
Though “The One I Love” was most likely the very first R.E.M. song that I ever heard, “Stand” was the first time I ever listened to the band with an awareness of who they were. Around the time I was eight or nine, I went through a phase of being realllllllly into radio countdown shows, most especially American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. I distinctly remember sitting on the fuzzy green stairs just outside my bedroom one Sunday morning and listening to Kasem cheerfully introduce the band and the single, which was only a modest hit at the time, maybe somewhere in the mid-30s. I liked it well enough, but I don’t think it left that much of an impression on me — I didn’t buy a copy of Green until at least two years later, though it was my first R.E.M. record. I’m not sure how long it was before I figured out that “The One I Love” was also by R.E.M., or what the third song I heard was, though I also have a very strong memory of seeing the video for “Pop Song 89,” and I’m fairly certain that was what inspired me to buy the tape. That was also around the same time that “Stand” was the theme song for Chris Elliott‘s short-lived sitcom Get A Life, which seemed like a big deal to me though I don’t think I had any idea how weird the show was, or that it was actually a terribly unpopular program.
“Stand” is a rather cheery and innocent bubblegum pop song, and so it tends to get overlooked or downplayed by fans and the band themselves, which is a shame given that it’s a fantastic, well-constructed tune that happens to boast the most charming key change in the entire R.E.M. discography. Michael Stipe’s lyrics for the song make for a very stark contrast with the dark, cynical tone of Document — as on “Get Up,” his words are direct, endearingly optimistic, and eager to inspire the listener to action. Throughout the song, Stipe pushes the listener to acknowledge their place in their environment, and question why they do not spend more of their mental energy noting their connection to their surroundings . It’s one part Be Here Now, and two parts Think Global, Act Local. It’s certainly one of the most hippie-ish songs the band have ever produced, but it’s remarkably devoid of the sort of unintentional toxic smugness that usually goes along with that territory. “Stand” isn’t preachy or judgmental — Stipe only attempts to highlight the absurdity of ignoring one’s place in their community, or their responsibility to the place where they live.