All The Way To Reno (You’re Gonna Be A Star)
November 7, 2007
The irony of “All The Way To Reno” is that no one actually goes to that city to become a star, but the song isn’t remotely mean-spirited or condescending. In fact, in spite of a bit of good-natured smirking, this is one of Michael Stipe’s better pep-talk songs. The singer clearly has a great deal of respect for the tenacity of his underdog subject, and his focus is placed more on the character’s search for freedom and self-expression rather than conventional notions of success. When Stipe sings “you know what you are, you’re gonna be a star,” it’s less about a narcissistic desire to become a celebrity, and more about achieving a certain level of grace and self-belief.
Peter Buck has described this song as being like “Jimmy Webb on Mars,” which is a good, pithy way of describing its sound. Like “The Lifting” and “I’ve Been High” before it, “All The Way To Reno” is a classic style pop ballad dolled up in retro-futuristic drag. After the song ends on Reveal, the album immediately takes a turn in another direction, which is unfortunate given the unique aesthetic and high quality of the record’s opening trio.