It’s A Free World, Baby
November 24, 2007
I don’t know why “It’s A Free World, Baby” is not on Out Of Time. It just doesn’t make sense. The song is distinct, fully formed, and superior to all but maybe four of the tracks that actually appear on the record, but something compelled R.E.M. to cast it aside. I suppose that it could be an issue of thematic consistency — though the arrangement most certainly fits the chamber pop aesthetic of Out Of Time, its oblique, infantilized lyrics stray far from the album’s theme of love and romance. Still, it’s very hard to fathom that they would be so willing to resign such a beautifully composed piece of music to obscurity. The string arrangement matches the tunefulness of “Shiny Happy People,” but the structure of the piece is odd and quirky, skipping between moments of bubblegum pop and mysterious passages that emphasize a playful tension in the rhythm section. Mike Mills dominates the track — his fluid bass lines carry the piece in every section, and his call and response in the chorus reinforces that hook, and plays up the song’s aloof yet goofy quality.