I Don’t Sleep, I Dream
December 12, 2007
“I Don’t Sleep, I Dream” is a fine example of Michael Stipe’s talent for exploiting images and concepts suggested by the music in his lyrics. Even without his words, the dull thudding and shrill treble notes that dominate the track would evoke the sensation of a splitting headache. His lyrics make it explicit — the character is hungover and depressed, and his matter-of-fact tone implies that he find himself in this state fairly often. The character is some sort of star — the magnitude of his celebrity isn’t nearly as important as the fact that he wields some form of social influence. He seems slightly bitter and confused, as though the initial fun of the social dynamic has mostly worn off, but he’s unwilling to back away from his position even though there’s plenty in the song to suggest that he’s deeply suspicious of anyone he lets into his world. He’s addressing someone that he is presumably providing access to his inner circle, but even when he allows for a split second of intimacy, he’s chilly and aloof. He realizes that he needs the human connection, but he can’t shake the awareness that this person is attracted to some distorted abstraction of himself, and the feeling that his loneliness is an inevitable by-product of his social privilege.