You Are The Everything
June 24, 2008
“You Are The Everything” is a rarity in the R.E.M. catalog, at least in the sense that it’s one of very few songs Michael Stipe has written that expresses a deep fear of the future. At the start of each verse, the singer nakedly declares his anxiety, and pointedly, it applies to both himself and the world around him. Rather than to elaborate on this dread, he copes by “eviscerating” his memory and revisits a moment of beauty and tranquility from his past. Stipe’s flashback in the first (and third, it repeats) verse ranks among his finest achievements as a lyricist; he sets the scene with language so precise and evocative that I would not blame anyone if they had ever confused it with one of their own childhood memories.
“You Are The Everything” is a clear turning point in the R.E.M. songbook, both musically and lyrically. Most obviously, the arrangement anticipates the emphasis on acoustic instrumentation that would come to define both Out Of Time and Automatic For The People. Lyrically, the song falls in the context of the overtly political writing on Lifes Rich Pageant, Document, and Green while deliberately diminishing the Big Picture in favor of a smaller, more personal narrative. It’s a love song, but not in the traditional romantic sense. It’s the sort of love you feel for your parents and your family, or your best friends, or maybe in your best moments, humanity at large. “You Are The Everything” is the heart and soul of Green; the song that gets to the core of why a person may feel compelled to try to make the world around them a better place.