Losing My Religion

Losing My Religion

"Losing My Religion"
Single by R.E.M.
from the album Out of Time
B-side "Rotary Eleven"
Released February 19, 1991 (1991-02-19)
Format CD, 7", 12"
Recorded September–October 1990, strings)
Genre Alternative rock
Length 4:28
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe
Producer(s) Scott Litt and R.E.M.
Certification Gold (RIAA)
R.E.M. singles chronology
"Get Up"
"Losing My Religion"
"Shiny Happy People"
Audio sample

"Losing My Religion" is a song by the American alternative rock band R.E.M. The song was released as the first single from the group's 1991 album Out of Time. Based around a mandolin riff, "Losing My Religion" was an unlikely hit for the group, garnering heavy airplay on radio as well as on MTV due to its critically acclaimed music video. The song became R.E.M.'s highest-charting hit in the United States, reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and expanding the group's popularity beyond its original fanbase. It was nominated for several Grammy Awards, and won two for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Short Form Music Video.


R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck wrote the main riff and chorus to the song on a mandolin while watching television one day. Buck had just bought the instrument and was attempting to learn how to play it, recording the music as he practiced. Buck said that "when I listened back to it the next day, there was a bunch of stuff that was really just me learning how to play mandolin, and then there's what became 'Losing My Religion', and then a whole bunch more of me learning to play the mandolin."[1]

Recording of the song started in September 1990 at [4]

Composition and lyrics

"Losing My Religion" is based on Peter Buck's mandolin-playing. Buck said, "The verses are the kinds of things R.E.M. uses a lot, going from one minor to another, kind [of] like those 'Driver 8' chords. You can't really say anything bad about E minor, A minor, D, and G – I mean, they're just good chords." Buck noted that "Losing My Religion" was "probably the most typical R.E.M.-sounding song on the record. We are trying to get away from those kind of songs, but like I said before, those are some good chords."[2] Orchestral strings play through parts of the song. The song is in natural minor.[5]

In the song, Michael Stipe sings the lines "That's me in the corner/That's me in the spotlight/Losing my religion". The phrase "losing my religion" is an expression from the southern region of the United States that means losing one's temper or civility, or "being at the end of one's rope." Stipe told The New York Times the song was about romantic expression.[6] He told Q that "Losing My Religion" is about "someone who pines for someone else. It's unrequited love, what have you."[7] Stipe compared the song's theme to "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, saying, "It's just a classic obsession pop song. I've always felt the best kinds of songs are the ones where anybody can listen to it, put themselves in it and say, 'Yeah, that's me.'"[8]

Release and reception

"Losing My Religion" was released on February 19, 1991 in the United States as the lead single from R.E.M.'s forthcoming album Out of Time.[8] The band's record label, Warner Bros., was wary about the group's choice of the song as the album's first single. Steven Baker, who was vice president of product management at Warner Bros. at the time, said there were "long, drawn-out discussions" about releasing such an "unconventional track" as the single until the label agreed. While R.E.M. declined to tour to promote Out of Time, the band visited radio stations, gave numerous press interviews, and made appearances on MTV to promote the record. Meanwhile Warner Bros. worked to establish the single at campus, modern rock, and album-oriented rock radio stations before promoting it to American Top 40 stations, where it became a success. "The record crosses the boundaries of being just an alternative record", one Top 40 radio station program director said; he admitted that "Losing My Religion" was "a hard record to program; you can't play L.L. Cool J behind it. But it's a real pop record—you can dance to it."[9]

"Losing My Religion" became R.E.M.'s biggest hit in the United States, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.[10] The single stayed on the chart for 21 weeks.[11] It charted at number 19 on the UK Singles Chart, and peaked at number 16 and number 11 in Canada and Australia, respectively.[10] Mills said years later, "Without 'Losing My Religion', Out of Time would have sold two or three million [copies], instead of the ten [million copies] or so it did. But the phenomenon that is a worldwide hit is an odd thing to behold. Basically that record was a hit in almost every civilised country in the world."[3] The success of "Losing My Religion" and Out of Time broadened R.E.M.'s audience beyond its original college radio-based fanbase. When asked at the time if he was worried that the song's success might alienate older fans, Buck told Rolling Stone, "The people that changed their minds because of 'Losing My Religion' can just kiss my ass."[12]

The song received a number of critical plaudits. The single placed second in the Village Voice Pazz & Jop annual critics' poll, behind Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit".[13] R.E.M. was nominated for seven awards at the 1992 Grammy Awards. "Losing My Religion" alone earned several nominations, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.[14] The song won two awards, for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and Best Short Form Music Video. In 2004, Rolling Stone listed the song at number 169 on its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2007, the song was listed as #9 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s.[15] In 2009, Blender ranked it at number 79 on its list of "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born".[16] The song is also included on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of 660 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

Music video

The music video for "Losing My Religion" was directed by Tarsem Singh. As opposed to previous R.E.M. videos, Michael Stipe agreed to lip sync the lyrics.[17] The video originated as a combination of ideas envisioned by Stipe and Singh. Stipe wanted the promo to be a straightforward performance video, akin to Sinéad O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U". Singh wanted to create a video in the style of a certain type of Indian filmmaking, where everything would be "melodramatic and very dreamlike", according to Stipe.[18]

The video begins with a brief sequence inside a dark room where water drips from an open window. Buck, Berry, and Mills run across the room while Stipe remains seated. A pitcher of milk drops from the windowsill and shatters, and the song begins. Director Singh drew inspiration from the Italian painter Caravaggio and Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. The video is laden with religious imagery such as Saint Sebastian and Hindu deities, portrayed in a series of tableaux.[19]

The music video was nominated in nine categories at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards. The video won six awards, including Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Breakthrough Video, Best Art Direction, Best Direction, and Best Editing.[20] "Losing My Religion" also ranked second in the music video category of the 1991 Pazz & Jop poll.[13]

Cover versions

Track listing

All songs written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Michael Stipe, except where noted

  1. "Losing My Religion" – 4:29
  2. "Rotary Eleven" – 2:32
12" and Compact Disc
  1. "Losing My Religion" – 4:29
  2. "Rotary Eleven" – 2:32
  3. "After Hours" (Lou Reed) (live)1 – 2:08
UK "Collector's Edition" CD one
  1. "Losing My Religion" – 4:29
  2. "Stand" (live)1 – 3:21
  3. "Turn You Inside-Out" (live)1 – 4:23
  4. "World Leader Pretend" (live)1 – 4:24
UK "Collector's Edition" CD two
  1. "Losing My Religion" – 4:29
  2. "Fretless" – 4:51
  3. "Losing My Religion" (Live Acoustic Version/Rockline) – 4:38
  4. "Rotary Eleven" – 2:32
  • 1. Taken from the live performance video, Tourfilm.


Chart (1991) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[27] 11
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[28] 6
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[29] 1
Canada (RPM)[30] 16
France (SNEP)[31] 3
Ireland (IRMA)[32] 5
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[33] 1
Italy (FIMI)[34] 8
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[35] 16
Norway (VG-lista)[36] 4
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[37] 3
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[38] 11
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[39] 19
US Billboard Hot 100[40] 4
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[41] 28
US Mainstream Rock Tracks (Billboard)[42] 1
US Modern Rock Tracks (Billboard)[43] 1
Chart (2008) Peak
Italy (FIMI)[34] 14


Region Certification
Italy (FIMI)[44] Platinum
United Kingdom (BPI)[45] Silver
United States (RIAA)[46]
Physical single
United States (RIAA)[46]
Digital single


  1. ^ a b c Black, p. 177
  2. ^ a b c Mettler, Mike. "R.E.M.: Radio Songs". Guitar School. September 1991.
  3. ^ a b Buckley, p. 205
  4. ^ Black, p. 178
  5. ^ Stephenson, Ken (2002). What to Listen for in Rock: A Stylistic Analysis, p. 89. ISBN 978-0-300-09239-4.
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen. "The Pop Life". The New York Times. March 13, 1991. Retrieved on January 13, 2008.
  7. ^ Snow, Mat. "R.E.M." Q. October 1992.
  8. ^ a b Black, p. 180
  9. ^ Browne, David. "It's About 'Time' for R.E.M.". Entertainment Weekly. May 31, 1991. Retrieved on January 13, 2008.
  10. ^ a b Buckley, p. 358
  11. ^ "Losing My Religion". Rolling Stone. December 9, 2004. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
  12. ^ Giles, Jeff. "No. 1 With an Attitude". Rolling Stone. June 27, 1991. Retrieved on January 13, 2008.
  13. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "The 1991 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". Village Voice. March 3, 1992. Retrieved on January 20, 2008.
  14. ^ Pareles, Jon. "Grammy Short List: Many For a Few". The New York Times. January 9, 1992. Retrieved on January 20, 2008.
  15. ^ 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s
  16. ^ Blender Staff. "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born". Blender.com. April 1, 2009. Retrieved on April 15, 2009.
  17. ^ Buckley, p. 206
  18. ^ Fricke, David. "The Rolling Stone Interview: Michael Stipe". Rolling Stone. March 5, 1992. Retrieved on May 19, 2008.
  19. ^ Buckley, p. 206-07
  20. ^ "Video Music Awards | Past VMAs | 1991". MTV.com. Retrieved on January 21, 2008.
  21. ^ Off the Deep End (liner).  
  22. ^ Nguyen, Hanh (October 7, 2010). "'Glee': Cory Monteith talks 'Losing My Religion'".  
  23. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYW9GVDb4Pk,
  24. ^ http://www.metal-archives.com/albums/Graveworm/Engraved_in_Black/22078
  25. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZOA0DMogzg
  26. ^ http://www.jacquinaylor.com/music.html
  27. ^ " Australian-charts.com – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  28. ^ "Austriancharts.at – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  29. ^ "Ultratop.be – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  30. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 54, No. 3, June 22, 1991".  
  31. ^ "Lescharts.com – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  32. ^ "Search the charts" (To access, enter the search parameter "Losing My Religion" in the "Search by Song Title" field).  
  33. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved December 15, 2009.
  34. ^ a b "Italiancharts.com – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion". Top Digital Download. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  35. ^ "Charts.org.nz – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  36. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion". VG-lista. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  37. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion". Singles Top 60. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  38. ^ "Swisscharts.com – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  39. ^ "Archive Chart: 1991-03-09" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  40. ^ "R.E.M. – Chart History: Hot 100".  
  41. ^ "R.E.M. – Chart History: Adult Contemporary".  
  42. ^ "R.E.M. – Chart History: Mainstream Rock Tracks".  
  43. ^ "R.E.M. – Chart History: Alternative Songs".  
  44. ^ "Italian single certifications – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion" (in Italian).   Select Online in the field Scegli la sezione. Select Week -- and Year ----. Enter R.E.M. in the field Artista. Click Avvia la ricerca
  45. ^ "British single certifications – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion".   Enter Losing My Religion in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Click Go
  46. ^ a b "American single certifications – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion".   If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH


  • Black, Johnny. Reveal: The Story of R.E.M. Backbeat Books, 2004. ISBN 978-0-87930-776-9
  • Buckley, David. R.E.M.: Fiction: An Alternative Biography. Virgin, 2002. ISBN 978-1-85227-927-1

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; GNU Free Documentation License; additional terms may apply; additional licensing terms may not be displayed on the current page, please review the citiational source for the most up to date information. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.

Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.

By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.