Goddamn Your Confusion

I feel like “Pretty Persuasion” might be the Platonic ideal of an R.E.M. song.

Apparently this is not a new observation, as the Wikipedia page for the song informs me:

According to R.E.M. biographer Tony Fletcher, it is often regarded as “the ‘archetypal’ R.E.M. anthem”.

It’s got the jangly guitars, Peter Buck’s trademark arpeggio style. It’s got Mike Mills’ clean droning backup vocals. It’s got Michael Stipe at his most oblique. And Bill Berry does what he does, which is to serve the song and squeeze in the tightest of drum fills.

It’s also got mystery, in spades. You can find lyrics online and you can read the aforementioned Wikipedia page to get a hot take on what the song means. At this stage of their career, R.E.M.’s songs didn’t mean anything specific–they meant whatever the listener heard. I think that was intentional, and while late-era R.E.M. cleaned up Stipe’s vocals and even gave us printed lyric sheets, there was still the mystery of meaning itself. Stipe’s a poet; what did his words conjure in your brain? Where did they take you? What did they mean?

“Pretty Persuasion” is a deep bright hole of meaning; you bring only what you carry and you find only what you seek. That’s what I love about R.E.M., especially their earliest work. We shouldn’t even bother discussing what any of their songs are “about” because they’re not about any one thing. They’re about anything. You decide.

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Heaven Assumed

There is an unfailing, unflinching, unstoppable human desire to expect the best.

Hope, in other words. The thing with feathers. Apparently, it floats.

What we want and what we get are usually hard to span–there’s daylight between them. So hope is the most unlikely of feelings…and yet, here we are. Here I am. Hoping still.

Standing too soon, shoulders high in the room

Hope assumes that we’re ready for what we want–that it’s right for us, it belongs, it fits. We confront the future with an eagerness it may not warrant, and we rise to occasions. Sometimes the occasions don’t deserve it.

And sometimes we stand alone, looking around a seated room, realizing all eyes are on us, exposed by hope.

Try to win and suit your needs
Speak out sometimes but try to win

Best intentions and compromise. Who are you? Who do you want to be? What is the line and where do you draw it?

These are delicate ideas, and this song approaches them so carefully–the prepared piano, the hesitating drums. A complete world in itself, hanging between what is and what could be. Springing eternal.