Just the other day, I felt like life was overwhelming me. I couldn’t get to sleep, started breathing heavily, and thought I was having a panic attack. I did what I usually do when I get to such a low point in life, listen to music. The first song that I played on my computer was “Everybody Hurts,” by REM, which is just about the greatest record ever made.
This song surprisingly only peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1993, but instantly became a favorite among, not only the general public, but R.E.M. fans as well. Some of the lyrics include; “If you're on your own in this life/the days and nights are long/When you think you've had too much of this life, hang on.” The song became an inspiration for many to ride out the bad times and hang on for better days. The most important theme of this song, however, is that you are not alone; there are plenty of others that share your feelings.
It’s not just the lyrics that are impressive, Michael Stipe gives one of the most heartfelt vocal performances I’ve ever heard on a record. Many may criticize his voice for being technically poor and too nasally, but his voice gives more warmth and feeling than most other singers. The music in the song is slow and simple, but very effective.
The music video for “Everybody Hurts” is a perfect companion to the single. It basically shows a traffic jam where people’s thoughts are interpreted by words at the bottom of the screen. Finally, at the end of the video, all the drivers become so miserable that they just leave their cars and head off to something better.
R.E.M. went on to have more hits after “Everybody Hurts,” but seemed to crash, commercially, with their album New Adventures in Hi-Fi, released in 1996. Still, many critics consider that album, as well as subsequent R.E.M. albums, to be great musical works that prove that artistic greatness doesn’t always equal commercial success.