Stipe was recently a guest on the Broken Record podcast, where he revealed a minor, but equally major, lyric change to host Rick Rubin.
It all started when Rubin asked Stipe if he knew the song was special as he was writing it, which the R.E.M. artist quickly denied. “We released it as a first single thinking it was going to set up the next song,” he said. “It’s such a weird song, we had no idea it was going to resonate the way that it did.”
On memories of making the track, Stipe delved into changing the lyrics in the chorus. “I changed one lyric,” he recalled. “‘That’s me in the corner / That’s me in the kitchen’, what I was pulling from was being the shy wallflower who hangs back at the party or at the dance and doesn’t go up to the person that you’re madly in love with and say ‘I’ve kind of got a crush on you, how do you feel about me?’”
“There’s this whole relationship that’s happening only in the person’s mind and he doesn’t know whether he’s said too much or hasn’t said enough,” Stipe added. “He’s like, in the corner of the dance floor watching everyone dance and watching the love of his life on the dance floor dancing with everyone cause that’s the most exciting person. Or, he’s in the kitchen behind the refrigerator.”
Then, one word ended up changing everything. “I changed ‘kitchen’ to ‘spotlight’ and instantly of course the song became about me, which it never was,” Stipe said.
“Losing My Religion” peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart dated June 22, 1991, and spent 21 weeks total on the chart.
Listen to the full Broken Record episode below.