He was talking to Rick Rubin on the Broken Record podcast when he revealed a key change in the lyrics to the classic song from 1991.
Rubin asked Stipe if he knew the song was special when writing it, something he 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 making the track, he added: “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 continued.
“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.”
He then revealed the key change: “I changed ‘kitchen’ to ‘spotlight’ and instantly of course the song became about me, which it never was,” Stipe added.
‘Losing My Religion’ reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart in June, 1991. It spent 21 weeks in total on the chart.
During an interview with radio station WNYC to discuss the new Velvet Underground tribute compilation, Stipe responded to a 2019 Rolling Stone article that speculated over the likelihood of R.E.M. reforming, describing it as “wishful thinking at best”.
“We will never reunite. We decided when we split up that that would just be really tacky and probably money-grabbing, which might be the impetus for a lot of bands to get back together. We don’t really need that, and I’m really happy that we just have the legacy of the 32 years of work that we have,” he told All Of It host Alison Stewart.