R.E.M. famously knocked their own song, “Shiny Happy People”, dismissing it as a “children’s song” with the implication that this somehow made it less worthy than their more serious fare.
And R.E.M. got VERY serious with the albums that followed the release that featured this song (1991’s Out of Time). The zany R.E.M. was dead, replaced by the self-important band that was happy (!) to leave behind any sense of playfulness. Instead, we got Around the Sun.
But prior to 1992’s (actually excellent) Automatic for the People, R.E.M. wasn’t afraid of being light and silly, with songs like this or “Stand” (1988) or “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine”) (1987).
That said, while I still find the song an effervescent pop gem, I have to admit the video is a bit cringy. Peter Buck looks vaguely uncomfortable every time you see him. Bill Berry is hamming it up and having a good ol’ time. Mike Mills is earnestly pitching in on a stand-up bass. Kate Pierson (of The B-52s) is slinky and fabulous. Michael Stipe is dressed in clothes that look randomly collected from a thrift store and is wearing a weird backwards cap (his hat phase).
Things get interesting at about the 2:43 mark when a bunch of people appear alongside the band to shimmy and shake their way through the rest of the video. It’s an eclectic mix of people, the clothes have a clear earl;y 90s vibe. and…wait, that mix of people isn’t as eclectic as it first seems. If you look, there are a lot of young college-age guys dancing around. In fact, if you were casting a movie about a bunch of young college guys, you’d have them right here, ready to go. Why do I get the feeling that Michael Stipe hand-picked each one of them? That rascal.
Here’s the video. Judge for yourself!
UPDATE: Nic offered a perfect description: “That video is precisely calibrated to make 90s bisexuals explode”
Here’s what I consider the prime example: Purple t-shirt guy with some sort of beret (?). He seems VERY happy (and look at Bill Berry in the background. He is clearly grooving).