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Shiny Happy People by R.E.M.
Album: Out Of TimeReleased: 1991Charted:
The title and chorus are based on a Chinese propaganda poster. The slogan "Shiny happy people holding hands" is used ironically - the song was released in 1991, two years after the Tiananmen Square uprising when the Chinese government clamped down on student demonstrators, killing hundreds of them. (thanks, Ali - Oxford, England)
Kate Pierson from the B-52's sang backup. She was in demand for her distinctive vocals after the B-52's achieved mainstream success with "Love Shack
" in 1989. R.E.M. and The B-52's are both from Athens, Georgia.
This was the second single from the album. A very light, happy song, it was a stark contrast to the very profound "Losing My Religion
," which was released first.
Michael Stipe calls this "A really fruity, kind of bubblegum song." In an interview with The Quietus, he said that he was a bit embarrassed when it became a big hit, but an important song because it shows a different side of him. Said Stipe: "Many people's idea of R.E.M, and me in particular, is very serious, with me being a very serious kind of poet. But I'm also actually quite funny - hey, my bandmates think so, my family thinks so, my boyfriend thinks so, so I must be - but that doesn't always come through in the music! People have this idea of who I am probably because when I talk on camera, I'm working so hard to articulate my thoughts that I come across as very intense."
In 1999, R.E.M. performed this on Sesame Street as "Furry Happy Monsters." Kate Pierson's part was performed by a Muppet that looked like her, voiced by Stephanie D’Abruzzo, a Muppeteer who was also a huge fan of the band. Guitarist Peter Buck has two daughters who were big fans of the show.
This appears in Michael Moore's controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 while archive footage of both George Bushes shaking hands and posing for photographs with Saudi Arabian oilmen plays. (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
Midway into this song, it switches to Waltz time - 3/4. R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck had the idea to do this. He explained why in a 1991 interview with Guitar School
: "The song is so relentlessly upbeat, there was nowhere you could really go with the bridge. We tried it a few ways and then I suggested 3/4. They said, 'That's kind of fruity, Peter.' But I thought it was cool. It makes you think, well, what would we not put here? It gives the song a 'Saturday In The Park