Imitation Of Life

Album: Reveal (2001)
Charted: 6 83
  • A commentary on the illusion of Hollywood, this was the first single from Reveal, which was R.E.M.'s 12th album. The band was going to leave this off the album, but so many of their friends and co-workers told them it was great, that they decided to include it and release it as the first single.
  • This is one of the more upbeat R.E.M. songs. They recorded the album in various locations where it rained a lot, and Michael Stipe feels this may have made them record a sunny sound to compensate for the weather.
  • If this sounds like vintage R.E.M., it's because the band really did imitate life when they accidentally took the verse chords from 1985's "Driver 8" and used them in this song.
  • The song title is taken from the classic 1959 film of the same name. Directed by Douglas Sirk, the movie (a remake of the 1939 version starring Claudette Colbert) follows a young African-American girl's struggle as she abandons her mother so she can pass as white in the '50s south.

    "I thought at the time that the title was a perfect metaphor for adolescence. Unfortunately I have come to believe that it is a perfect metaphor for adulthood, too. But that's another story," Peter Buck explained on the liner notes for In Time, though he admitted none of the guys saw the movie, which starred Susan Kohner alongside Lana Turner, Sandra Dee and Juanita Moore.
  • The music video, directed by Garth Jennings, takes place at a Los Angeles pool party where time unfolds and rewinds in short bursts. Michael Stipe explained the process to MTV UK: "The entire video took 20 seconds to shoot. What you're watching is a loop that goes forwards for 20 seconds, backwards for 20 seconds, forwards for 20 seconds, backwards for 20 seconds, with one camera, static, and then using a technique called 'pan and scan', which is a technical thing that is used when they go from a widescreen format and reformat to fit your television or DVD, moving in on certain parts of the entire picture. And you'll see that we do that picking up various people within the frame."

    Among the cast of hundreds was a special guest: "Peter held a monkey or an orangutan, one of his life wishes in a music video. I was thrilled to be able to finally accommodate that wish ... !" Stipe shared in the liner notes for Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011.
  • This was a huge hit in Japan.

Comments: 13

  • Apple from London, EnglandI read this thing which said that although they named it after tht movie that every1 keeps going on about, they thought it was a perfect metaphor for adolescence. I really get that, it's like, so many kids (i include myself in that category-but not about the bit that follows, if you get what i mean. Which even i don't.) spend, like, the entirety of their teen years trying to act like their adults when they're really not. Being an adult isn't about sucking face with somebody else boyfriend or taking too many pills, that's just what they tell you on TV.
  • Jon from Cairns, AustraliaIt's a catchy song but the standout on the album is "I've Been High". It has an etherial uplifting sound which is unusual for REM.
  • Warwick from London, EnglandI can watch the video for hours; I love it. It is in fact 20 seconds of footage shown forwards and backwards continuously.

    Imitation of life was R.E.M.'s first (and only) number 1 hit in Japan.
  • Ian from Melbourne, AustraliaVery catching song off the "reveal" second only to automatic as a great record>It sees rem experiment more succesfully with a dance music feel.All the weay to reno was a bad choice as second single it was one of the less appealing songs on the album.Check out "the lifting" Ive been High,dissapear,beat a dr45um and chorus and the ring.
  • Johnny from Rockland, Mabest rem song ever. my buddy played it once on a radio show we used to do and i loved it (that was the first time i heard it) replaced losing my religion as my favorite rem song.
  • Amy from Monaghan, IrelandActually if you really read the commentary in In Time Peter Buck says that none of them have seen the movie, so I dont know how watching it makes the song make more sense.I think The phrase Guilherme refers to sums up teenage life- someone dressed in the latest clothes (friday fashion show),trying desperately to fit in, yet still being left out(freezing in the corner) but not wanting to look like theyre trying too hard
  • Mandy from Smalltown, NyI like the video. I think that a literal translation of "Imitation of Life" and ten seconds of a poolparty on repeat is actually pretty artistic.
  • Rob from Santa Monica, CaActually, the video is a short clip that is run back and forth while zooming in on different parts of the image. A really wild effect.

    A good song, but again, the recording suffers from Scott Litt syndrome: produced to be radio-friendly, but in fact simply robbed of its energy and essence. Any live performance of this song kicks the record's ass.
  • Guilherme from São Paulo, BrazilMan, I just want to know what the phrase "like a friday fashion show teenager
    freezing in the corner
    trying to look like you dont try" means , it´s impossible, they were probably dopy.
  • Nim from Auckland, New ZealandThe name of the movie that Patrick refers to is actually 'Imitation of Life' - a great film by Douglas Sirk that typifies the hopes an aspirations of different women in 50s America. The song makes more sense when you have seen the movie.
  • Patrick from Cleveland, OhActually, if you read the commentary on this song in "In Time", it's based off of a movie whose name I can't remember, about a black woman living in the south or something of the sort. It sounds like a rather odd and obscure film, but that's what one of the band members credited it to.
  • Epp from Pittsburgh, PaThis song has to do with trying to succeed in love and how difficult it is to make something of yourself. Yes, the music video is really weird.
  • Roddy from Southampton, EnglandThe video was shot using only 10 (or so...) seconds of footage on a constant loop.
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