The One I Love (3:18)

Cover of Document

From Document and 116 other releases

“The One I Love” is a song by American rock band R.E.M. It was released on the band’s fifth full-length studio album, Document, and also as a 7” vinyl single in 1987. The song was their first hit single, reaching #9 in the US Billboard Hot 100, #14 in Canada, and later reached #16 in the UK singles chart on its UK release (1991). The song was included in Activision’s Guitar Hero World Tour and is in Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades.

The accompanying video’s director was artist Robert Longo. The director of photography was Alton Brown, who later became a Food Network chef.

In March 2005, Q magazine placed “The One I Love” at number 57 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.

The song is included on R.E.M. Live.

Lyrics and meaning

The record has ironically become a popular radio dedication to loved ones, relying on a misinterpretation of its refrain, “This one goes out to the one I love,” and a failure to note the contradiction within the same verse: “A simple prop to occupy my time.” Stipe related in 1987 to Rolling Stone, “I’ve always left myself pretty open to interpretation. It’s probably better that they just think it’s a love song at this point.” However, in an interview in the January 1988 issue of Musician magazine, he said that the song was “incredibly violent” and added, “It’s very clear that it’s about using people over and over again”.

The song contains only three verses, the first two of which are identical; the third verse changes “a simple prop to occupy my time” to “another prop has occupied my time.” The chorus consists of just the word “fire”, repeated over the backing vocal of “She’s coming down on her own now/Coming down on her own” (sung by Mike Mills).


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