Imitation of Life (song)

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"Imitation of Life"
Single by R.E.M.
from the album Reveal
B-side "The Lifting" (original version)
Released April 30, 2001 (UK)
May 8, 2001 (US)
Format 12" vinyl, CD and DVD
Length 3:57
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Buck, Mills, Stipe[1]
Producer(s) Pat McCarthy and R.E.M.
R.E.M. singles chronology
"The Great Beyond"
"Imitation of Life"
"All the Way to Reno (You're Gonna Be a Star)"

"Imitation of Life" is a song by R.E.M., the first single released from the band's 12th album, Reveal in 2001. The song peaked at number 83 on the Billboard Hot 100 (but reached number 22 on the US Modern Rock list). It was the lowest chart of a lead single from an R.E.M. album in the United States since "Fall on Me" from Lifes Rich Pageant in 1986. The song did reach #6 on the UK Singles Charts, making it the eighth top 10 for the band in Britain. The song also became R.E.M.'s first number-one single in Japan. The song was nominated for a 2002 Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals but lost to U2's "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of". The song appeared in an episode of Smallville.

Background and history[edit]

According to the liner notes on In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003, this song's title came from Douglas Sirk's 1959 film of the same name.

The song was placed on R.E.M.'s Warner Bros. Records "best of" album In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003 in 2003. In the liner notes, Peter Buck states that after the release of the song he realized that the song follows roughly the same chord progression as "Driver 8" from 1985's Fables of the Reconstruction.

For R.E.M.'s 2003 tour in support of In Time, the band developed a new bridge for live performances of the song. Prior to that point, the bridge consisted of full instrumentation, with Stipe's "no-one can see you cry" vocal bringing them into the chorus. The new bridge included the same lyric but echoed between Stipe and Scott McCaughey three times throughout the 20-second midsection.

When the song is performed live, Stipe commonly alters the way in which he sings the first two choruses, using a lower register. Singing at a higher pitch, he states, is difficult to do live; on R.E.M. Live, he mentions how he "routinely sings off-key in the chorus."

Music video[edit]

The single's music video, depicting a scene of an elaborate pool party, was shot in Los Angeles by Garth Jennings. Michael Stipe, in an interview with MTV UK in 2001, explained how the video was made. "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." During the music video, Stipe does not sing the whole song except for a brief second; however, several people mimed to the song.

Track listings[edit]

International CD single[edit]

  • (UK: W559CD, Australia: 9362449942, Japan: WPCR-11011, Brazil: CDWP 056)
  1. "Imitation of Life" - 3:57
  2. "The Lifting" (Original version) - 5:22
  3. "Beat a Drum" (Dalkey demo) - 4:29

International DVD single[edit]

  • (UK: W559DVD)
  1. "Imitation of Life" (video)
  2. "2JN" (audio) - 3:28
  3. "The Lifting" (Original Version) (audio) - 5:22

US CD single[edit]

  • (USA: 9 42363-2)
  1. "Imitation of Life" - 3:57
  2. "The Lifting" (Original Version) - 5:22
  3. "Beat a Drum" (Dalkey Demo) - 4:29
  4. "2JN" - 3:28
  5. "Imitation of Life" (enhanced video)

US 12" vinyl[edit]

  • (USA: 9 42363-0, pressed on orange-colored vinyl)
  1. "Imitation of Life" - 3:57
  2. "The Lifting" (Original Version) - 5:22
  3. "Beat a Drum" (Dalkey Demo) - 4:29
  4. "2JN" - 3:28


Chart (2001) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[2] 32
Canadian Singles Chart 5
Irish Singles Chart 12
Japan Singles Chart[citation needed] 1
Polish Singles Chart[3] 1
Spanish Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 6
US Billboard Hot 100 83
US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 22
US Billboard Adult Top 40 15


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 5, 2012. Retrieved February 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Discography R.E.M.". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2015-09-22. 
  3. ^ "Nielsen Music Control". Archived from the original on 2007-10-17. 

External links[edit]