Shiny Happy People

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"Shiny Happy People"
R.E.M. - Shiny Happy People.jpg
Single by R.E.M.
from the album Out of Time
B-side"Forty Second Song"
ReleasedMay 6, 1991 (1991-05-06)[1]
RecordedSeptember–October 1990
Genre
Length
  • 3:45
  • 3:12 (radio edit)
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
R.E.M. singles chronology
"Losing My Religion"
(1991)
"Shiny Happy People"
(1991)
"Near Wild Heaven"
(1991)
Music video
"Shiny Happy People" on YouTube

"Shiny Happy People" is a song by the American rock band R.E.M. from their seventh studio album, Out of Time (1991). It features guest vocals by Kate Pierson of the B-52's, who also appears in the music video. According to the singer Michael Stipe, the lyrics are a satirical translation of the Chinese government's propaganda following the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.[5]

"Shiny Happy People" was released as a single in May 1991 in the United Kingdom, and four months later in the United States. It reached number 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100, the fourth and last R.E.M. single to reach the top 10. It reached on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the first R.E.M. song to reach the top 10 in the UK and the only one to reach the top 10 in both countries. It is R.E.M.'s most successful song in Ireland, where it reached number two, and in Germany, where it reached number 10.

R.E.M. performed the song with Pierson on Saturday Night Live on April 13, 1991.[6] It was used as the theme song to the unaired pilot for the sitcom Friends, before it was replaced by the Rembrandts' "I'll Be There for You", and was briefly used in the first season's tenth episode, "The One with the Monkey". R.E.M. was ambivalent about being known for a pop song widely perceived as lacking gravitas. Stipe said in 2016: "It's a fruity pop song written for children ... If there was one song that was sent into outer space to represent R.E.M. for the rest of time, I would not want it to be 'Shiny Happy People'".[3]

Writing[edit]

The R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe took the phrase "shiny happy people" from Chinese propaganda posters used after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.[7] Stipe described the song as a "really fruity, kind of bubblegum song".[8] "Shiny Happy People" features guest vocals from Kate Pierson, of another Athens band, the B-52's.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Justin Chadwick from Albumism described the song as "buoyant" and R.E.M.'s "most unabashedly pop-fueled composition of their career". He added further, "Regardless of the song's true inspirations or whether you care for the song or not, I suspect most can agree that the soaring backing vocals supplied by Kate Pierson ... are the unequivocal highlight."[9] Larry Flick from Billboard wrote, "Ace guitarist Peter Buck drives alternative band further into the mainstream on this commercially accessible, hook-driven pop tune." He stated that Pierson "contributes splendid vocal harmonies on infectious, sing-along chorus".[10] The Daily Vault's Christopher Thelen said it is the song "that dared to show a new side of R.E.M. - a, well, happy side. Who woulda thunk it? The song is a tad cornball, but is infectiously catchy, nonetheless."[11] Irish newspaper Drogheda Independent declared it as "unbelievably catchy",[12] while Scottish newspaper Dundee Courier described it as "sardonic but delicious disposable pop".[13] A reviewer from Evening Herald deemed it a "gilt-edged" pop hit.[14]

Liverpool Echo commented that the song "comes at you concealed as bubble gum pop in the guise of an opening string arrangement even Kylie Minogue wouldn't thank you for—before it throws off the cloak of conformity and gets down to a more resonant rendition of power pop".[15] Music & Media called it "heaven on earth",[16] adding that Pierson's voice is "as prominent as it was" on Iggy Pop's song, "Candy".[17] Terry Staunton from NME described it as "bubbly", noting that it "opens with a lilting waltz before breaking into a sun-drenched pop anthem, a warm and welcome blood relative to the B-52s' own 'Love Shack'."[18] People Magazine said that Pierson "added some spark".[19] Mark Frith from Smash Hits noted that the song is "very summery, optimistic and has some fine vocals" from Pierson. He added, "It's so good that it will make you too want to go around and give the world a great big hug. Summer's here and everything's groovy."[20] The Sunday Tribune stated that it "waltzes joyfully with the added vocal attraction" of Pierson,[21] and noted the "joyous" and "celebratory" noises, calling it "one of 1991's pure pop highlights".[22]

Legacy[edit]

In its 2006 "Song of the Summer" countdown, CBC Radio's Freestyle named "Shiny Happy People" 1991's "Song of the Summer".[23][24] By contrast, in 2006, the song received the No. 1 position on AOL Music's list of the "111 Wussiest Songs of All Time".[25] Blender magazine also ranked the song No. 35 on its list of the "50 Worst Songs Ever",[26] and Q included it in a list of "Ten Terrible Records by Great Artists" in 2005.[27]

When Stipe made an appearance on Space Ghost Coast to Coast in 1995, he said he hated the song. It was one of their few Warner-released singles not included on their 2003 greatest hits album In Time, and R.E.M. have rarely played it.[2] However, over time, Stipe's position on the song has softened. Speaking in 2011, Stipe said he was "always at peace" with it, but that it was "embarrassing" that it had become a hit.[8] He said: "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.... (But) I'm in 'Shiny Happy People', 'Stand', 'Pop Song 89', 'Get Up', too. Our fruitloop songs!"[8]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Michael Stipe unless otherwise stated.

US and UK 7-inch and cassette single

  1. "Shiny Happy People" – 3:45
  2. "Forty Second Song" – 1:20

US 12-inch

  1. "Shiny Happy People" (Music Mix) – 4:45
  2. "Shiny Happy People" (Pop Mix) – 4:04
  3. "Shiny Happy People" (Hip Mix) – 3:33
  4. "Shiny Happy People" (Master Chief Mix) – 3:60

UK CD and 12-inch

  1. "Shiny Happy People" – 3:45
  2. "Forty Second Song" – 1:20
  3. "Losing My Religion" (live acoustic version, recorded on Rockline, April 1, 1991.) – 4:36

UK "Collectors' Edition" CD

  1. "Shiny Happy People" – 3:45
  2. "I Remember California" (live, from Tourfilm) – 5:42
  3. "Get Up" (live, from Tourfilm) – 3:15
  4. "Pop Song '89" (live, from Tourfilm) – 3:30

Personnel[edit]

Adapted from Out of Time liner notes:

R.E.M.

Additional musicians

  • David Arenz – violin
  • Ellie Arenz – violin
  • Mark Bingham – string arrangements
  • David Braitberg – violin
  • Andrew Cox – cello
  • Reid Harris – viola
  • Peter Holsapple – acoustic guitar
  • Ralph Jones – double bass
  • Dave Kempers – violin
  • Elizabeth Murphy – cello
  • Paul Murphy – lead viola
  • Kate Pierson – vocals

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[54] Gold 35,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[55] Gold 400,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Other versions[edit]

"Shiny Happy People" is one of several anachronistic songs that appear in the 2013 video game BioShock Infinite, which is set in 1912. This version of the song is performed as an Al Jolson-esque big band piece by Tony Babino (vocals), Scott Bradlee (arrangement and piano), Adam Kubota, Allan Mednard, and Tom Abbott.[56][57][58]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "New Releases: Singles". Music Week. May 4, 1991. p. 31. Misprinted as May 7 on source.
  2. ^ a b O'Neal, Sean (January 29, 2015). ""Shiny Happy People" and a young man's blossoming into cynicism". Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Andrew Marr (November 20, 2016). REM Talk Donald Trump on Andrew Marr show, Michael Stipe Mike Mills. YouTube. The Andrew Marr Show. BBC. Archived from the original on November 21, 2016. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  4. ^ "In Defense of… R.E.M.'s 'Shiny Happy People'".
  5. ^ "I Hate My Hit! 10 Songs Disowned by the People Who Made Them Famous". spinner.com. August 14, 2009. Archived from the original on December 6, 2010.
  6. ^ Saturday Night Live - Season 16, Episode 17: Catherine O'Hara/R.E.M. - TV.com
  7. ^ "The story behind R.E.M. hit song 'Shiny Happy People'". Far Out Magazine. September 17, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  8. ^ a b c Rogers, Jude (November 12, 2011). "Michael Stipe's last stand — an R.E.M. exit interview". The Quietus. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  9. ^ a b Chadwick, Justin (March 10, 2016). "R.E.M.'s 'Out of Time' Turns 25: Anniversary Retrospective". Albumism. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  10. ^ Flick, Larry (July 27, 1991). "Single Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. p. 67. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  11. ^ Thelen, Christopher (July 5, 1998). "Out Of Time – R.E.M." The Daily Vault. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  12. ^ Drogheda Independent. July 16, 1999. p.19. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  13. ^ "OUT OF TIME". Dundee Courier. March 28, 1991. p. 18. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  14. ^ "R.E.M. rocking with Monsters". Evening Herald. September 23, 1994. p.16. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  15. ^ "Near miss". Liverpool Echo. April 15, 1991. p. 30. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  16. ^ "New Releases: Albums" (PDF). Music & Media. March 30, 1991. p. 12. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  17. ^ "New Releases: Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. June 8, 1991. p. 12. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  18. ^ Staunton, Terry. "REM – Out Of Time". NME. Archived from the original on August 17, 2000. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  19. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: Out of Time". People Magazine. May 6, 1991. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  20. ^ Frith, Mark (May 15, 1991). "Review: Singles". Smash Hits. p. 44. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  21. ^ "Zombies and Elvis Presley Wine". Sunday Tribune. March 10, 1991. p.26. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  22. ^ "TOP TEN DUBUN MOVIES". Sunday Tribune. October 11, 1992. p.28. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  23. ^ "Pursuit Of Happiness - Love & Happiness Tips". Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  24. ^ "How To Reach The Happiness".
  25. ^ "The 111 Wussiest Songs of All Time (No. 1)". AOL Music. Archived from the original on August 26, 2006. Retrieved August 20, 2006.
  26. ^ Run for Your Life! It's the 50 Worst Songs Ever! from Blender.com. Retrieved on May 3, 2008. Archived April 30, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ Kirby, Terry (December 11, 2006). "If you're happy and you know it, listen to Lily. If not, it's the Verve". The Independent.
  28. ^ "R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  29. ^ "R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  30. ^ "R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  31. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 1648." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  32. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 8, no. 26. June 29, 1991. p. 25. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  33. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
  34. ^ "R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  35. ^ "R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  36. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Shiny Happy People". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  37. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 27, 1991" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  38. ^ "R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  39. ^ "R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  40. ^ "R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People". VG-lista. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
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  42. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  43. ^ "R.E.M. Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  44. ^ "R.E.M. Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  45. ^ "R.E.M. Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  46. ^ "R.E.M. Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  47. ^ U.S. Cash Box Chart Entries - 1990 - 1996
  48. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1991" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  49. ^ "RPM 100 Hit Tracks of 1991". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  50. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 1991" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 8, no. 51–52. December 21, 1991. p. 21. Retrieved January 17, 2020 – via World Radio History.
  51. ^ "Top 100 Singles–Jahrescharts 1991" (in German). GfK Entertainment. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  52. ^ "1991 Top 100 Singles". Music Week. January 11, 1992. p. 20.
  53. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1991". Retrieved August 11, 2017.
  54. ^ "Italian single certifications – R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved August 30, 2021. Select "2021" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Shiny Happy People" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  55. ^ "British single certifications – REM – Shiny Happy People". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  56. ^ Scott Bradlee at IMDb
  57. ^ Bradlee, Scott (September 13, 2013). "My Music in Bioshock Infinite". Post Modern Jukebox. Archived from the original on August 21, 2014. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  58. ^ Pinchefsky, Carol (April 5, 2013). "Irrational Games Makes Serious Misstep with 'BioShock: Infinite' Soundtrack Offering". Forbes. Retrieved December 7, 2014.