Song of the Day #3,966: ‘Imitation of Life’ – R.E.M.

I once ranked Reveal as the 12th best R.E.M. album, which isn’t saying much because they had released only 14 at the time. But I guess that’s enough to make it my #9 album of 2001.

Reveal was the band’s second album without drummer Bill Berry, and while none of the post-Berry records measure up to R.E.M.’s work as a quartet, this one does have several of their best tunes from that era.

Opening tracks ‘The Lifting,’ ‘I’ve Been High’ and ‘All the Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star)’ would be worthy additions to any R.E.M. mixtape, and the Beach Boys homages ‘Beat a Drum,’ ‘Summer Turns to High’ and ‘Beachball’ show the band stretching its wings stylistically.

But the real standout is lead single ‘Imitation of Life,’ a fabulous pop song up there with R.E.M.’s best radio-friendly work. The video, which runs the same 20-second clip forward and backward while focusing on different elements of the scene, is a marvel as well.

[Verse 1]
Charades, pop skill
Water hyacinth, named by a poet
Imitation of life
Like a koi in a frozen pond
Like a goldfish in a bowl
I don’t want to hear you cry

[Chorus]
That’s sugarcane that tasted good
That’s cinnamon, that’s Hollywood
Come on, come on, no one can see you try

[Verse 2]
You want the greatest thing
The greatest thing since bread came sliced
You’ve got it all, you’ve got it sized
Like a Friday fashion show teenager
Freezing in the corner
Trying to look like you don’t try

[Chorus]
That’s sugarcane that tasted good
That’s cinnamon, that’s Hollywood
Come on, come on, no one can see you try

[Bridge]
No one can see you cry

[Chorus]
That’s sugarcane that tasted good
That’s freezing rain, that’s what you could
Come on, come on, no one can see you try

[Bridge]
This sugarcane, this lemonade
This hurricane, I’m not afraid
Come on, come on, no one can see me cry
This lightning storm, this tidal wave
This avalanche, I’m not afraid
Come on, come on, no one can see me cry

[Chorus]
That’s sugarcane that tasted good
That’s who you are, that’s what you could
Come on, come on, no one can see you cry
That’s sugarcane that tasted good
That’s who you are, that’s what you could
Come on, come on, no one can see you cry

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,966: ‘Imitation of Life’ – R.E.M.

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    By the time Reveal came out, I had really lost interest in REM. “Imitation of Life” is fine, but I always felt it was a weaker imitatation of “Losing my Religion.” The video is cool, however.

  2. Todd Nuckolls says:

    There’s an interview with R.E.M. from the documentary of the Monster tour where Stipe said “If anyone got up and walked away right now it wouldn’t be R.E.M. anymore.” When Berry left it kinda wasn’t. I do think that all of the records after Berry left had a few great songs on them. This is one of my favorites. The records as a trio just seem to be missing something. I also like Daysleeper and Lotus. Their final two records had some good stuff as well. But their swansong was definitely New Adventures in Hi-Fi. A really underrated album. I still think they were the best American band of the 1980’s. (Don’t get me started, I think of DEVO as a 70’s band so….)

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