I am finding myself returning to “the classics” when creating my playlists for my commute into the office. Pop gems of years past are creeping their way back into my present.
That said, the title and chorus are based on a Chinese propaganda poster. The slogan “Shiny happy people holding hands” is used ironically – the song was released in 1991, two years after the Tiananmen Square uprising when the Chinese government clamped down on student demonstrators, killing hundreds of them.
Michael Stipe calls this “A really fruity, kind of bubblegum song.” In an interview with The Quietus, he said that he was a bit embarrassed when it became a big hit, but it’s an important song because it shows a different side of him.
Said Stipe: “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! People have this idea of who I am probably because when I talk on camera, I’m working so hard to articulate my thoughts that I come across as very intense.”
The 1991 hit reached number 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and it was the fourth and last R.E.M. single to reach the top 10.