R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” video is still in the spotlight, as it’s now been viewed one billion times.
The iconic 1991 clip has officially hit the milestone count on YouTube, 11 years after it was first uploaded to the site. It joins fellow ’90s videos Nirvana‘s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Guns N’ Roses‘ “November Rain,” AC/DC‘s “Thunderstruck,” Metallica‘s “Nothing Else Matters,” The Cranberries‘ “Zombie,” 4 Non Blondes‘ “What’s Up,” and Whitney Houston‘s “I Will Always Love You” in the billion views club.
“Losing My Religion” was initially released in 1991 as the lead single off R.E.M.’s seventh album Out of Time. Its video won Video of the Year at the 1991 MTV VMAs. Out Of Time sold over 18 million copies worldwide and turned R.E.M. into global superstars. Arguably the catalyst was the LP’s first single, “Losing My Religion,” which shot to No.4 on the US Billboard chart with help from mainstream radio and (crucially) heavy rotation on MTV.
Michael Stipe had previously vowed he would never lip-synch in any of the band’s promotional films, but he finally changed his mind for director Tarsem Singh’s remarkable video, which later won a Grammy Award. Heavy on religious imagery, Singh’s short was reputedly influenced by (proto-Baroque Italian painter) Caravaggio, a short story by Gabriel García Márquez (‘A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings’) and Michael Stipe’s unorthodox dancefloor moves.
“I like either Bollywood and Busby Berkeley, or mystic-gone-crazy dancing,” Tarsem Singh said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “I don’t like half-assed choreography. I liked his thing because… it was so internalized, the way he danced. He danced, and in between takes I was jumping with him. I just knew that was it. The next day when I was shooting all these things that looked so kitsch and strange, he didn’t say a thing. He said, “All right, you know what you’re doing. Carry on.”
News of “Losing My Religion’s” billion views achievement coincides with the anniversary of R.E.M.’s breakup. The band announced that they were splitting up on September 21, 2011.