This is part 2 in a multi-part series on songs inspired by or related to the Tiananmen Square Protests/Massacre in remembrance of the 25th anniversary of the massacre.
Part One, “Electric Highways” is Here.
Okay the subject of this post is number two in the series because 1) All of the other songs that I will include either mention Tiananmen Square in the song, or in the title, or the song writer spoke of the connection. This one is based entirely on speculation. 2) It is a silly, goofy sort of song while all of the rest in the series will be quite serious. Also it is a song that, while it is by a great band, has proved to be rather unpopular over the years.
In March 1991 the Athens, Georgia based R.E.M. released its seventh album, “Out of time.’ The first major hit off of the album was the rather somber “Loosing My Religion.” The next single released was “Shiny Happy People.” It received LOTS of airplay and made it to # 10 on the charts in the USA. Then came the backlash as people grew sick of the song. Over the years it has received the following “dishonors”:
-Q magazine (2005) included it in a list that they called “Ten Terrible Records by Great Artists”.
– AOL (2006) rated number one their list “111 Wussiest Songs of All Time”.
– Blender magazine put it at #35 on a list of the “50 Worst Songs Ever”.
Even the band grew to dislike the song. In 1995 Michael Stipe appeared on the show “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” and said of “Shiny Happy People”, “I hate that song, Space Ghost.” And REM chose to NOT include it on their 2003 greatest hits album “In Time”.
BUT one of the reasons that Stipe came to hate the song was apparently that most people were missing that the song was meant as ironic commentary. AND according to internet rumor (and everything that you read on the internet is true, right 🙂 ), the basis for the title and main line of the song “Shiny Happy People Holding Hands” was an English translation of a Chinese propaganda poster that was used by the government just after the Tiananmen Square to make it seem as if their people were happy and content.
While the “Shiny Happy” connection may just be a rumor, the importance of not becoming “Shiny Happy Sheep” is very important. As I was writing this the following two stories showed up in my news feed:
And right here in the US of A:
The Loss of personal rights and civil liberties is a VERY REAL problem in the USA and in the world today and the people who are doing it are actively trying to delude us into sitting back and becoming “Shiny Happy People” who do nothing while they take away our rights. I hope that whether I am in a crowd or on my own, that I am always counted among those who is willing to stand for liberty and civil rights, even when they are unpopular.