R.E.M. may be officially out of commission, but that doesn’t mean the band’s body of work and namesake has suddenly become public domain. Stipe assures this.
Fox News tried to help itself to a song of theirs (“Losing My Religion“), according to the band’s official website, and frontman Michael Stipe actively stood up against R.E.M.’s legacy being connected in anyway whatsoever to their slanted conservative agenda. (Apparently the song was played over footage of the Democratic National Convention–just help yourself to the smorgasbord of subliminal meanings.)
After issuing an official cease and desist notice via their music publisher Warner-Tamerlane, Stipe said on behalf of the band, “We have little or no respect for their puff adder brand of reportage. Our music does not belong there.”
Bravo, Michael Stipe for refusing to allow art to be weaponized. This recalls a similar incident in which the U.S. Air force commissioned a song for a Superbowl ad in 2010 (of all venues for mass exposure) that heavily recalled/drew from/shamelessly ripped off the White Stripes’ “Fell in Love with a Girl.” Jack White responded with a similarly offended manner, saying, “The White Stripes take strong insult and objection to the Air Force Reserve presenting this advertisement with the implication that we licensed one of our songs to encourage recruitment during a war that we do not support.” White did make sure to emphasize the fact that it’s the war he didn’t support, not the troops.
But the real issue here is the bastardization of art. Of course no musician want’s to see their creative offspring used to manipulative, propagandizing ends, regardless of political affiliation. But it certainly doesn’t help when one’s affiliation is vehemently pro-war and anti-people-who-can’t-fend-for-themselves.