EART HL I NG

“I guess the common ground with all the songs is this abiding need in me to vacillate between atheism or a kind of gnosticism. I keep going backwards and forwards between the two things, because they mean a lot in my life. I mean, the church doesn’t enter into my writing, or my thought; I have no empathy with any organised religions. What I need is to find a balance, spiritually, with the way I live and my demise. And that period of time – from today until my demise – is the only thing that fascinates me.”

David Bowie

 
 

Earthling is the twentieth studio album by David Bowie released in February 1997 via BMG Records.  Before the album was released, Bowie considered using Earthlings (plural) for the album’s title. The album showcases an electronica-influenced sound partly inspired by the industrial and drum and bass culture of the 1990s. This was the first album Bowie self-produced since his 1974 album Diamond Dogs. Shortly after the release of this album, Bowie received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 
 

Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat designed in collaboration with David Bowie for the Earthling album cover (art direction by Bowie himself). This coat combines elements of classic British design, represented by the Union Jack and expert tailoring learnt by McQueen on Saville Row, with an iconoclastic and subversive punk aesthetic.

 
 

Photographs by Frank W. Ockenfels

Advertisements

Property of a Lost Thing

…”Everything that I had lost

Is mine, irretrievably mine

So distant from me that it is abandonment.”

Mario Benedetti

Property of a Lost Thing 

 
 

The phrase “losing my religion” is an expression from the southern region of the United States that means losing one’s temper or civility, or “being at the end of one’s rope.” Michael Stipe told The New York Times the song was about romantic expression.

He also told Q that “Losing My Religion” is about “someone who pines for someone else. It’s unrequited love, what have you.”

Stipe compared the song’s theme to Every Breath You Take by The Police, saying, “It’s just a classic obsession pop song. I’ve always felt the best kinds of songs are the ones where anybody can listen to it, put themselves in it and say, ‘Yeah, that’s me.'”

 
 

Michael Stipe participated on the production, packaging and photography of the album’s artwork, alongside Frank W. Ockenfels

 
 

The song was released as the first single from the group’s 1991 album Out of Time. Based around a mandolin riff, Losing My Religion was an unlikely hit for the group, garnering heavy airplay on radio as well as on MTV due to its critically acclaimed music video. The song became R.E.M.‘s highest-charting hit in the United States, reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and expanding the group’s popularity beyond its original fanbase. It was nominated for several Grammy Awards, and won two for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Short Form Music Video.

The music video for Losing My Religion was directed by Tarsem Singh. As opposed to previous R.E.M. videos, Michael Stipe agreed to lip sync the lyrics. The video originated as a combination of ideas envisioned by Stipe and Singh. Stipe wanted the promo to be a straightforward performance video, akin to Sinéad O’Connor‘s Nothing Compares 2 U. Singh wanted to create a video in the style of a certain type of Indian filmmaking, where everything would be “melodramatic and very dreamlike”, according to Stipe.

 
 


Still from The Sacrifice (A. Tarkovsky, 1986)

 
 

Still from Losing my Religion music video

 
 

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio, c. 1601–1602. This picture is probably related to Saint Matthew and the Angel (1602) and the The Sacrifice of Isaac (1603), all having a model in common

 
 

“Consider this…” (around minute 2:26)

 
 

Final scenes

 
 

Martirio di San Pietro (Crucifixion of Saint Peter), Caravaggio, 1600

 
 

The video begins with a brief sequence inside a dark room where water drips from an open window. Buck, Berry, and Mills run across the room while Stipe remains seated. A pitcher of milk drops from the windowsill and shatters, and the song begins. Director Singh drew inspiration from the Italian painter Caravaggio and Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky‘s The Sacrifice . The video is laden with religious imagery such as Saint Sebastian and Hindu deities, portrayed in a series of tableaux.