Along with all crazies out there binging on Outbreak and Contagion, it seems that our obsession with on-the-nose pop culture has rocketed R.E.M.’s 1987 hit “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” back to the charts. Ugh, if this is the tune apartment dwellers decide to sing here, I’ll just stay inside.
The song hit number 29 on the iTunes charts as of this writing, which makes sense considering it’s certainly the low-hanging fruit of the apocalypse soundtracks. I’m annoyed by the fact that we’re totally ignoring the “I feel fine” portion of the title, which almost certainly nobody does. You can’t just cherrypick the parts of the title that apply to the current circumstances! There are RULES HERE.
According to some commenters on Genius, Michael Stipe could have meant any number of things when he wrote this chorus:
The “as we know it” is very important. There may be many apocalyptic references (earthquakes, overpopulation, war) but the world will survive. It’s just that we might not recognize it anymore.
As for “I feel fine,” it could be that recognizing that the world will go on is a comfort. He feels fine because nothing is permanent and he has accepted society’s decline.
Or, it could be that no one recognizes that the end of the world is coming because they are too focused on being entertained and happy. Everyone feels fine, but they are ignoring the problems in the world.
Or it could be many other things! This line is very much open to interpretation.
My interpretation is that I’m annoyed that thinking about this song for the time it’s taken me to write this blog has gotten it stuck in my head. Thanks for nothing, internet!