The One I Love (R.E.M. song)

"The One I Love" is a song by American alternative rock band R.E.M. It was released on the band's fifth full-length studio album, Document, and also as a 7" vinyl single in 1987. The song was their first hit single, reaching No. 9 in the US Billboard Hot 100, No. 14 in Canada, and later reached No. 16 in the UK singles chart on its UK re-release (1991).

"The One I Love"
Single by R.E.M.
from the album Document
B-side"Maps and Legends" (Live)
ReleasedAugust 24, 1987[1]
RecordedApril 1987
GenreAlternative rock[2][3]
R.E.M. singles chronology
"The One I Love"
"It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"
Music video
"The One I Love" on YouTube

The accompanying video's director was artist Robert Longo. The director of photography was Alton Brown, who later became a Food Network personality.[4]

In March 2005, Q magazine placed "The One I Love" at No. 57 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the song as the 38th best single of the 1980s.[5]

The song is included on R.E.M. Live (2007). It was also included in Activision's Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero on Tour: Decades, both in 2008, as well as Harmonix's Rock Band 4 (2015).[6]

Lyrics and meaning

The record has become a popular radio dedication to loved ones, relying on a misinterpretation of its refrain, "This one goes out to the one I love." However, subsequent lyrics in the same verse contradict the love song interpretation and suggest a darker, more manipulative theme ("A simple prop to occupy my time").

Stipe related in 1987 to Rolling Stone, "I've always left myself pretty open to interpretation. It's probably better that they just think it's a love song at this point."[7] However, in an interview in the January 1988 issue of Musician magazine, he said that the song was "incredibly violent" and added, "It's very clear that it's about using people over and over again".[2]

The song contains only three verses, the first two of which are identical; the third verse changes the line "A simple prop to occupy my time" to "Another prop has occupied my time." The chorus consists of just the word "fire", repeated over the backing vocal of "She's coming down on her own now / Coming down on her own" (sung by Mike Mills).

Track listing

All songs written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe unless otherwise indicated.

  1. "The One I Love" – 3:16
  2. "Maps and Legends" (Live)1 – 3:15

12": IRS / IRS-23792 (US)

Side one
  1. "The One I Love" – 3:16
Side two
  1. "The One I Love" (Live)1 – 4:06
  2. "Maps and Legends" (Live)1 – 3:15

12": IRS / IRMT 146 (UK)

Side one
  1. "The One I Love" – 3:16
Side two
  1. "Last Date" (Floyd Cramer) – 2:16
  2. "Disturbance at the Heron House"1 – 3:26

1987 CD: IRS / DIRM 146 (UK)

  1. "The One I Love" – 3:16
  2. "Last Date" (Floyd Cramer) – 2:16
  3. "Disturbance at the Heron House"1 – 3:26

1988 CD: IRS / DIRM 173 (UK)

  1. "The One I Love" – 3:16
  2. "Fall on Me" – 2:50
  3. "So. Central Rain" – 3:14

1991 Limited Edition CD: IRS / DIRMT 178 (UK)

  1. "The One I Love" – 3:16
  2. "This One Goes Out" (Live) – 4:01
  3. "Maps and Legends" (Live) – 3:13

1991 Limited Edition CD: IRS / DIRMX 178 (UK)

  1. "The One I Love" – 3:15
  2. "Driver Eight" (Live) – 3:27
  3. "Disturbance at the Heron House" (Live) – 3:40
  4. "Crazy" – 3:02

1 Recorded at McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, California, May 24, 1987.

Certain releases list the live recording of "The One I Love" as "This One Goes Out" instead.


Chart (1987–88) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[8] 84
Canadian Hot 100 11
Dutch Singles Chart 69
South Africa (Springbok)[9] 17
UK Singles Chart 51
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 9
U.S. Cashbox Top 100 10
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 2
Chart (1991) Peak
Germany (Official German Charts)[10] 81
Irish Singles Chart 5
UK Singles Chart 16


  1. "R.E.M. Timeline - 1987/88 Concert Chronology". Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  2. Sullivan, Denise. "The One I Love - R.E.M. | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  3. Schlansky, Evan (October 8, 2019). "What is the Meaning of R.E.M., "Losing My Religion"". American Songwriter. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  4. Melancon, Merritt (May 12, 2010). "Brown talks TV, food, R.E.M." Online Athens. Archived from the original on August 15, 2013. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  5. "Best Singles of the 1980s". Slant Magazine. August 20, 2012. Retrieved May 12, 2013.
  6. "Rock Band 4 Core Soundtrack". Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  7. Pond, Steve. "In the Real World: R.E.M.". Rolling Stone. December 3, 1987.
  8. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW, Australia: Australian Chart Book. p. 244. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Music Report chart was licensed by ARIA until the commencement of the in-house produced ARIA Chart on June 26, 1988.
  9. "SA Charts 1965 – March 1989". Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  10. " – R.E.M. – The One I Love" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts.