Eventually, it comes down to this: REM owe almost everything to Michael Stipe’s grace, more than Mike Mills’ nudie suits or Peter Buck’s melodic guitar riffs.
Every graceful person is graceful in his own personal way; grace cannot be copied, duplicated, reproduced. Contrary to beauty, which is subjected to rules and regulations of a specific historical time or, even worse, painfully short-lived fashion trends (just think of Twiggy next to women of the Renaissance next to a porn star next to a sex robot), grace is each time unique, it is the excellence of one.
Stipe is a person equally charming to both genders, let’s call it a rarity. [One can also think of Charlotte Rampling falling into the same category. Jude Law. And others.]
An Alpha male’s posture and flirting behavior typically triggers a positive response from his target group - the majority of the members of the opposite gender. However, it naturally alienates him from his fellow men – half are after the same trophy, half are habitually appalled by the aesthetics of the Alpha male universe.
In a similar fashion, Scarlett Johansson might be the type of a woman that most men dream of staring at her black panties hanging on a chair after a long night full of drinks, empty talk, and future broken promises, but she is obviously not as worshiped by women due to her hyperfemininity.
It’s true that REM’s best songs were written in the years before; still, ‘Up’ might be just the album that reflected in the most eloquent way Stipe’s inner world, a rather genuine space of emotions, thoughts, ideas, gestures, desires and artistic dreams.