Classic Rock Wiki

"The One I Love" is a power ballad by American 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 #9 in the US Billboard Hot 100, #14 in Canada, and later reached #16 in the UK singles chart on its UK release (1991). The song was included in Activision's Guitar Hero World Tour and is in Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades.

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

In March 2005, Q magazine placed "The One I Love" at number 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.[2]

The song is included on R.E.M. Live.



  • 1 Lyrics and meaning
  • 2 Track listing
    • 2.1 12": IRS / IRS-23792 (US)
    • 2.2 12": IRS / IRMT 146 (UK)
  • 3 Charts
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links

Lyrics and meaning[edit][]

The record has ironically 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."[3] 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".[4]

The song contains only three verses, the first two of which are identical; the third verse changes "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[edit][]

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)[edit][]

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)[edit][]

  1. "The One I Love" - 3:16
  2. "Last Date" (Floyd Cramer) - 2:16
  3. "Disturbance At The Heron House" (live)1 - 3:26

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


Chart (1987/1991) Peak


Canadian Hot 100 11
Dutch Singles Chart 69
German Singles Chart 81
Irish Singles Chart 52
UK Singles Chart 611
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 9
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 2
  • 1 - The single originally reached #51 in the UK. It reached #16 in 1991 after the song was re-released.
  • 2 - Only charted in 1991 after the song's re-release.