Rick Rubin interviews Stipe


Great interview & I’m glad Michael has continued to sing after R.E.M. He has one of the most distinct voices.


As years have gone by, we’ve pretty much read all of this one way or another, but still: it’s really nice to hear Michael recapitulate and give a new air to all of this info. I wish we had it in print. Thanks for linking to it!


TOTALLY agree! It’s just too bad he never USES it! He only “talk sings” now.
I’m kind of suspicious his voice is shot and has been since the breakup…
I sure hope I’m wrong and I sure hope he SINGS again like he could.

“He only talks and sings” now, Michael “talks sings” on E-bow the Letter, Wake Up Bomb. Airport Man. Drive… One can discuss whether he does or not. Some maybe expecting him to sound like he did with R.E.M.

His voice sounded pretty hoarse in that interview

1 Like

Decades of smoking can do that.

I was just listening to Rod Stewart, he sounds hoarse when he sings, so does most of death metal, god forbid.

I think he sounds fine. He’s not a young man anymore. I think people tend to forget that.

1 Like

To my ears, I can hear his voice subtly become more gravely and start losing a bit of range from New Adventures, with it noticably changing from the early noughties. Natural of course, but you can really hear the change in sweetness and range in his voice if you compare the two MTV unplugged shows.

I’d say his voice was peak between LRP (when the mumbling subsided) and probably Monster (although it’s hard to tell with all the vocal distortion, his voice was certainly all there during the Monster tour).

Like I said, all natural but as you note, it did alter the way he wrote the vocals. There was significantly less “keening” in later years which he was very much known for and live, songs like Everybody Hurts audibly became more challenging. Others may disagree but i think its quite pronounced in the post Berry years.


His voice didn’t sound as good on NAIHF, probably due to the hernia and long tour.

I thought it sounded decent on Up, but sounded progressively worse starting with Around the Sun. Some of it I think is the production.

1 Like

As long as Michael can sing in tune that’s all I care about, and to my ears he can. Also, I hoping his new album comes in Cd or vinyl, I hate down loading digital music, I’ll only do it if there is no other option, but I hate it. I want to listen on my HiFi and not through ear buds or the crappy speakers of my computer.

It’s interesting, for me it was an incremental decline but there were clear markers. Huge drop from AFTP to Monster. Partly re framing the band from 10+ years of earnest to “the new 90s ironic posture”, which didn’t play to his vocal strengths IMO. Regained ground for HiFi, particularly studio cuts on which he sounded phenomenal. But Up was the point where I felt he suddenly lost some power and conviction. I still loved his sound but it was thinner, a more warbly head voice with less resonance (apart from the odd outlier of vocal brilliance like Daysleeper or Electron Blue). It’s all subjective but this is my take as a fan since the 80s

That said, I still love his voice and his work. Age is inevitable but he wears it well


The NAIHF studio cuts sounded phenomenal? How the West Was Won, New Test Leper, E-Bow The Letter, Be Mine are the studio cuts. They aren’t bad, but I don’t think they show much range.

Post-Up may have been a hint, since it seemed like there was more double-tracking of vocals (e.g Great Beyond, All the Way to Reno, Imitation of Life, etc.).

I do think some of it was production, particularly during the Jacknife Lee days. So many of those songs sounded stale to me.