Michael Stipe and Stephen Colbert recapped 2016’s most depressing moments on Thursday’s Late Show by tweaking R.E.M. classic “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” Colbert sang a hilarious spoof of year’s biggest, worst headlines, like: “Oh, great, it starts with an outbreak, Zika, and Harambe,” mimicking Stipe’s trademark rapid fire delivery.
Backed by Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Colbert wove in topics like: the new alt-right, Vladimir Putin “breathing down our neck,” debate sensation Ken Bone, Donald Trump’s infamous “pussy-grabbing” quote and Melania Trump’s alleged plagiarism of Michele Obama’s DNC speech. Stipe stood with his arms crossed, unwilling to admit that he “[feels] fine.” Encouraged by surprise guest James Franco, the singer embraced the song’s cathartic climax. After all, as Colbert noted, “This year is idiotic and chaotic, but the end’s in sight, right?”
Later, Stipe discussed a wide range of topics, both creative and political. The singer, who honored David Bowie this spring during a pair of tribute shows, said he was inspired to perform live again after watching P.J. Harvey and Radiohead in concert. “You see them up there, and it’s like, ‘Wow, I kind of want to jump up there again,'” he said. “But I had to step away from music for awhile.”
The enigmatic singer planned a longer musical hiatus, but electronic duo Fischerspooner recruited him to co-write and produce their upcoming fourth LP, SIR, due out in 2017. “That was a complete surprise,” Stipe said of the sessions. “I didn’t anticipate doing it, but they asked me to help them with a couple songs, and I wound up co-writing everything.”
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He also explained R.E.M.’s goals for their reissue of classic 1991 LP, Out of Time, which came out in November. “There’s a whole generation of people who maybe associate my former band with a few songs,” he said. “We wanted to re-introduce one of our most important records to them, and also to the people who were there the first time.”
Stipe ended the interview with a Christmas wish, pleaing Electoral College voters to “carefully weigh” their choices on December 19th. “This is crucial,” he said. “I don’t really care where they butter their bread, but I want them to be patriots. Let’s hope for the best.”
Watch the full interview below: