Like many devotees of NPR’s Morning Edition, one of my favorite hobbies is to guess the connection between a story and the short music clip that follows it. There is often a clever connection, perhaps with a lyric in the song or the song’s title and a major theme in the story, like “Canadian Judge Grants Former Guantanamo Inmate Bail” being followed by Sufjan Stevens’ “Fourth of July.” It’s my version of the morning crossword puzzle.
This morning Morning Edition covered the ongoing case of Amos Yee, a Singaporean blogger who posted an amazing video criticizing the late Lee Kuan Yew after he died, inviting current PM Lee Hsien Loong to “come at me, motherf***er” and adding several other sharp criticisms. Listen here:
Yee is currently on trial, with most of the charges tied to insults against Christianity that he made in the course of the video.
The music clip after the Amos Yee story is incredibly puzzling, however. It is R.E.M.’s “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1,” which has no words, and a title that’s unrelated in any way to Amos Yee, Singapore, protest, free speech, or anything similar. It doesn’t compute. What makes this more interesting to me is that that song comes from an album that has plenty of songs that might work. Say, “Ignoreland“, or “Monty Got a Raw Deal.” Each of these would have been fine.
As I write this, though, something occurs to me. But what if that’s the point??? Did NPR just subtly communicate a critique of government censorship by choosing a bland, anodyne interlude instead of something more meaningful? If so, then bravo!
For what it’s worth, the ideal R.E.M. song to showcase a mix of rebellion the and boundless optimism of youth in a time of political change would be, naturally, this one:
For something more overtly confrontational and political—the song that always runs through my head when I’m in Singapore—then perhaps some early Pearl Jam would be better: