MUSIC HISTORY

Stephen Colbert, James Franco, and R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe bid a dark farewell to 2016, in song

Obsession
Glass
Obsession
Glass

Never a particularly cheery song to begin with, R.E.M.’s 1987 hit “It’s the End of the World” got a modern-day remix this weekend on CBS’s The Late Show when host Stephen Colbert—along with R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe and actor James Franco—updated it to better reflect the times.

Stipe was on the show to chat about some of his newest projects, including a book with no pages but a hole in the middle to escape the news of the day. Afterward, he joined Colbert in song.

“Oh great! It starts with an outbreak—Zika and Harambe / Lead is in the water main,” the tune begins. Other topics the song covers include: climate change; the alt-right; the rise of Donald Trump; Fox News’ Roger Ailes; tainted water in Flint, Michigan; and the deaths of musicians Prince, David Bowie, and Leonard Cohen. (On the flip side: also Pokémon Go, and Ken Bone’s red sweater.)

For most of the video, Colbert sings alone as Stipe stares rigidly into the camera, refusing to contribute; he caves and joins in on the chorus—”it’s the end of the year as we know it,” adding a reluctant, “and I feel fine”—at the very end.

Not had enough bleakness? Here’s the original.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search