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R.E.M. Responds to Trump Lifting ‘Everybody Hurts’ for a Mocking Meme: ‘World Leader PRETEND!!!’

The former members of R.E.M. are becoming old hands at responding to Donald Trump appropriating their music for his own purposes. And they’re actually getting kinder and gentler — or maybe just more sardonic — in their reactions. When the president retweeted a meme that makes a mocking use of “Everybody Hurts” to mock Democrats on Friday, the band struck back by invoking another of their classic songs.

“World Leader PRETEND!!!” the group said in a statement. “Congress, Media — ghost this faker!!! Love, R.E.M.”

That was in response to Trump spreading a video that rips off R.E.M.’s 1992 ballad of consolation amid emotional devastation — a song that’s been associated with suicide prevention causes — as the soundtrack for a montage of Democratic lawmakers with glum or stern faces during his State of the Union address.

In prior instances of Trump borrowing the band’s music, band members had been in a more obviously vituperative mood. During the 2016 presidential campaign, after Trump used “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” at a rally, Michael Stipe responded, “Go f— yourselves, the lot of you — you sad, attention-grabbing, power-hungry little men.”

This isn’t the first time the band has used “World Leader Pretend” to refer to Trump. In 2016, they licensed a previously unreleased live version of that track for “30 Songs, 30 Days,” an online anti-Trump song series.

At least in the case of this video meme, everyone understands the president’s purpose in appropriating a rock song without permission — unlike, say, his never-ending use of the Rolling Stones’ “You Cant Always Get What You Want” at the end of his rallies, which not a soul, presidential friend or foe, has ever been able to figure out.

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