R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe took to YouTube today (March 29) to premiere what he described as the “first take” of “No Time for Love Like Now,” a new solo ballad written in collaboration with The National’s Aaron Dessner.
In the clip, Stipe sings live over an electronic beat playing from an unseen speaker. Although written last year, lines like “Whatever waiting means in this new place / I am waiting for you” sound particularly relevant amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, during which millions of people around the world are isolated from loved ones.
R.E.M. chose The National as one of the opening acts on its 2008 North American tour, and the band members have remained close ever since. “I started working with Aaron over last summer and early fall 2019, and recorded the first studio demo in October 2019, after the death of [acclaimed poet] John Giorno,” Stipe says.
“Michael Stipe has been a great hero and friend to me [and The National] and I never in my wildest dreams imagined writing songs together,” Dessner wrote on Instagram. “But here is the demo of one in progress, coming to you from Michael in isolation at home. Hope it raises some spirits.”
Stipe kept a very low musical profile following R.E.M.’s 2011 breakup until October 2019, when he released the solo track “Your Capricious Soul.” It was followed in January by a second song, “Drive to the Ocean,” timed to Stipe’s 60th birthday. No further details are available about whether “No Time for Love Like Now” is among additional co-writes by Stipe and Dessner or whether Stipe is planning to release these songs as part of album at some point.
Earlier this month, Stipe utilized Instagram to post a video converting R.E.M.’s 1987 hit “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” into a COVID-19 PSA about staying at home and washing hands frequently. The original track has explored in popularity in recent weeks and is currently No. 190 on the U.S. iTunes chart.