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Between 1983 and 1986, R.E.M.'s first four albums defined a type of music still taking shape at the time, an as-yet unnamed "alternative" rock then emerging on college radio. With Peter Buck's Velvet Underground-influenced guitars and Michael Stipe's murkily poetic lyrics, R.E.M. were the de facto kings of the underground in the '80s. Life's Rich Pageant, generally regarded as the band's fourth near-perfect album in a row when it came out in 1986, gave them an untouchable cache among their peers and fans. This popularity grew with the advent of alternative-themed radio stations and video shows on MTV, finally breaking when Green came out in 1988 and "The One I Love" became an inescapable MTV/radio hit. Out of Time followed in 1991 and yielded "Losing My Religion," which remains their most popular song today. The next three albums sold in astronomical numbers, and in 1997 Warner Bros paid them $80 million to re-up their contract. After signing the deal, founding bass player Bill Berry opted to leave the band, and between 1997 and 2008 R.E.M. released four studio albums amid a few collections and a live set.
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