"The One I Love" was quite literally the song that paved the way for R.E.M.'s overdue breakthrough in 1987; when it hit Top 20, college radio/ alternative rock had officially joined the mainstream. As the first single from the album Document, Michael Stipe told Musician magazine in January of 1988 that the song was "incredibly violent." "It's very clear that it's about using people over and over again," he said. The chorus consisted of one simple word, "fire," repeated; fire was part of a larger theme on the album which referred consistently to the various symbolic aspects of the element. The "spark" in the song was a nice cue for its video makers to feature flames in the clip (fire was a very popular dramatic device in the still nascent rock video medium). An acoustic version of the song retained the melodic bass line and jangling guitar but had a more melancholic bent; it was released as the B-side to the 12" single.