I've been utterly spoiled by my animanga fandoms (which share the excellent common trait of not having a bazillion former HP writers in them), and I find myself unwilling to engage in srs bsns discussion about ~fandom politics~ here in my fannish space. So instead, today I shall express my thoughts on the current fandom brouhaha entirely in the shape of a lolcat:
But anyway, I actually came here to post about Relapse. Which is Eminem's new album that came out on Tuesday. Eminem, in case I haven't mentioned it in the last little while, is one of my favourite artists currently alive. I haven't touched the online Eminem fandom since, ummm, 2000? But I remain a fan. After Relapse, too. Especially after Relapse, in fact.
I was afraid this album was going to suck. I was afraid he'd still be going on about the same old shit and that I wouldn't care and I would... feel like I was wiping my nose with a used Kleenex. Yeah, I think that's the best description I can muster at this point. I didn't agree with a lot of the stuff Em has said in his songs over the years -- and the older I get, the less I agree with some of the other stuff, too. But the point that a lot of liberal critics miss is that Eminem's music is a reflection of him, it is not a replica. It is shocking, dark, twisted and harsh, but honest. He'll say anything if it rhymes just right. That's the point. Eminem's skill with language is un-fucking-paralleled. To me, he has always been a writer first, and a music artist/performer second.
In 1999, when My Name Is was on the radio. I thought the song was ridiculous, stupid, and that his voice was annoying. I found out he was white and was like psssh white guy trying to rap? Please. But back then I'd listened to the radio a lot, and... I found myself turning it up. I couldn't figure out why at first, but then I realised it was the rhyming structure. This dude wasn't just making rhymes at the ends of lines, he was standing over the English language with a fuckin' chainsaw and making the words do acrobatics for him. I got the album. Never looked back.
Every album he's put out since then had at least one song that I could relate to very personally. Not on a surface level, but really deep, down where it hurts sometimes. I love a lot of music in a lot of genres, but no other artist has managed to consistently produce tracks that made me feel on a level I usually don't let myself feel. I find emotions troublesome. They addle the brain, and I value rationality and logic too much. So I try to keep a tight rein on my emotions, except those which, if bottled up, would harm me and others (like anger -- if I bottled that shit up, I'd probably be in jail by now). I'm far from an ice queen (wouldn't want to be one, anyway), but my prefrontal cortex usually has a lot of say in what my reptilian brain is allowed to do (I'm not trying to make this sound easy; it wasn't). And on Eminem's albums, there's always at least one track that makes me lose that grip. You'd think I would be annoyed, but no -- I appreciate it, like I appreciate it when a story makes me cry or laugh or reminisce or swell with happiness. These songs reach past my rational defenses, grab a handful of my guts and pull. Em tells stories and he makes music -- the stories are the music. Two of my favourite things in the world combined; I never had a chance, really.
Infinite was released in '96 but never went to mass market, and I didn't hear it until a year after I became a fan, and it's fairly sophomoric. But it does have It's OK. The Slim Shady LP has Still Don't Give a Fuck and Rock Bottom. The Marshall Mathers LP has Kim and Criminal. The Eminem Show has Superman and Sing for the Moment. Encore has Mockingbird and Mosh. Even the compilation Curtain Call, out of only three new tracks, gave me When I'm Gone. The 8 Mile soundtrack, which was a collaborative effort, gave me 8 Mile and Rabbit Run. 2006's Re-Up, despite being largely a marketing vehicle for Shady Records artists, gave me No Apologies. Relapse gave me Beautiful and Déjà vu. Even if the rest of the album sucked (it does not), I would be happy. Em's still got it.
In a lot of ways, Relapse is a retread of familiar ground, but the lyrics and the skits also make it obvious that Em realises this as much as we do. And after my initial reservations about how dated it sounds, I start to wonder -- what the hell did I or anyone else expect? He's just gone through several years of personal hell. Dude's been in and out of rehab, mourning his best friend, struggling with weight issues, while trying to raise three little girls; not your prime candidate for hard-hitting social commentary, mk. He's gotta get the shit that's built up out of his system before he can be current. And maybe he never will -- because some shit you just don't get past, you know?
He didn't slack on this album; his lyrical skill is as sharp as ever, and a lot of the things he talks about here (coping with drug addiction, childhood molestation, mental illness, parental abandonment, extremely violent tendencies) are personally relevant to a hell of a lot of people out there. Eminem's music has never BEEN about changing the world. He's never aspired to role-model status -- and I am glad, so glad, that he still isn't. Because damn, it's good to have him back. I can't wait for Relapse 2.