When a former top executive from the music business tells you that a song is going to be record of the year, you listen… right? So, following that logic, I’ve spent some time with “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and featuring Rihanna. I’m about a dozen listens in, and it’s kindling a striking conflict between the marketer and the music lover in me.
But, before I get into that, a quick Eminem story that I heard over the weekend. Apparently, the mom of a twenty-something ad guy from New Jersey was flying out of the New York area. Said Mom is boarding a plane and strikes up a conversation with the man standing in front of her. She gets to asking this guy’s profession, and he says he’s a musician. The mom, sensing common ground, proclaims that her son is in the music business and asks for more detail. The guy responds that he’s Eminem. Mom, a bit perplexed but with reflexive maternal support, replies “That’s great, honey. Which M are you?” You just have to love those completely artifice-free real life moments.
Anyway, back to the song:
Love The Way You Lie f_ Rihanna, Eminem
As a marketer, I get it. The pairing of Em and Rihanna is a very smart bit of audience-broadening commercial alchemy, and it’s also quite bold when you realize that the song is about a physically-abusive relationship. The song is slickly produced, it’s easily listenable, and though Eminem has lost most of his commercial momentum his wordplay is as rapidfire as ever.
But, at the risk of reminding everyone that I’m old, the music fan in me has trouble getting past the confusion that his new #1 is just a decidedly less-inventive echo of Em’s old hit “Stan.”
Stan (Feat. Dido), Eminem
As I listen to “Stan” for the first time in a long time, I’m reminded of how damn good and inventive that song was. It plucks a really long sample of an as-then unknown artist (Dido) that gives a purposefully and poignant unsteady balance to the track. Through a series of letters and an escalating tenor, he builds up a sense of imminent catastrophe, and then returns for one last salvo in which the recipient of these letters comes around to the realization of what has happened. Great rap music, smartly delivered.
The contrast between these two songs brings me back to one of the eternal artistic conundrums: when you’re an artist fueled by sadness or anger, what happens when you’re rich and famous? I’ve questioned before how successful you can be before you start to suck, and I’m afraid this is just one more bit of evidence.
Food for thought for marketers who seek to bring innovators back to the fore.