KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #63: Lose Yourself by Eminem.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #63: Lose Yourself by Eminem.

In 1976, an, as of yet, unknown actor named Sylvester Stallone donned grey sweat pants and sweatshirt and ran through the streets of Philadelphia. In one of the classic “underdog” stories of all-time, “Rocky” told the tale of a young man who had nothing and, because he had nothing, he was given a sucker’s chance to box for the Heavyweight title against the reigning champ. It was a sucker’s bet because he was given no chance to actually win. He was an outsider. He was disrespected by those on the inside. His skills were mocked. He was ridiculed and encouraged to quit at the first sign of pain. He was expected to lose because, in the eyes of those in the Champ’s corner, he was a loser….a bum who had no real business being there. But, he was there. He did have one chance to prove himself; a chance that might never come his way again, if he quit or if he lost easily, as was expected. He had one shot. He took it and we all know what happened.

One of the things that people always remember from the movie, “Rocky” was the theme song called, “Gonna Fly Now!”, that played as he trained. It was soaring, rousing song. Nowadays, we call it a hype song because it was used to rally all of us, as viewers, to his side. For Sylvester Stallone, Art was very much an imitation of Life. Although he was not a boxer in real life, he was a struggling actor who found himself on the outside of Hollywood life, looking in. “Rocky’s” suckers bet was the same bet that Stallone was making on himself, too. His film was not a slick Hollywood production. It was an under-the-radar film that was the living embodiment of the dream his on-screen character had about his own future. All Stallone wanted was to be taken seriously. “Rocky” was his first and only real chance. Stallone was determined to make the most of his one shot, just as Rocky Balboa was on screen, too. Sometimes, as it turns out, one shot is enough.

Fast forward a quarter century. “8-Mile” is a “Rocky-esque” movie for a new generation. Instead of a struggling amateur boxer getting his big break and trying to make the most of it, “8-Mile” is about a struggling white man in Detroit, trying to take advantage of his big break in a Rap Battle against a sea of Black rappers and a rotten home life. While Rocky Balboa was fighting, not only the Champ but, also, the Boxing establishment in “Rocky”, Eminem was fighting against his Rap Battle opponents but, also, a culture which viewed Hip Hop and Rap as the sole purvey of the Black community. Who is Rocky to think he could beat the Champ? Who was Eminem, a white boy, to think he could rap with real rappers of colour?! It is the same story of an underdog searching for respect and validation and the chance at a better life. It is the same story of being handed an opportunity and making the best of that one shot.

Needless to say, just like “Rocky” had “Gonna Fly Now”, “8-Mile” has the stellar song, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. “Lose Yourself” is not a Hip Hop song that was parachuted into the soundtrack of “8-Mile”. It was a song specifically written for the movie. Not only that, Eminem wrote the song in between takes while filming the movie and claims that he wrote the song in character. “Lose Yourself” is all about Eminem getting his one shot and going for it. The song details how difficult his life had been up until that point and how important it was to his future that he not blow his opportunity. Just like “Rocky” was semi-autobiographical for Sylvester Stallone, the same is true of “8-Mile” and Eminem. *(Btw, Eminem’s real name is Marshall Mathers. If you say his initials together, you get “M. & M.” or “Eminem”, as he is professionally known as). Eminem’s real life journey to superstardom was not easy so, the whole movie has an authentic feel to it because of the real-life experiences Eminem wove into his portrayal on screen.

“Lose Yourself” won the award in 2003 for Best Song in a Movie at The Academy Awards, making it the first Hip Hop song so honoured. Eminem did not attend the show because producers insisted that he “sanitize” the song for the TV audience, taking out anything remotely profane or questionable with regard to his description of the life his character was living. Eminem refused to allow his song to be censored. In a strange twist of fate, his song was honoured in a retrospective years later at The Academy Awards and Eminem was allowed to sing the song as written on air, live. In fact, the success of “Lose Yourself”, as far as sales go….over 10 million at last count…..makes “Lose Yourself” the best selling Oscar winning song of all-time. “Lose Yourself”, also, won the Grammy Award for Best Hip Hop Song in a 2003.

A final bit of trivia about “Lose Yourself”…….in the opening verse, Eminem’s character is so nervous that he spits up his dinner, which was his Mom’s spaghetti. That image really caught the attention of a lot of people. The first thing that happened was that the phrase, “Mom’s Spaghetti” became the answer to a whole series of ridiculous questions asked as part of a series of memes that became popular. For example, what will happen to the Earth if we don’t get Climate Change under control? Answer: Mom’s Spaghetti! It’s silly, I know but, it was a real thing that evolved out of the song, “Lose Yourself” and the movie, “8-Mile”. Secondly, being a clever young man, Eminem saw a business opportunity staring him in the face. So, a few years ago, he began to open a series of restaurants around the Detroit area called, you guessed it, “Mom’s Spaghetti”. Those restaurants offer “day-old” leftover spaghetti, served with sauce from a jar…..I kid you not. People are, quite literally, eating this up!

Anyway, with his one shot, Eminem made a movie and wrote a song that established his street credibility as a rapper worthy of respect. Many critics have hailed, “Lose Yourself” as being one of the best and most important Hip Hop songs ever. His performance in “8-Mile” was, generally, well-received. His rapping throughout “Lose Yourself” has been declared as being excellent and one of the best deliveries of rapping in History. So, with “Lose Yourself” and the semi-autobiographical movie, “8-Mile”, Eminem followed in Sylvester Stallone’s well-worn path to success. Both men started from meagre beginnings and, in the end, they both made the most of their opportunities….their, one shot at a better life.

So, without further delay, here is Marshall Mathers…..M. & M. …….Eminem, with “Lose Yourself”, from the original motion picture soundtrack to the film, “8-Mile”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, can be found here. *(Academy Awards performance.)

The link to the official trailer for the movie, “8-Mile”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Eminem, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for giving worthy artists and bands their own fair shot. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KTOM- Song #423 …Stan by Eminem Ft., Dido.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #423: Stan by Eminem ft., Dido.

“Stan” by Eminem is a controversial and difficult song…not gonna lie. In fact, calling it a song is a bit of a misnomer. “Stan” is actually a play that is told in four complete acts. Each verse is a scene or an act. Each scene builds toward a dramatic and disturbing conclusion. “Stan” is controversial because of the unflinching look given to those suffering from mental illness, as well as, how that plays out in terms of domestic violence. There are several versions of this song; each one increasingly more descriptive and graphic. The one that gets played on radio or tv is the most heavily-censored version and, even with that, “Stan” still requires listener/viewer discretion.

In the song, Eminem plays himself. Stan is a character who is a fan of Eminem. As many of you know, the term “fan” is drawn from the word, “fanatic”, which is where the inspiration for this song arose. In each of the first three verses or scenes, Stan writes letters to Eminem. In each scene, Stan seeks to give meaning to his own life by becoming increasingly obsessed over Eminem. This crosses the line into clinical obsession when Stan starts to believe that Eminem is actually part of his life and that they are friends for real. Stan tries to bring Eminem into his world via his letters to him. Unfortunately for Stan, Eminem, like many stars, doesn’t read much of his own fan mail and, as such, doesn’t even know, until it is too late, that Stan is even trying to reach him. From Stan’s perspective, he interprets Eminem’s silence as rejection. This rejection pushes Stan to commit a violent act (murder-suicide) in order to make a final statement that Eminem couldn’t possibly ignore. In the final scene, Eminem grabs several fan letters to read and finally sees one from Stan. He notes the obsessive nature of Stan’s wild claims of friendship and thinks back to a news story about the death of an obsessive fan and then, only then, does Eminem realize that the letter he is holding was from the same obsessed fan from the news and that, maybe, if he had known sooner, he could have prevented three deaths.

Disturbing content aside, for a moment….as a writer, I have to give credit to Eminem for creating a character with such an authentic “voice”. There aren’t any wasted words in these “letters” that Stan writes to Eminem. His words help us to very clearly see inside his troubled mind. Stan’s voice is distinctive and stands out in contrast to the remorsefulness of Eminem’s “own voice” in the final verse. Good dramatic scenes help paint complete portraits of their character’s lives and Eminem does that in “Stan”. As dramatic plays go, this is as tight and concise a script as can be.

Furthermore, Eminem is considered to be one of the best Hip Hop rappers in the world. If you have never listened to him rapping (because of his reputation or because you don’t like Rap) try and push past that and give this song a try. Eminem’s rapping skills are phenomenal all throughout “Stan”. His ability to enunciation crisply and to control his breath while rapping is extremely impressive. Overall, the writing and performing that is on display in “Stan” is second-to-none.

This song is widely hailed as Eminem’s second best song (after, “Lose Yourself” from the movie, “8 Mile”) and has sold millions of copies around the world. “Stan” is ranked as being one of the top Hip Hop songs of all-time. Not only that, the cultural influence of this song is such that the term, “to Stan” someone is now an accepted medical term and can be located in all major dictionaries with the definition being, “to obsessively stalk, harass and/or harm a celebrity or person with whom one seeks to have a relationship when, in fact, no real relationship actually exists.”

Because of the graphic nature of the song, “Stan” has not often been performed on live TV. But, one notable exception took place at the 2001 Grammy Awards. Prior to this show, Eminem had been criticized for the nature of some of his lyrics which, people claimed, were homophobic and misogynistic. Normally, Eminem performs “Stan” with English singer, Dido. Dido sings the bridge verses that help separate the verses dealing with Stan’s letters. But, when Eminem appeared on stage at the Grammy Awards, it wasn’t with Dido but, instead, was with Sir Elton John. Many observers wondered why Elton John (who is openly Gay) would wish to associate himself with someone like Eminem. As it turns out, Elton John and Eminem had been friends for many years and, even more, when Eminem had drug and alcohol addiction issues in his younger days, it was Elton John who acted as his AA sponsor. The two men stay in regular contact. When the controversy surrounding “Stan” began to blow up prior to the airing of The Grammys, Elton John suggested he appear in Dido’s place as moral support. When the song ends and they hug and hold hands together, they were sending a symbolic message that claims about Eminem being homophobic were unfounded. It was a powerful moment in a genre (award shows) where powerful moments don’t always happen.

“Stan” is a technically-brilliant song but, it is a song to be entered into with eyes wide open. As Eminem has said, with regard to the subject matter of many of his songs, sometimes in order to discuss difficult topics, you have to actually write difficult songs and tell difficult stories openly and honestly. “Stan” certainly accomplishes that. One of the reasons I am interested in writing these posts is that I want people to know the real stories behind the songs they like to sing and dance to. In this case, I see far too many folks joking on social media about being a “Kim Kardashian stan” or else, “stan-ing Ryan Reynolds or Chris Hemsworth”. I cringe every time I see this in print. Mental illness and domestic violence are nothing to joke about. They are awful things to experience. “Stan” depicts that sense of awfulness honestly and, as such, it depicts it brutally. Even as I warn you about “Stan”, I do encourage you to watch the Grammy performance with Elton John. The importance of that moment is palpable on screen.

The link to the music video for Stan by Eminem (featuring Sir Elton John) can be found here.

Eminem has a website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.