This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM 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, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
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.