Guess who’s back? How Eminem is storming to the top of the charts again

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Last Friday, Eminem released his 62nd single, Houdini. Reviews were lukewarm to woeful. “Eminem loses nan magic,” ran nan header successful nan New York Times, while website Stereogum went for nan much straightforward “Eminem’s New Song ‘Houdini’ Is Really, Really Bad”, criticising everything from nan “stilted” rapping to a lyrical joke astir nan incident erstwhile Megan Thee Stallion was changeable successful nan ft by her chap rapper Tory Lanez.

The public’s consequence was rather nan opposite. A week on, it is nan most-streamed opus successful nan UK and guaranteed to go Eminem’s 11th UK No 1. It is some his fastest-selling azygous successful 22 years, and connected way to go nan UK’s fastest-selling azygous of nan twelvemonth by anyone, including Taylor Swift.

Regardless of your views connected nan single’s quality, it’s easy to spot why Houdini has been a hit. It is very commercial, based astir an instantly recognisable sample from Steve Miller Band’s Abracadabra. And it plays to an ongoing vogue for early 00s philharmonic nostalgia that has recovered its look successful nan resurgent fame of pop-punk and a emergence successful rap singles borrowing from nan era’s popular and R&B hits: much than thing Eminem has released successful caller years, Houdini harks backmost to his early days.

It heavy references his 2002 deed Without Me, while its video features 50 Cent, who was catapulted to immense sales, pinch nan thief of Eminem’s patronage, backmost successful 2003. It precedes an medium that mentions his notorious change ego successful its title – The Death of Slim Shady (Coup De Grâce), owed later successful nan summertime – and it reverts backmost to nan aged Eminem look of making queasy, cartoonish, controversy-provoking jokes, pursuing a play successful which nan rapper seemed much willing successful fulminating astatine nan latterday authorities of hip-hop (as connected 2018’s Kamikaze) aliases unleashing nan profoundly improbable conception of a woke Slim Shady. (In 2016 and 2017, he released a drawstring of anti-Trump tracks that took successful nan subjects of immigration, weapon power and achromatic supremacy.)

Moreover, years of middling and antagonistic reviews person done small to dent Eminem’s popularity. His past album, 2020’s Music to Be Murdered By, sold 4m copies globally, while Kamikaze was nan biggest-selling hip-hop medium of 2018 successful nan US. His top hits collection, Curtain Call, is nan solitary hip-hop medium to bask nan UK floor plan ubiquity usually reserved for august artists specified arsenic Fleetwood Mac, Queen aliases Elton John: it has spent a staggering 620 weeks successful nan British medium charts.

His ongoing occurrence is rendered a small unusual by nan truth that he nary longer seems to beryllium a cardinal fig successful modern rap culture. The days erstwhile Eminem was discussed 159 times successful nan pages of nan New York Times successful 1 twelvemonth – arsenic apparently happened successful 2002 – are agelong down him, and nevertheless successful Houdini whitethorn be, it seems improbable to beryllium arsenic influential arsenic his 2000 deed Stan, which gave nan English connection a caller connection for toxic die-hard fans. Hip-hop tends to move fast, perpetually throwing up caller stars and styles, and erstwhile it comes to generating controversy, Eminem has agelong since been outstripped by nan behaviour of Kanye West.

Longstanding British hip-hop DJ Semtex calls Eminem “one of nan rap gods”, but says he “didn’t salary attention” erstwhile Houdini was released, and was unsure moreover whether to play it connected his play Capital Xtra show. “It doesn’t fresh successful pinch thing else, pinch either nan UK aliases US sound. The kids are streaming Central Cee and Lil Baby correct now.” Moreover, it’s “not creatively great. As a fan, I think: you could person done more, bro.”

Shock scary … Performing successful 2000.
Shock scary … Performing successful 2000. Photograph: REUTERS

He suggests Eminem’s assemblage aren’t nan benignant of mainstream hip-hop fans who hung connected each reproach thrown during nan caller statement betwixt Drake and Kendrick Lamar, but alternatively “ageing Eminem stans” drawn successful by Houdini’s familiarity, and nan peculiar cosiness of its controversy-mongering. “Talking astir Megan Thee Stallion looks for illustration it’s arguable but it really isn’t. Talk astir Diddy being arrested; talk astir Drake and Kendrick, if you want to spell successful connected hip-hop. Macklemore’s onstage reside successful Germany talking astir Palestine and nan Holocaust – that’s shock. I watched that and thought – wow, he took it there.”

There is undoubtedly immoderate truth successful what Semtex says but it can’t beryllium nan full story. Last year, streams of Eminem’s 2004 azygous Mockingbird abruptly surged to complete 1.5bn aft it became a immense viral deed connected TikTok, a level acold much celebrated pinch teenagers than anyone aged capable to retrieve Eminem’s heyday first-hand.

Lee Thompson, of euphony manufacture website Record of nan Day, suggests Eminem’s entreaty “spans 3 generations”, and notes that nan azygous has hardly been playlisted connected UK radio. “It’s different illustration of nan attentive, younger-skewed streaming assemblage being measurement up of nan disconnected aged gatekeepers,” he says. “Eminem was perfectly immense pinch nan 15-19 property bracket erstwhile he first emerged. They’re now successful their early 40s, astir apt pinch a teenage kid aliases 2 surviving astatine location pinch them successful 2024, and that power will person rubbed disconnected connected them, nary question.”

It’s an intriguing thought. There mightiness beryllium a procreation for whom Slim Shady isn’t redolent of parent-scaring nihilism, but of their existent parents: of puerility journeys successful nan car soundtracked by Stan aliases My Name Is. And possibly their parents weren’t mainstream hip-hop fans 20 years agone – conscionable Eminem fans. In Anthony Bozza’s charismatic 2004 biography, Whatever You Say I Am, he identifies a infinitesimal erstwhile nan rapper’s assemblage changed from sceptical Black crowds won complete by his sheer talent, to fans who seemed much for illustration punk aliases nu-metal devotees: pissed-off, opinionated and “predominantly white”. If Houdini seems astatine 1 region from nan remainder of hip-hop, that’s location Eminem has been for a very agelong time.

Source theguardian