It's been quite a hard quest to decide which song would by my Song of the Month for september 2011... the "nominees" included The Last Unicorn (America), If You Want Me (Marketa Iglova) and I am a Man of Constant Sorrow (The Soggy Bottom Boys). Somehow, I always get stuck on film songs... The combination of picture, song and stories of both is quite magical and powerful in a way (due to their lack of story, music videos, in my opinion, fail to transfer that magic in the same way).
Long story short, here's which song finally won the match:
Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture 8 Mile, 2002
As always, here's the song, so you can listen while or before reading:
There's something you should know about my relation to this song: I have not seen the film 8 Mile. Nope. It's strange, I know, because I like this song so much (and I admit, I also like Eminem), plus the film's been on TV a few times but... somehow, destiny always came in between us.
This is also not a song I've been listening to for ages. I remember liking and hearing it a few times when I was younger (hip hop phase - typical teeny), but then I lost my interest in rap and hip hop and all that, so somehow, I forgot it. I didn't even know it won an Oscar (how cool is that, bro - ahm... just tryin' to work some gangsta lang' or whatever). Then, in the last weeks of my summer holiday, I went to see "Tap Stars" in Hamburg - America's best tap dancers dancing in front of some kind of... not film, but still moving pictures, to various music. The first half of this show consisted of mostly old, classic tap songs from Sinatra and the like, while the second was more experimental, containing newer songs.
You've probably already guessed it: Lose Yourself was one of those songs. It was amazing, seeing those incredible artists dance this rather classic dance to a rap song. Filled with energy, anger, hunger for life. That probably sounds extremely cliché-esque, but it's what I felt, what I thought about when I lost myself in the music, the moment.
"Look, if you had one shot, and one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted - one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?"
Admittedly, the intro-"verse" isn't most subtle, but then again, rap in general isn't really subtle. It's quite straight-forward, that is. Well, it's all about the one opportunity, the one chance to give everything you have, to sort of win the game, I guess. And the game is... life. I don't know - it's hard to know how things are meant to be interpreted in rap songs, especially Eminem. However, I am crazy about those electric guitar sounds that also go on through all of the song. The piano is a bit dramatic, but the perfect contrast to those incredibly addictifying (yeah, that's not a word) guitar sounds... I can hear the start of the song over and over again.
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out
He's chokin, how everybody's jokin now
The clock's run out, time's up over, bloah!
Snap back to reality, Oh there goes gravity
Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked
He's so mad, but he won't give up that
Is he? No
He won't have it , he knows his whole back city's ropes
It don't matter, he's dope
He knows that, but he's broke
He's so stacked that he knows
When he goes back to his mobile home, that's when it's
Back to the lab again yo
This whole rap city
He better go capture this moment and hope it don't pass him
You can see it all in your mind, can't you? That's something I like a lot about rap (at least in this one/ good ones): because of the non-subtleness, a very clear image of the situation grows in your mind. You feel the pressure that lies on him, the urge to do a good job and convince those people, get out of his life. Of course, the non-subtleness also makes it difficult for me to write a lot about this song and the lyrics, as most things just have been said already.
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo
Looking at nothing but the lyrics, the greatness of this song isn't very obvious. One might even think it's a very random, boring song with an obvious message. Okay, the message is quite obvious, but through the melody and Eminem's own performance, we get all that emotion into the song and even the lyrics. It's actually a very angry song, to me, also caused by Eminem's habit of literally shouting refrains into the mic - but that's really what this song needs. As both song and film are rather autobiographic, Eminem is in all probability yelling this refrain at himself, but when I yell along with him in my room, I also yell at all those people who make me so angry by not giving life everything they have, taking every chance, trying to live their dreams. I'm not like that - but still, in a way, I'm also yelling at myself to not even dare considering not to give it everything.
At first I thought it was funny to equalize "losing yourself" with "not missing a chance/ opportunity", but it is logical if you think about it. We are often taught that you need to focus and concentrate if you want to be a winner in life, but sometimes you really need to lose yourself in... in the moment. In the music.
The soul's escaping, through this hole that it's gaping
This world is mine for the taking
Make me king, as we move toward a, new world order
A normal life is borin, but superstardom's close to post mortar
It only grows harder, only grows hotter
He blows us all over these hoes is all on him
Coast to coast shows, he's know as the globetrotter
Lonely roads, God only knows
He's grown farther from home, he's no father
He goes home and barely knows his own daughter
But hold your nose cuz here goes the cold water
His bosses don't want him no mo, he's cold product
They moved on to the next schmoe who flows
He nose dove and sold nada
So the soap opera is told and unfolds
I suppose it's old potna, but the beat goes on
Da da dum da dum da da
Reading the lyrics right now actually makes me quite curious to see this film. I never read through the lyrics, and as rap is so fast, I never noticed this change of the situation: "he" is now a star, he made it - but still, he can't be happy. Yes, he lost himself, but in the wrong way - not in the moment nor the music, he literally forgot who he is and where he belongs. I especially like the line about the cold water, it made me stop for a moment and think (well, wrong spelling always makes me stop, but...). And also the fact that he ironically calls the story a "soap opera" is something I appreciate - Eminem may somehow exaggerate the irony in most things he does, but it's still a 100 times better than being serious about a song that revolves around specific parts of women, bling-bling and... sex (Akon, I'm looking at you - I thought you were different). Yes, Eminem has sung about stuff like that as well, but most of us know he doesn't mean it (the term "most of us" excludes the Eminem-citing stupid, gross high-school boys we all eventually got to meet).
No more games, I'ma change what you call rage
Tear this mothafuckin roof off like 2 dogs caged
I was playin in the beginnin, the mood all changed
I been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage
But I kept rhymin and stepwritin the next cypher
Best believe somebody's payin the pied piper
All the pain inside amplified by the fact
That I can't get by with my 9 to 5
And I can't provide the right type of life for my family
Cuz man, these goddam food stamps don't buy diapers
And it's no movie, there's no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life
And these times are so hard and it's getting even harder
Tryin to feed and water my seed, plus
See dishonor caught up bein a father and a prima donna
Baby mama drama's screamin on and
Too much for me to wanna
Stay in one spot, another jam or not
Has gotten me to the point, I'm like a snail
I've got to formulate a plot fore I end up in jail or shot
Success is my only mothafuckin option, failure's not
Mom, I love you, but this trail has got to go
I cannot grow old in Salem's lot
So here I go is my shot.
Feet fail me not cuz maybe the only opportunity that I got
I'm a bit confused now - does he go back to the situation of the first verse, or is this what happens after his album or first reach for stardom went wrong? The second guess would be more logical, wouldn't it? Ah, he sticks in some swear-words here, but that's Eminem - and let's not forget it: it's rap. These two can't exist without some ghetto language, I suppose.
You can do anything you set your mind to, man
And that's the end. Well, not entirely, it slowly rolls out with my beloved guitar tunes, but as I already told you, they're best at the beginning.
Again, the message we all know in and out now, is repeated one last time at the end. It may be a little unsatisfying for those like me, who like to interpret and think about things and read between the lines - but to be honest, I need this once in a while. I need to speak my mind and yell the message. Do you know what I mean?
Lose Yourself is so to see the perfect partner for the Film of the Month, The Tree of Life. Both have a message that is similar in certain aspects, and while one of them can easily be called the King of Reading-between-the-llines, the other is much more obvious. And there's another parallel: The Tree of Life successfully combined the techniques of arthouse and commercial cinema in a way we haven't seen before, and while Eminem and rap has often been classified as rather unintellectual underclass music, Lose Yourself won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.