It's become the trend to start taking Eminem seriously -- largely because he won't go away. Even with an endless number of true hip-hop artists -- most of them black and better -- America seems to wants its funky music from a white boy. And so Eminem has become the rapper you can bring up at a dinner party to prove that you're the edgiest person there.
But people who are looking for any edge will be disappointed by his work for the 8 Mile soundtrack. Those hugs from Elton John must have worked, because backed by tinkly pianos and college-dorm guitars, this is supposed to seem the product of a mature, intelligent Eminem. Even the other artists on the collection -- most of them represented by Eminem's Shady Records -- suffer from the same false sentiment. 50 Cent's "Wanksta" uses a melody loop so corny N'Sync wouldn't touch it. Even Macy Gray ambles through her feel-good, white-man shuffle "Time of My Life" sounding like a rejected B-side for "We Are the World." It's only Xibit who throws out some good lines like "Get your own s-- 'cause this s--'s mine. / Every time I spit I shine." But when MCs Snapple and Snickers -- excuse me, Obie Trice and 50 Cent -- start spouting lyrics that dis their prettier and more popular competition, things become a spittle-filled, red-faced interlude from a WWF broadcast. Please guys, don't hurt 'em.
On an album like this, Eminem's work is easily the strongest. And like another famous hoodlum-cum-vocalist Frank Sinatra, you can understand every word Eminem says as he pops key words up from his petulant baritone into his steely, tight tenor. It's too bad that the words he's singing run along the lines of "If you had one shot / one opportunity / to seize everything you ever wanted / in one moment / would you capture it or just let it slip?" Mrs. Garrett (the original 'G') dispensed this kind of wisdom on The Facts of Life. Tootie and Natalie, listen up: "You gotta live it to feel it / you didn't, you wouldn't get it / or see what the big deal is / why it was and it still is."
Yeah, yeah... and you take the good, you take the bad, you take 'em all and there you have 8 Mile.