September 28, 2020

5 On It: Music We Are Murdered By

Eminem’s new album, styled as an homage to a 1958 album by Jeff Alexander and Alfred Hitchcock of the same name — “Music to be Murdered By” — is not really different from any of his past releases. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. Not at all. I enjoyed many of the tracks, especially ones like “Yah Yah,” “Darkness,” a surprisingly effective anti-gun anthem (watch the powerful video), and “Leaving Heaven,” a seething missive against his father, who he never really knew. His father died last year, but clearly to Marshall Mathers, the past is never dead. It’s not even past.

That criticism is one of the things about Eminem that bother me the most. And it’s true of many renowned rappers (we’ll get to that in a minute). The main drivers behind Eminem’s music are his extremely thin skin and inability to let anything go, coupled with his desire to diss dozens of people with his lyrics. And the women in his life are often the ones who bear the brunt of it. Thankfully, songs like “Farewell” on this album do not approach the murderous misogyny of “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” or its prequel, “Kim,” which described the inner (and outer) monologues that may arise while killing his much-maligned ex-wife. But listen to the Hitchcock monologues on this album’s namesake and you’ll hear some of the same themes. Like this, from “I’ll Walk Alone.”

I believe that murder, like charity, begins at home
After all, some of the most exquisite murders have been domestic
Performed with tenderness and originality
And in simple home-y places like the kitchen table or the bathtub
So gentlemen, if you’re with your wife
Show her how you feel about her
Put your arms around her neck
And listen to this musical admonition:
I’ll Walk Alone

I understand that the Hitchcock album is meant as an extension of his macabre mind. But Hitchcock’s clear obsession with men murdering women who “did them wrong” didn’t develop in a vacuum. Eminem’s didn’t, either. His music, like that of many modern rappers, is the product of our culture, which is extremely misogynistic and violent. The fact that hating us, even raping and murdering us, can be so casually laid out in chilling detail shouldn’t shock anyone.

I wouldn’t give Eminem “credit,” since he has done little to address violence against women (side note: he even went into alarming detail about raping Ann Coulter with a variety of implements including a banjo on “No Favors” to somehow punish her for her alt-right nastiness — two wrongs don’t make a right, bro). But at least he seems to understand how fucked up all of this is. Much of what he writes is from the perspective of characters who Marshall, himself, doesn’t agree with, although his fans don’t always notice that part. If he truly doesn’t want to be alone in the darkness anymore, he should figure out how to square his misogyny with the clear love that he has for his daughters and other women.

Even though there is much to enjoy here, it’s music like this — based on our cultural ideals — that women are murdered by. In order to take back some of that power, I wanted to share 5 female artists who have covered Eminem’s work to impressive effect, some even flipping the lyrics on their head and adding an additional layer of meaning.

Tori Amos, “’97 Bonnie and Clyde”

Without changing a single lyric, Tori adopted the voice of his dead wife in the trunk of the car, talking to her daughter. It’s spooky as hell. Tori said the following in an interview with MTV about the song, which appeared on her cover album, Strange Little Girls:

“‘Bonnie & Clyde’ is a song that depicts domestic violence very accurately, right on the money,” Amos said. “I did not align with the character that he represents. There was one person who definitely wasn’t dancing to this thing, and that’s the woman in the trunk. And she spoke to me. … [She] grabbed me by the hand and said, ‘You need to hear this how I heard it.'”

Come on, hey, hey, we going to the beach
Grab a couple of toys and let Dada strap you in the car seat
Where’s mama? She’s takin’ a little nap in the trunk
Oh, that smell? Dada must’ve runned over a skunk

Rhianna, “Love the Way You Lie (Part II)”

This is a different version of the Eminem and Rhianna song that enjoyed a ton of airplay, which is too bad. This one, told from the female perspective in an abusive relationship, is raw and it is real. Rhianna’s abuse was well-documented within her relationship with Chris Brown. There is never an excuse for violence. But sometimes the lines blur in your head, and you can’t tell the difference between toxicity and reality. It appeared as the last track on Rhianna’s album, Loud.

Eminem: Try and touch me so I can scream at you not to touch me
Run out the room and I’ll follow you like a lost puppy
Baby, without you, I’m nothing, I’m so lost, hug me
Then tell me how ugly I am, but that you’ll always love me

Andra Day, “Lose Yourself”

The meaning of the lyrics here wasn’t so much transformed by a woman singing — it was the soul styling of this truly amazing cover that makes it pop. I really enjoyed the chill vibe I got from this version.

ENISA, “Mockingbird”

This song mixes an original rap dialogue about Eminem’s ex-wife Kim Mathers’ drug and alcohol use, infidelities, and trouble with the law, as he apologizes to his daughters with a straight melodic version of the traditional “Mockingbird” lullaby called “Hush, Little Baby.” I think it gains depth being sung in the woman’s voice.

I guess it was never meant to be
But it’s just something
We have no control over
And that’s what destiny is
But no more worries
Rest your head and go to sleep
Maybe one day we’ll wake up
And this will all just be a dream

Amy Shark, “Superman”

Amy does a really interesting adaptation of this song from The Eminem Show, with a verse from D-12’s “Pimp Like Me,” and ending with a line from Dr. Dre’s “Forgot About Dre.” It all sounds a lot more fun this way.

Check out Eminem’s new album here. In the last 30 seconds of “Godzilla,” he raps almost 11 syllables per second, which is some kind of record. He has loads of talent, without the maturity to truly elevate it. I suppose I will keep listening to see what happens next. I won’t hold my breath.

Chaplin
Sylvia June
Sylvia June 26 Articles
Staff Writer

I'm Vee. I live in a cute little house with my cats. I grew up in Northwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State (where, btw, I first met the notorious Ted Flint over a game of flip cup). Other totally random facts about me: I like goats and I am turned on when people make literary references in everyday conversation.

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