A Plaque of Platinum Status is Whack if I'm Not the Baddest: Songs to Drive to
And I don't mean like drive like drive in a car, I mean like drive like be driven.
Earlier today I was in a situation that does not hit me where I am strongest: a large dark room filled with mostly-strangers having emotions.
(Cigarette smoke used to crowd away some of the overwhelming emotion-ness of bars but now there is just no respite!)
Anyway, suffice to say shit like that is hard for me but I was doing decently until I decided you know what, enough, and I went home and ate donuts and watched Vh1 with my friend because you know what, that is where the real joy of life lies for me.
And ON VH1 WAS THE ABSOLUTE PERFECT SHOW FOR THE SITUATION: "100 Greatest Pop Songs of the 00s".
Because like yeah, why the fuck should we wait until a "reasonable distance" from the 00s has passed before we start nostalgizing them? Who decides a reasonable distance? And heck, a LOT of great pop music lives in the 00s and maybe instead of nostalgizing, we could think of it as eulogizing.
One of these songs in the top 5 was Eminem's 2002 classic, "Lose Yourself", which, yes, is just an amazingly good song -- actually let's just pause here and talk about what an amazingly good song "Lose Yourself" is for a hot second.
1. The perfect crescendo of narrative that sweeps you from "nervous dude just off stage" to "desperately ambitious person who knows a lot is riding on his imminent performance". If that last verse where he thinks to himself "This may be the only opportunity that I got" and walks on stage (around 4:14 in the version I linked above) does not grab you by the intestines and just COMPEL YOU well then, I do not know about you.
2. It's a very cinematic moment and a very cinematic song (no wonder since it was basically the backbone of 8 Mile and was also -- deservedly so -- the first rap song to win an Oscar), but it's also very self-referential in this delicious way when he says "and there's no movie, there's no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life". What he's saying is, "In the movie version there's no tension because we know the hero must make it, but in real life which is where all of us are living, there is NO guarantee the hero will make it and that is scary and motivating as shit."
3. When he says, "I guess it's old, partner, but the beat goes on da-da-dum da-dum" because man, I believe that Eminem IS brilliant and does nothing unintentionally, not least mentioning a person who is best known in pretty much every aspect of her life for bringing it COMPLETELY hard. (I told you everything comes back to Cher eventually.)
But let's get back to this other song, a lesser-known (somewhat) cousin of "Lose Yourself" that is admittedly not quite as brilliant but is still very good.
The song: Eminem ft. Nate Dogg, "Till I Collapse"; 2002
The opening is pretty similar to "Lose Yourself", and the military theme in the next few seconds bears a distinct similarity to "Jesus Walks", with which I will always associate that gambit although it came out two years later than "Till I Collapse".
The reason I love "Till I Collapse" is that it's just as gut-twisty and compelling as "Lose Yourself" but the scenario it depicts is much closer to Eminem's actual life situation at that time -- not the nervous no-name about to see if he can make it, but the newly-established musician dealing with a meteoric rise to fame and desperately searching for something that maintains his drive although he has achieved everything he could have previously dreamed. The recognition, the fame, the money, Eminem had all of that in 2002 (he really hit big in 2000). In this song he's found what can keep him going, and it's his own pride.
He'll keep working as hard as he can because he's realized, to put this in the softest and New-Age-iest terms possible, because he's realized that if he doesn't feel good about himself inside, all of the outside trappings are empty.
Is this interpretation a bit Free To Be You and Me? Indeed it is! But tell me if it doesn't seem true to you of people we call "driven", that their drive creates itself.