EMINEM: Into The Labyrinth And Out Of Control (2001)

EMINEM: Into The Labyrinth And Out Of Control
Frank Kogan, The Village Voice, Pazz & Jop 2000 Supplement, February 14-20, 2001

I think gays genuinely give Eminem the creeps, but I also note that in the oft-quoted song where he seems to be saying that he kills fags and lezzes, the oft-quoters leave out the beginning, where he makes clear that he's not killing anyone, or believing in killing anyone: "A lot of people ask me stupid fucking questions. A lot of people think... that if I say that I want to kill somebody that I'm actually going to do it or that I believe in it. Well, shit, if you believe that, then I'll kill you." According to the lyrics, it's just his words that are like a dagger with a jagged edge, that'll stab you in the head whether you're a fag or a lez. And in the same song he kills Dre and a bank teller, neither of whom represents people he's prejudiced against. But Eminem likes to have things both ways, and his lyrics have trapdoors and escape hatches all through them – but then again the escape hatches have trapdoors too, which means that he ends up escaping back into the trap and so continually does end up implicating Marshall Mathers and not just Slim Shady. Listen to the joy with which he says "I'll kill you." He genuinely doesn't know whether Slim is a guy who's standing tough against the jerks or is an out-of-control asshole who will hurt his own loved ones. And he doesn't know how much of Slim's pathology is or isn't his own potential pathology. And he's got us not knowing either, which absolutely increases the power of his art.

I don't think he's at all settled in his own mind whether his words can kill or not, or whether he wants them to. He actually hopes that his message of sympathy will reach psycho Stan – potential Stans, real Stans – in time, before the Stans hurt themselves. Hey, Slim, that's called codependence, to think that your words can change a psychopath, that you can either set him off or save him. But anyway, Eminem also wants to tell you that he doesn't give a damn, that you can sue or shoot and he doesn't give a fuck – since he himself doesn't know whether he gives a fuck, since he wishes he didn't give a fuck, since he says that he's proud to be out of his mind and out of control.

Em isn't challenging his primary audience all that much in "The Real Slim Shady." But "Stan" and the two songs where he kills his wife, Kim, might challenge them more, since he's drawing a picture that his primary audience may not want to identify with. Actually, I'm not even sure what I mean by "primary audience" – when you've gotten as big as Eminem you're not like the Dixie Chicks, who can be ignored outside their genre, you're a pop phenomenon, everyone's your audience, everyone's got an opinion, even people who've never heard you. But what I'm thinking of as his primal primary audience is (1) hip-hop guys who dream of living crazy and not just living large and (2) trailer-trash guys and middle-class trailer wannabes. If you put "Shady" together with his non-"Shady" songs he does challenge those guys, in that when he urges them to be proud to be out of their minds and out of control, he then goes on to depict a really OUT out-of-his-mind drunk-and-jealous Em killing his wife, and an out-of-control psycho Stan killing wife and baby.

And when you get down to it, Eminem is his own prime audience; profound contradictions dog him and dig into him and spill out of him. For instance, he's probably really old-fashioned in his sense of normality – his weirdest line goes, "no worse than what's going on in your parents' bedrooms." Wait, Em, what's wrong with what goes on in bedrooms? Yet he seems to believe that the heterosexual nuclear family that he never had as a kid and barely had as an adult is normality, and is warmth and love and daddy playing with baby. And as I said he really seems creeped out by gay sex, which he thinks of as dirty and weird, not just as sex, and maybe he thinks all sex is dirty. I mean, he considers girls in makeup provocative! Adultery and gay sex are pretty much the only explicit sex that appears on his records, unless you want to count Carson and Fred getting head from Christina. So it's like anything that deviates from this nonexistent norm is weird. Yet his lyrics wallow in deviance, because the deviance itself, the breakdown of the heterosexual nuclear-family norm, is the precondition of his freedom. It's what allows him to cuss and go out of control and yell Fuck Him And Fuck You Too. Complicated guy.

The Real Slim Shady

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There're all sorts of ways he weakens the challenge by making Stan crazy. But making him crazy enables Stan to do what Eminem and Marshall Mathers and Slim Shady would never have allowed themselves to do on record, to let loose with unmitigated, angry self-righteousness.

You see, I know these cadences, "Well, you walk into the room like a CAMEL and then you FROWN, you put your eyes in your POCKET, and your nose on the GROUND; there oughtta be a LAW against you comin' aROUND" and "all the JIM-JIMS in this town, and all the POLITICIANS making crazy SOUNDS, and everybody PUTTIN' everybody else DOWN, and all the dead BODIES piled up in MOUNDS" and "When you know as well as me you’d rather see me paralyzed, why don’t you just COME out once and SCREAM it." But you know, I think Stan does it better.

"I hope you can't sleep and you DREAM about it
And when you DREAM I hope you can't SLEEP and you SCREAM about it
I hope your conscience EATS at you and you can't BREATHE without me"

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Second fiddle, creepy violin, sidekicks, electric punks

John Cassavetes and Donald Sutherland, The Dirty Dozen

Cassavetes – sneering, cheap-jack defiance, Sutherland adding half-wit passive-resistant sniveling to the same thing; they give the Dirty Dozen crud as well as dirt and without them there's no credible underbelly, no movie.

L.Q. Jones, Buchanan Rides Alone

Don't have the adjectives for L.Q. Jones. Hired gun off the taxi squad. Alternate description: hired second-string gunman with a wandering, open heart; when he goes missing in the second-half, as sidekicks tend to do, the movie rides alone, the long-unspooling plot having let its weird little spirit drift away ("drift" not the right word; "dissipate into the haze" doesn’t get it either, nor does "evaporate"; the spirit's there but it scatters like dust).

Le Tigre "What's Yr Take on Cassavetes"

Track is excellent not just for its music but for the idea, let's talk about what we really talk about and let's be funny about it and have dogs barking oblivious to us in the end. Problem is the Tigres don't follow through: "genius" and "messiah" are no match for "misogynist," "alcoholic," and don't get at why anyone would care about the guy, e.g., how he can take a wormy little punk and make him electric.

This entry was originally posted at https://koganbot.dreamwidth.org/380775.html. Comments still welcome here, there, and anywhere.
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    Le Tigre "What's Yr Take On Cassavetes"
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Hello, harmonies (days of future posts)

Internet was out for a day-and-a-half, when I'd intended to write something for lj/daydreamwidth; so here are several entries you might see coming up:

--High harmonies from prog and K-pop.

--Baile funk is confoundingly great.

--Yes sir [politely], I can boogie – I can boogie, boogie-woogie, all night long [as opposed to all day and all of the night].

--Claude Brown's smart and speedy Manchild In The Promised Land.

--Paranoid office space (in Moneyball).

--Electroclash before and after electroclash.

This entry was originally posted at https://koganbot.dreamwidth.org/380294.html. Comments still welcome here, there, and anywhere.

A Farewell To Arms And To Double Bills

In 1970 my friend Tom Olds and I anticipated the future by creating mashups of song lyrics and anything else we felt like citing from the horizon. I'm reminded of this 'cause RockCritics.com just reposted an extraordinarily fun Phil Dellio piece from the late '90s on the art of the double bill; as Phil says in a comment, double bills were antiquated then and they're science fiction now. But perhaps their impossibility makes them fodder for fancy and fantasy. In any event, it inspired me to write a short Phil imitation of my own as a comment, which I'm reproducing here. Before that, just a quick nod to rock critic Greil Marcus who, as Phil noted, once cast himself not as a frustrated musician but as someone whose secret ambition was to be a DJ; I'm thinking of me and Tom (when I handed a mashup* in to Mrs. Singer in 11th grade I wrote at the bottom that I'd always wanted to be a DJ) but also that real DJs invented hip-hop, which along with disco and dub and techno and on allowed producers and remixers and makers of sound collages to indulge their inner DJ; also the art-world ferment starting with the '50s allowed artists to act like mini curators within their work; so, anyway, a tribute here to real artists who rarely get their due: DJs, magazine editors, layout managers, anthologists, art curators, and that vanishing species, the film programmer.

*It's in my book as "The What Thing."

My comment:

Frank Kogan
MARCH 30, 2021 AT 6:53 PM

It is my sad duty to report that a theater in San Francisco once ran a double bill of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Farewell To Arms.**

I doubt that there was any cinematic justification for this, though I've seen neither film (and neither Farewell) so I can't say for sure. I'm not conjuring up any great affinities between Poltergeist and either Gilda or The Mortal Storm (those constituting the entirety of my Hooper-C. Vidor-Borzage viewing), but it's been a while.

As you might imagine, my attempts to create a genius playlist segue between Sevyn Streeter's “Before I Do” and Eric Church's "Before She Does" were not successful.

Double bills I'd program: New York, New York and Eclipse for using similar montages of disconnection as their endings (and to see if there are other similarities); All The President's Men and Moneyball (former way better than the latter, but where the latter is great — the segment in the Cleveland Indians' office — it shares the President's sense of "paranoid architecture"***/uneasy office space); The Kremlin Letter and any other Richard Boone performance (movie or TV episode) that Phil thinks would pair well with it (barely know Boone; like him a lot in The Tall T but it's a character going in a different direction from the one in Kremlin, and I want to preserve Tall T for a bill with Mr. Majestyk as the two movies that successfully embody an Elmore Leonard universe); Lonesome Cowboys and Beware Of A Holy Whore.

**Okay, this was before I lived there and I haven't fact-checked the claim. But the person who said so was saying it as if it actually truly happened and even pointed out the theater to me: not a rep theater but a cheapy likely to show Texas Chainsaw type stuff.

***Think it was Sarris who used the phrase "paranoid architecture" in regard to the District Of Columbia in All The President's Men.

I'm guessing that several cities may still have a stray repertory movie house; and film festivals can allow programmers to do their work. Where else? Streaming is undermining the importance of a network TV evening lineup, though I suppose such lineups are still running strong on cable news. Where do compilers and juxtaposers get to practice their trade these days? Home pages? Playlists? Or are the algorithms taking those over too? Maybe it's down to those who run Twitter polls. Well, radio stations still exist.

This entry was originally posted at https://koganbot.dreamwidth.org/379949.html. Comments still welcome here, there, and anywhere.
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    DJ Bedbugs "Aaron's Party Rocking"

Style is my wife - this flow-cave (Frank's Eardrums February 2021)

My latest Eardrum playlist:

One of the surprises of Tom's Twitter tourneys is that I sometimes like Belle and Sebastian. I'm still put off by the sensitive sensibility of their manner, but I'm also hearing in them Morricone-style mariachi and unsignaled Electric Prunes/Easybeats. And good tunes.*

In the meantime you also find me knocking about with medleys and cut-ups, lilting abrasion from Brazil, Korean guitar beauty, horny female guitar crunch, and freestyle guitar dance. (Roses are red, violets are blue/Disco goes dancing, guitars dance too.) Also, atmospheric wall-clawing hip-hop; declamation and mumbling from Kazakhstan (title, "Style is my wife - this flow-cave," from closed-caption translation); jazz; amapiano; and an actual Morricone.

*And you might be interested in this Belle and Sebastian colloquy (in response to "Stars Of Track And Field," not the track of theirs on this playlist, which is "Dog On Wheels"):

This entry was originally posted at https://koganbot.dreamwidth.org/379716.html. Comments still welcome here, there, and anywhere.

The Great American Broadcast (Otis Ferguson, Writer, Part 2)

So just a few, um, thirteen-and-a-half years ago Dave and I were having a discussion about Otis Ferguson, and I'd inserted a couple of long Otis quotes, one of which we talked about a little but the other not much at all, so here it is again:

There is no reason why the movies should stop making bad musical comedies so long as bad musical comedies make money in buckets, so the only squawk on The Great American Broadcast is that its standard ingredients for success in this field could have been shaped together for fair entertainment, as well. It is another of the Twentieth-Century-Fox series of Only Yesterday in Tinpan Alley and uses everything in the formula: the ups and downs of love in show business (radio, this time), specialty acts, songs, wisecracks, blows, background music with old tunes, and what we might call a Spitalny Finale. As usual, the story is only an excuse for introducing these baubles; but at the same time, and also as usual, the story manages to do a lot of shoving around and by the end has got half the emphasis all to itself.

At first they thought of doing an authentic history of radio as entertainment and imported a prominent studio engineer from the early days as adviser. Well, this gentleman worked up a lot of material, but this was too technical and dull, so they put a writer on with him and the two worked up one or more treatments, but these were technical and not bright enough. So apparently they said to hell with it and threw the stuff into the customary mill, with credits for four writers but nothing more from the engineer, or from history. So Jack Oakie meets John Payne in a fight and they meet Alice Faye. Jack loves Alice but she doesn’t love him. Alice hates John but soon they are making with kisses, so Jack hates John. Cesar Romero loves Alice but she marries John and nobody loves Cesar, but Jack goes to work for him. Then Alice goes to Cesar on a technical matter and John hates Alice and leaves the country. Alice and Cesar are going to Reno, off with the old and on with the new, so Jack hates Cesar and manages to get hold of John. Jack wants to help John and now loves him, so they fight. Cesar goes away and Alice and John fight. Then they kiss. Then it says the end.
--Otis Ferguson, review of The Great American Broadcast in "Not So Good," The New Republic, 9 June 1941. (The Film Criticism of Otis Ferguson, ed. Robert Wilson, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1971, pp 366–367.)

What's going on here isn't just a funny, knowing way of recounting the plot of a film. It's about how the movie brushes against what audience members bring in with them in the way of gobs and gobs of previous films and plot expectations, and what the movie does to these viewers: pulls them along, drags them along, gets a groove, bores and/or comforts them, and here we are, The End.

I think there's something special in the way Ferguson walks that border between screen and watcher — obviously all viewers and reviewers inhabit that borderland, but that doesn't mean they do it with awareness and insight. Of course, a skeptic could say, "Wait, Otis is still just fundamentally recounting the plot, not saying anything in particular about that borderland." Well, he didn't drag or dance us into analysis in the way that I might. It's more artistic or poetic, like a Hemingway: he touches that boundary, waves at the space outside the movie, the world of other movies and the rest of life, while getting on with the review.

(And Ferguson could do this pretty consistently.)

This entry was originally posted at https://koganbot.dreamwidth.org/379541.html. Comments still welcome here, there, and anywhere.
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    Ink Spots "I've Got A Bone To Pick With You"
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Tonight The Ballot Let Me Down (Resurrection and Correction)

I talked Ashton Shepherd's "Whiskey Won The Battle" out of obscurity and into Tom Ewing's World Cup Of 2008 competition coming up in March, and have already prepared my spontaneous retort for when the song gets eliminated early on:

"Tonight the ballot let me down!"

I'd pretty much forgotten Ashton till yesterday when I looked up my Nashville Scene country critics ballot for 2008:

Ashton Shepherd sounds like a caricature of country music, a twang as wide as rivers are deep, no heart left unwrenched, no string untugged, the result being uncannily gleeful and exuberant; then at the end, "Whiskey Won The Battle" — as clichéd as the rest — is a gutkick of total conviction. Country song of the year, except maybe for Willie Nelson's "The Bob Song," a cover of some old Big & Rich fanpack folderol about a guy sitting in his tree taking the piss out of everything he sees, or something, Willie turning it into utter beauty.

I've actually already used the ballot-let-me-down gag, not regarding 2008 but 2011: is a play on words on Merle Haggard's "The Bottle Let Me Down," from 1966, which Ashton Shepherd is referencing and riffing on in "Whiskey Won The Battle." "The Bottle Let Me Down" was covered by LeAnn Rimes in 2011, so when I included her in my nonsingles list I used the headline "Tonight The Ballot Let Me Down." Here we are:

Tonight The Ballot Let Me Down (February 11, 2012)

Anyhow, if you read down the commentary for that list, you'll see that the ballot's fine but that my memory let me down. Recall this from last month's philosophical disquisition:

And my favorite of Hyuna's live TV versions of "Just Follow" featuring Zico (as opposed to the EP track which featured Dok2 who wrote it) made my singles list for 2011 (iirc) but is on my Top 5 Nonsingles Of The 2010s 'cause that's where there was room for it (I've not gotten around to posting here about that list but here's the playlist).

As it happens, not only did I not recall correctly, but I'd also forgotten my lengthy spiel on the very subject of why I was putting Hyuna's live-on-television "Just Follow" on my nonsingles list rather than my singles list:

"So, why does your webrip of a live Dia Frampton performance get classified as a single, but your webrip of a live HyunA performance get classified as a nonsingle?" 'Cause Dia Frampton's "Heartless" was on The Voice, which is an American Idol–type talent show, and for those shows the live performances are what everyone cares about. The popular ones tend to have a singles-like impact. Whereas the HyunA performance was just a live TV clip designed to promote her and her album. If that clip had gotten massive YouTube views I'd probably have counted it as a single. (I chose that performance rather than the album version, 'cause (obviously) I think it's better; also, it was significantly different, having Zico rather than DOK2 in the "featuring" spot.) The real question might be why didn't I discount the live "Heartless" in favor of the quickie studio version that was available for download and actually charted in the Hot 100 and made it to something like 27 on iTunes (Wikip and Google aren't giving me a consistent number for the latter)? The answer here again is that it's the live version that everyone cares about, and the live version is significantly better. Over the years I've put six talent-show clips on my singles list, the other five being Jordin Sparks' "I Who Have Nothing,"* Brooke White's "Love Is A Battlefield,"* Adam Lambert's "Mad World," Didi Benami's "Rhiannon," and Didi Benami's "Play With Fire," all from American Idol. I chose the live version for four of those five, "Mad World" being the only exception. I don't draw any conclusion from that about live talent show performances being generally better than the corresponding studio quickies, since I don't even bother with the studio version unless the live version is extraordinary. So if a live version is extraordinary I'll listen to the studio version, but if the studio version is extraordinary I won't even hear it unless the live version is extraordinary too.

*Hmmm. Apparently I didn't list "I Who Have Nothing" at all in 2007, and, though in 2008 I did list "Love Is A Battlefield," I put it on my songs list but not on my singles list, deciding I suppose that it was not a single.

LeAnn Rimes "The Bottle Let Me Down"

Dia Frampton "Heartless"

This entry was originally posted at https://koganbot.dreamwidth.org/379183.html. Comments still welcome here, there, and anywhere.

ADMIN: A Philosophical Disquisition: What's A Single? incl. links to Chuck's Best Singles Of 2020

Here courtesy me are two new YouTube playlists:

Chuck Eddy's 11 Best Singles Of 2020

Chuck Eddy's Best Singles 2020 Numbers 12 To 33 alphabetical by artist

And Chuck's writeup of same.

And here's a provisional list of my Top 8 Nonsingles for 2020:

And here's a revised provisional list of my Top 8 Nonsingles for 2020 as of 1/1/21 that wedges in some baile funk:

As you can see, I still distinguish between singles and nonsingles, the latter being album tracks and other tracks that I decide are not singles, and someday I'm going to create a philosophical admin post where I explain what a single is. Okay, here it is: a single is something that acts like a single in some way, say the artist or record company says "here's the new single" or creates an actual video for it as opposed to a mere live video, lyric video, or audio video except those can also be considered "singles" by me if they get enough streams or if the artist etc. has already said "this is my new single" or if it's a talent show performance that a lot of people got excited about; also if an act just creates a knockoff that he/she/they posts somewhere themselves, that IS nonetheless a single because it's singular enough no matter if it only gets a few streams, but if the artist is taking the same basic track and redoing it every week for twenty-one weeks with a different singer or different mix and title (I'm thinking of you, DJ Will DF) those are not singles though one could become a single by getting a lot of streams; but a track is a single if it's a radio hit or streaming hit no matter what the artist or label intended, also is a hit if some big enough communities act like it's a hit or make it a big subject of attention, so Sault's "Wildfires" is a single, as back in the day were Jay-Z's "Takeover" and the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil"** and Led Zeppelin's full-length "Stairway To Heaven" even though there'd been no physical single or official designation as a "single." For what it's worth, I've got Semi Tee's "Scooter" on my Nonsingles list (so far), though Chuck's got it on his singles list.* And my favorite of Hyuna's live TV versions of "Just Follow" featuring Zico (as opposed to the EP track which featured Dok2 who wrote it) made my singles list for 2011 (iirc) but is on my Top 5 Nonsingles Of The 2010s 'cause that's where there was room for it (I've not gotten around to posting here about that list but here's the playlist). Btw Qri, the member of T-ara I never paid attention to, managed to get two solo shots on that list!

*[UPDATE: Chuck tells me that "Scooter" is on neither of Semi Tee's albums and was uploaded as a stand-alone single on Rhapsody/Napster in May of 2020. That does seem definitive, though there’s no vid and not a lot of streams; approx 50,000 on Spotify and fewer on YouTube. But several people have posted videos of themselves dancing to it, PLUS there’s a Chipmunks version, which are both single-y type behavior on the song’s behalf; so I guess I'll move it over to my singles list. I mean, a Chipmunks version would seem to decide the question once and for all in favor of its being a single! (Interestingly, it was uploaded all the way back last January.)]

**[CORRECTION: Damn, I should've checked this. There actually was a physical single for "Sympathy For The Devil," though I can't tell from Wikip if it was ever released in America: the song got no AM airplay or chart action; it was played to death on FM back when FM still had few listeners. I wouldn't be surprised if all the sales went to the album. But anyway, there was no physical single for "Gimme Shelter" and I'd sure count that as a single.]

Oh, and I haven't decided what to do about TikTok which I haven't paid much attention to though if something's a hit there it's surely a single but then you have to figure out which version to link as the "single," but anyway I've got on my 2020 singles list someone's YouTube compilation of a bunch of TikTok kids lipsyncing the same fragment from Life Without Buildings, because linking them all together creates an amazing repetitive track in itself, sorta like Baauer's great "Harlem Shake." (Also, check out the latest version of my Ongoing Singles list for 2020; new additions towards the bottom which I'll eventually distribute upward.)

This entry was originally posted at https://koganbot.dreamwidth.org/378935.html. Comments still welcome here, there, and anywhere.