First Hit #1: November 9, 2002
Eminem began his career as a kind of violent novelty act, pushing a kind of pitch black comedy that was the delight of 14 year old boys everywhere. He still does that, but as his career has stretched on it seems as though that inclination towards offense and dark jokes is a twisted expression of his insecurities. When he wants to straight up confront those insecurities, albeit through the filter of a film that even my mom likes, we get Lose Yourself, which uses a driving Led Zeppelin-esque riff (I’m not entirely sure it’s a direct sample, but it certainly recalls Kashmir) as the base to put all of his insecurities on the table, naked and exposed. Like everything Eminem does, he creates distance, but here he’s only creating distance by context. Yes, it’s about a film, which isn’t technically about Eminem, just a guy who is exactly like Eminem. The song has that filter, but he goes far beyond the film itself to outline his own fears, his own relationship with fame, and his own desperate need to stay famous. Lose Yourself defines Eminem not just because it’s his biggest hit, but because it explains him, indirectly or not. His own objectionable qualities are confronted by the music, since it’s clear that he’s doing whatever it takes to get noticed, and that attention is his motivation for his music – he needs it, both to escape his past and escape himself, the insecurities that define him fade away when he’s entertaining. It’s a surprisingly tender reflection on the relationship between pain and success from a man who made his name plotting to impregnate the Spice Girls.
It also has an inspiring chorus which appeals to a varied audience. It’s a hip hop song my mom can get behind, even if she doesn’t like the swearing.