I've been listening to Eminem's new album Recovery for a few weeks now, and I think it's amazing. Same old Em, but a little ... grown up, I guess? Not on every song, mind you, but there's definitely a big difference between the tracks on this record and the in-your-face Slim Shady stuff of years past.
One of the standout songs is "Love the Way You Lie," a gritty piece about an abusive relationship. The song features Rihanna as a guest vocalist, and before I saw the video I didn't even consider the personal side of her involvement. I just figured Eminem chose someone with a great voice to provide the extra vocals, but when I watched the video -- which has become an instant phenomenon, by the way, pulling in over 26 million views in six days -- I was like, ohhhh. Right.
If you've listened to Eminem's stuff at all, you know he's had what you might call a contentious relationship with his daughter's mother, on-again, off-again longtime love Kim Mathers. They've been married twice, divorced twice, he pistol-whipped a guy he thought she was cheating on him with, she attempted suicide after hearing him perform the song "Kim" -- an upsetting, out-of-control track about killing her -- on stage. If their relationship had a Facebook status, it would surely be "It's Complicated."
So "Love the Way You Lie" makes total sense for Eminem, and when you consider what happened between Rihanna and Chris Brown (who could forget those awful photos?), the reason for Rihanna's presence seems clear too.
However, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about her role. The video shows this couple (played by Dominic Monaghan and Megan Fox) fighting, making up, breaking things, and generally freaking out on each other, while the camera keeps coming back to Rihanna, singing the chorus in front of a burning house. Her facial expression is by turns heartfelt, angry, and lip-curling sensuous -- I mean, she looks into it, you know?
My takeaway is that she truly understands what it's like to be in a broken, dysfunctional, effed-up relationship ... but there's no closure to it. No sense that she's saying this is an unacceptable way to live. That no one should settle for a lover who rearranges your face. I feel like she's lending her sex appeal and unhappy public storyline to this song in a way that doesn't help anyone else who may find themselves in a similar station.
Then again, maybe I'm reading a little too much into a music video that's clearly designed to stir up controversy and sell more records. Also, I fully acknowledge that I don't have the same expectations for Eminem, who's been singing about his own abusive relationship for years.
What do you think about Rihanna's role in this video?
Image via Eminem.com