Wednesday, November 23, 2011

21. Eminem, "Kim" (2000)


A strange and remarkable hybrid of pop song (you can sing with the chorus!) and relentless radio-theater horror movie, this is the best example I know of Eminem's ability to make his own interior life vivid and disturbingly recognizable enough that it literally sends people shrieking from the room when it plays—well, maybe figuratively. "Kim" is so stunning in its details that, simply hearing it, one feels one has actually witnessed or even been party to a crime. It's what makes it challenging to enter into and engage with and judge—it took me weeks just to get all the way through it. Now I find it riveting, powerful, and quite moving, horrific in its details but a picture of a person so real, in so much pain, that it's impossible to deny. Things like this, let's call them "transgressive," have all kinds of ways to go wrong. Too often they feel merely like someone stretching limits for the sake of stretching limits, pushing beyond believability into easy outrage or, worse, jokey mocking excess, and ultimately they come off like a cheat. "Kim," by contrast, pulls in the other direction, as if Eminem knew well how far out he was going to have to go with this, took a deep breath, and, for the six minutes it lasts, threw himself into the project of blasting it out of himself once and for all with everything he had. It's poised, sharp, wicked, funny, thrilling, mortifying, and terribly sad all at once. It's just remarkable. Sheila O'Malley did way more justice to it at her blog earlier this year than I am even coming close to, so I will take the easy way out and quit trying now and just point to her piece.

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