Monday, September 6, 2010

Eminem, Rihanna, and the soap opera that won't quit

Soap operas are criticized as completely uncool daytime shows watched by aging housewives, but the truth is that soap operas are everywhere. Sometimes they're labeled as such, if you recall the success of nighttime shows such as Dallas and Dynasty in the 1980s. But sometimes things aren't called soap operas, even though they are. If you consider a soap opera as a continuing storyline with overly dramatic overtones, then professional wrestling certainly qualifies.

And so does rap music.

Because the personalities in rap music are so strong, and because the rhymes are often autobiographical, you can consider rap music to be a soap opera of sorts, with some beats (rather than organs) in the musical background. This person's been arrested, this person's been shot, these two people have reconciled - the story weaves on and on, played by your local urban contemporary radio station several times a day.

Of course, there's a question as to whether the autobiographical storylines in rap songs are truly autobiographical, or whether they're exaggerated for effect. I don't know any of the rappers personally - for all I know Calvin Broadus is a practicing Mormon who doesn't touch gin & juice or smoke anything. But whether the stories are true or not, they certainly seem to be true, and therefore qualify as dramatic (or "overly dramatic" depending upon how you look at things).

And at times they can be unsettling.

Eminem is, in my view, an unquestionably talented individual, a talented rapper, and to all appearances a troubled soul. His lyrics are gritty, violent, and full of alternating bravado and self-doubt, often with a little twist (or a big twist) in the end.

Take his current song, "Love the Way You Lie." If you read the lyrics as Directlyrics rendered them, you see these conflicted lyrics of a man in a love-hate relationship. Finally, the lyrics conclude as follows (with expletive deleted):

I'm tired of the games
I just want her back
I know I'm a liar
If she ever tries to [expletive deleted] leave again
I'mma tie her to the bed
And set the house on fire

But the part that got to me about the song wasn't what Eminem said. Throughout the song, a female singer has been repeating a particular chorus, and after Eminem raps about tying a woman to a bed and setting fire to a house, the chorus comes up one more time:

Just gonna stand there
And watch me burn
But that's alright
Because I like
The way it hurts
Just gonna stand there
And hear me cry
But that's alright
Because I love
The way you lie

And as you're absorbing the fact that the "watch me burn" lyric is apparently to be taken literally, you begin to think about who is singing that lyric.


You see, while Eminem has been publicly playing out his soap opera about his family, Rihanna has been playing out a soap opera of her own. Perhaps she wasn't tied to a bed or set on fire, but we do know that she was on the receiving end of abuse.

The whole thing makes Perez Hilton uncomfortable:

We still hate its message and the lyrics, but we love the song and we love the video too!

Oh yeah, the video:

Sadly - and I personally WON'T blame Eminem and Rihanna if this happens - there are probably some people who, rather than viewing the video as a cautionary tale, will instead decide to emulate it.

Your thoughts?
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