Jewish World Review Feb. 16, 2001 / 23 Shevat, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE announcement was a shock in certain quarters: That pillar of popdom, Elton John--sorry, Sir Elton John--would be joining Eminem, reigning rap outrage de jour, at the Grammy Awards for what may loosely be described as a duet. Think of it. Rock's mainstream meets rap's current envelop-pusher. Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist. And, even more significant, open homosexual meets avowed homophobe.
Not since the Hitler-Stalin Pact has a rapprochement so shocked the acolytes of political correctness. To them, this was no publicity stunt; this was betrayal. "It's hurtful. It's embarrassing,"said Scott Seomin, who holds the title of "entertainment media director" for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Even more hurtful and embarrassing to Mr. Seomin is the fact that his organization just last year--oh, silver-footed irony--saluted Elton John for a lifetime of "fighting homophobia" As Mr. Seomin told the Los Angeles Times, "Elton's actions now totally violate the spirit of this award" As for the Grammy Awards themselves, Mr. Seomin condemned them as 'an accomplice' to Eminem's musical hate crimes"
Musical hate crimes--that's a new one. But for once the hyperbolic left is onto something. Only those who lead a charmed life wouldn't know that the 28-year-old Eminem, a.k.a. Marshall Mathers, has amassed a sizable fortune by setting his psychotic episodes to the synthetic discipline of a back beat. Murder, rape and the pain of it all are his three-headed muse, with the most ink-attracting feature of his maunderings being the sexual orientation of some of his subjects (or objects). He says unprintable things about homosexuals, unprintable things about his mother (she's suing for libel), unprintable things about his wife, and unprintable things assorted women, children and boy pop groups.
This makes him a big, bad man to his fans, not to mention himself. To the rest of us, the very fact of Eminem, four decades in the making, should be practically ho-hum. To quote Mike Rubin of Spin magazine, "There are dozens, if not hundreds, of homophobic and misogynistic pop performers" out there. Eminem may be richer or more famous than his fellows, but in the end he's only the latest manifestation of a culture that, to borrow Daniel Patrick Moynihan's phrase, doesn't just define deviancy down, but defines deviancy, period.
So why must those among us who just want to play our Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald CDs be bothered? The answer takes us to the brink of the truly dark side of the Eminem phenomenon. The critics, as Salon.com's Eric Boehlert has noted, have given him a pass. Why? The raw, unconscionable fact is--warning: parental discretion is advised--the gatekeepers of taste would actually have us believe that Eminem is an "artist."
"Arguably the most compelling figure in all of pop music,"said Newsweek. While the Los Angeles Times' Robert Hilburn, the big meanie, may have taken the draconian measure of docking half a star from a four-star review of "The Marshall Mathers LP"because of "the recurring homophobia,"the New York Times' Neil Strauss went on to name it the top album of 2000. "The most reprehensible album of the year also happens to be the best,"Mr. Strauss wrote in a year-end rundown of pop music somewhat tremulously subtitled, "Raps of Persecution, Songs of Alienation" Entertainment Weekly went farther still, dubbing it "the first great pop record of the 21st century." "Some [blank] asked for my autograph,"Eminem raps. "I called her a [blank], spit beer in her face and/laughed/I drop bombs like I was in Vietnam/All [blanks] are [blanks], even my [blank] mom" Compelling enough for you? It is for some people. "Conservatives need to groove too,"wrote Roderick Boyd in the venerable National Review Online (if a website may be venerable). "I am hard pressed to recall an album that is so utterly, gleefully danceable, so self-indulgently dripping with guilty pleasures, as this one" The Washington Post's Alona Wartofsky was slightly more circumspect. The album "may"--may--"be among the most objectionable albums ever to receive mainstream release,"she wrote, "but that does not make it a bad album" No? Then maybe the drivel-minded stupidity of it all does.
But I hurl invective. The point is not that Eminem is an obscenely bad
musical joke, or even that he's widely considered objectionable. That's
background noise. None of the handwringing, the GLAAD-handing, or even a
dramatic reading by Charleton Heston could ever amount to more than the
equivalent of a half-star demerit for Eminem. After all, anyone who sells
close to 2 million albums in seven days is Mr. Mainstream, as much a natural
expression of the rock 'n' roll revolution as Elton John is. And that's why,
come Wednesday night, these two superstars will be making beautiful music
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