Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Song #187 of 9999 - Cleanin' Out My Closet by Eminem

Song #187 of 9999

Title: Cleanin' Out My Closet
Artist: Eminem
Year: 2002
Album: The Eminem Show

By 2002, it was clear that Eminem's success was not a fluke. 2000's Marshall Mathers LP had established him as a serious presence in the hip-hop world, showing he could produce high quality material consistently over the course of several albums. The Eminem Show continued the trend, selling almost 8 million records and winning the Grammy for Best Rap Album, his third such award in four years.

"Cleanin' Out My Closet" works for so many reasons. First, Eminem's rapping skill is undeniable. His use of syncopation, especially related to inner rhymes, works so well at these slower tempos. Second, the backing tracks are richly layered, with minor key riffs on electric piano and guitar minding their manners and staying out of each other's way. The layered guitars that accompany the chorus are distorted but used almost symphonically as if they were string instruments. Speaking of the chorus, a major reason the song works is that it's structured like a pop song, with verses and a catchy chorus. Eminem himself takes on the singing chore which is wise under the circumstances: it's an autobiographical song and you don't want Dido popping up to sing the chorus. Even with his limited singing chops, this is a very smart move.

The lyrics are amazing. Yes, they're dripping with profanity (and more sensitive souls can pick up a "clean" version —that completely destroys the flow), but they're also filled with the kind of raw human emotion most people are incapable of ever expressing, let alone as part of a dramatic rhythmic poem. Not only is Eminem capable of organizing these thoughts in poetic form, he also understands how to heighten the drama within the context of a five-minute pop song, adding more and more vitriol to the story with each passing verse. By the time he reaches the last verse, the rhymes and alliteration are snapping and popping on the level of a Buddy Rich solo. He's that good.

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