WARNING: If, by some amazing circumstance, you have never heard “Kim” before, just know that it is completely unsafe for work, frankly psychotic, and brutal from beginning to end. Not for the faint-hearted.
Eminem gives one of the great … what do I call it? vocal performances? … of all time in his blistering screed named after his wife, “Kim”. Whatever you call it, I just see it as an acting performance, period, and a great one.
Eminem creates the fantasy and then throws himself into all aspects of such a moment – not just anger and violence (which would make him look tough), but other emotional elements, grief and insecurity. “Kim” feels, actually, like this is how such events often go.
Listen to how he screams, “You can’t run from me, Kim!” A million things are going on in that moment. But more than the emotion, what I feel is his objective. All good acting has an objective as its engine. That’s why that moment is so bone-chilling. Not because of what he is feeling, but because of what his OBJECTIVE is.
Other people writing/performing such a song would have chosen to highlight only the rage, because then you seem like a tough guy, you’re getting imaginary revenge, you’re really “showing her”, aren’t you.
Eminem doesn’t go that route. He sobs, he pleads, he gets himself together again, he shows a truly pathetic side (“You think I’m ugly, don’t you?”), he feverishly reminisces, trying to remember the good times, and then snaps again. The rage hides a panic-filled sorrow.
And in the midst of the emotional storm, he keeps it specific: the way he yells at the other car on the highway is completely different from how he yells at his wife. What he does with his voice there is perfect road rage. Again: this is how such things often go … in real life. He also plays his wife Kim in the song, screaming for her life, which gives the entire performance a psychotic glee that is difficult to escape. He gets off on pretending to be Kim, scared for her life. There’s no getting around that fact.
There’s never been anything else like this performance.
I think what people mostly remember about “Kim” is the rage (and how “inappropriate” the song is in the first place. Whatever.). But there’s a hell of a lot more going on there than the rage! People hate this song, they call it misogynistic, blah blah, oh please. Don’t even start with me. Or you can start with me, but you better have something more substantial to say than “It’s a misogynistic song.” The song is a fantasy. Fantasies aren’t unicorns and rainbows. Fantasies are often ugly and pathetic, which is why we hesitate to share them, because we will be judged for our inner lives, our private dreamspaces. Most art involves the artist attempting to live out a personal fantasy. And if you’re GONNA live out a fantasy, you might as well REALLY live it, in all its complexity, like MM does here. Who wants to fantasize about sobbing “I love you, God, I love you …” to your screaming wife as you careen your car along a highway? Why would you willingly put yourself into a position where you imagine yourself in such beyond-the-pale circumstances and then decide to share it? Well, that’s art. That’s what it’s about. This is not just a wish-fulfillment song. If it were only about wish-fulfillment it would involve a little bit more self-righteousness, a little bit more “Watch how I show this bitch who’s boss.”
Eminem isn’t interested in that. He is interested in how this would go IF he were to actually do it. Eminem dives into the “magic if” that Stanislavsky talked about as being the key to good acting.
I can’t listen to “Kim” that much because it insists that I go where he goes. And sometimes I just don’t feel like it, Marshall, okay?
“Kim” is a work of art.