WARNING: If, by some amazing circumstance, you have never heard “Kim” before, just know that it is tough stuff, 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. A man throwing himself into the fantasy of the moment, ALL aspects of such a moment, not just anger and violence, but other emotional elements. It feels, actually, like this is how such events often go.
It is bone-chilling. It is also a love song.
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 your 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. It’s incredible. 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: it is a perfect example of wild road rage. He is in the zone of the fantasy. He also plays his wife Kim in the song, screaming for her life.
There’s never been anything else like it.
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. People hate this song, they call it misogynistic, blah blah, oh please. Don’t even start with me. Or 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. They are often ugly and pathetic, which is why we hesitate to share them, because we will be judged for our inner lives, our private fantasies. 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 and reality, 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 which would probably 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. That “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.