“Lose Yourself,” a song by Eminem for the 2002 movie 8 Mile, in which he starred, is recognizable to the point of parody. The gritty, churning guitar riff. The icy piano and orchestral swells. The ominous phrase “mom’s spaghetti.” Although Eminem’s character in the film, B-Rabbit, defeats his hip-hop nemeses with a series of devastating freestyles, this is the signature track of the story — and so it lives on as the sound cue for overcoming any circumstance to triumph.
Is that why Democrats are so into it? A day before voters went to the polls, the Biden campaign got an official endorsement from Eminem in the form of a TV ad scored to “Lose Yourself” (featuring footage from a rally in his home state of Michigan, a critical battleground). This week, Barack Obama dropped a playlist to accompany the release of his new book, citing the track as a “memorable” one in his political career. Apparently he listened to it before his 2016 DNC speech, as well as before his first debate with the late Sen. John McCain in the 2008 race.
The Obama-Biden hype for “Lose Yourself” bookended a year that began with Eminem belatedly performing it at the Academy Awards — 17 years after it won the Oscar for Best Original Song (the first hip-hop nominee to do so), in a ceremony he didn’t even attend. The Hollywood elite, the Democratic Party… liberals couldn’t get enough of this jam in 2020. What are they trying to tell us? That they’re the underdogs who, with persistence, will beat the odds?
It’s a fine strategy, I suppose, and maybe canonizing the rapper’s Detroit anthem did help turn out the vote in Michigan. But the truth is, from 2008 till now, all these elections have been the Democrats’ to lose — and more than once, they’ve choked like someone who pregamed the showdown by nervously vomiting in the backstage toilet. The conceit of having “One shot / Or one opportunity” and making the most of it rather than “let it slip” is antithetical to the party as we know it, which has long excelled at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If anything, going hard into “Lose Yourself” feels like tempting fate: It’s mostly about a string of failures.
Also, “lose” is right there in the title, lol — and establishment Dems aren’t the type to lose themselves “in the music, the moment,” as Eminem advises. Instead they’re looking for input from people who aren’t actually on their side (see: the Lincoln Project). Except, by overlooking some of the song’s messaging to get amped by its flinty pulse and ascendant flow like a thirtysomething white dude running a 5K for charity, they are losing themselves in the music as intended. I gotta tell you, as someone who often listened to The Slim Shady LP in the basement with his middle school friends so that parents couldn’t hear the lyrics, I never expected Eminem to be the soundtrack of normie liberalism.
Now put Method Man in your cabinet, Joe.