At what point would someone maybe say to Marshall Mathers, “Hey, about this lyric, do you think, you know, maybe not?”
Eminem, 47, is used to causing controversy in a career which has seen him riff off everything from 9/11 to Britney Spears, but this may be his most tasteless track yet.
On his new album, Music to Be Murdered By, which dropped without warning Thursday night, he makes light of the horrific bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, nearly three years ago, in which 22 people were killed.
The song, “Unaccommodating,” features Eminem rapping at a blistering speed about how awesome he is. It has a chorus in which he compares himself to Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and John Wayne Gacy while referencing the murder of JonBenet Ramsay.
Here comes Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini
Where’s Osama been? I been laden lately
Look at how I’m behaving, they want me gone away
They wanna JonBenet me (Fuck you),
I’m unaccommodating Man, I don’t see why they hate me
I’m a clown like John Wayne Gacy
While such comparisons have become de rigueur for Eminem and his contemporaries, jokily referencing mass murder at music concerts definitely isn’t, so if Eminem’s aim was to cause outrage then he definitely succeeds when he raps:
I’m contemplating yelling ‘Bombs away’ on the game
Like I’m outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting.
An army of online rap annotaters have been busily trying to explain the line, with the consensus being that Eminem is using the comparison to describe the impact of his music on the industry (“the game”), drawing a parallel between his releases and, er, suicide bombs.
The mother of Martyn Hett—who died at Manchester Arena at the age of 29—accused the rapper of having “no sense.”
Plenty of other people also criticized the Detroit pop star.
Supporters of Eminem have defended him, and argue the inclusion of the line while controversial is not disrespectful or mocking the victims of the tragedy.
Numerous also are those who have noted that Grande defended her then-fiancé Pete Davidson when he made a joke about the attack.
During a show at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, five months after the attack on May 22, 2017, Davidson said Grande was bigger than Britney Spears because “Britney Spears didn’t have a terrorist attack at her concert.”
Grande said that she “didn’t find it funny,” but added, “It was months ago and his intention wasn’t/ is never malicious, but it was unfortunate.”