Eminem was once a compelling performer.
By MARK BROWN
There's an unintentional bit of hilarity in Eminem's new DVD chronicling the 2002 version of the Anger Management Tour.
It's got the concert itself, filmed in front of an adoring hometown crowd in Detroit. It also has the standard "behind the scenes" look at the tour -- a documentary that usually finds the artist doing interviews and various staged "unguarded" moments to show that, hey, he's just a regular guy.
Eminem, however, generally doesn't do interviews -- not even for his own DVD. So he hired a film crew to follow him around so that he could duck from the camera, run from it, cover it with a cloth, put his hand over the lens, flip it off and not say anything of note for the duration of the documentary. In effect, he hired his own paparazzi, from which he spends his days fleeing.
This is what happens in all areas of music, but rap in particular: However authentic it may be at the beginning, if you have success, it's much harder to pretend you're the tough street kid. When it's not showing a recalcitrant Eminem, the documentary does reveal how padded, protected and coddled his existence has become.
He once was a mesmerizing performer; his work with Elton John doing "Stan" on the Grammys several years ago remains one of the most compelling live performances in TV history.
Those days, however, are history themselves.
Shortly after Ashlee Simpson was outed last year for lip-synching on "Saturday Night Live," Eminem ran into exactly the same debacle. Sharp-eyed fans replayed his "SNL" performance and noted how his rap went on long after he'd taken the microphone away from his mouth.
The new live DVD is a hit-and-miss affair -- gorgeously filmed and incredibly crisp, capturing some great moments, but ruining others.
"Cleaning Out My Closet" is a brilliant diatribe against his mother from "The Eminem Show" album, capturing the pain of growing up in a household that sounds like a nightmare. In the concert video, however, he smashes whatever subtlety, emotion and nuance it had by making the crowd chant along and dissing his mother by name.
Same old song
He returns to the same tired themes in his latest CD, "Encore," which could just as easily be titled "Rehash." Those evil women just won't leave him alone. This time the most bile is saved for his ex-wife (whom he has savaged numerous times in the past, including fantasizing about murdering her in "'97 Bonnie & amp; Clyde" off his debut album, "The Slim Shady LP").
This time around it's not quite so harsh -- rather than murder, the song is simply called "Puke," where he details exactly what he wants to do when he thinks of her.
Instead of being in parking-lot altercations, Eminem now keeps his gunplay limited to skits on the new album.
Like Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and other once-menacing rappers, Eminem's success is making him mainstream, soft and cartoonish.
That may explain why he's repeating himself so much these days.