Rap superstar Eminem apparently wrote a song, Bagpipes From Baghdad, that made it to the final cut of his new album, Relapse, which dropped in the USA May 19. Bagpipes From Baghdad basically takes R&B songstress and superstar Mariah Carey to task for ending their (apparently nonexistent) relationship; the rapper, whose real name is Marshall Mathers III, skewers Carey and her husband, actor/DJ/director Nick Cannon, over an Indian/Middle Eastern-inspired musical hook. This, of course, dates back to a few years ago when Eminem told the world he has a six-month relationship with the star, which she has always flat-out denied.
Well, Carey finally fires back. Musically, anyway.
Her new single, Obsessed, has been served to radio in the United States, landing significant radio airplay ahead of her twelfth studio album, Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel, which drops August 25. Obsessed pulls no punches: the superstar calls Eminem out, saying he’s “obsessed” and “delusional.” She implies he’s lost his mind, hinting that it must be the “weed” and “e(cstasy).” She also reminds Eminem who is a bigger star. She’s a corporation; he’s a mom-and-pop store. She’s the press conference; he’s a conversation. (While I don’t care much for Mariah as a lyricist, I have to admit I personally liked those lines; they’re funny.)
I basically have four comments on this entire turn of events, which, quite frankly, shouldn’t even be an event because this fight is so dated. Nevertheless, the cynic in me just feels the need to comment that:
1. Obsessed is, in itself, historic for Carey. The overwhelming topic of Mariah’s track record of hits has been about love in its various forms. (As is probably 90% of all songs that have played on pop radio.) She’s never released any singles that come this close to being explicitly autobiographical, and for a carrier single, this is arguably the bravest decision she’s made. (The cynical side of me says she may be releasing it to capitalize on the freshness of Bagpipes From Baghdad, but that doesn’t negate the relevance of Obsessed.) However, the point may very well be moot, because…
2. Obsessed isn’t too big a hit. Frankly, I can’t see people singing Obsessed. Production-wise, it meets all the requirements of a current radio hit, complete with vocoder effects and up-to-date production; vocally, it’s Mariah at her most comfortable and laidback. But if you take that melody and pop a different set of lyrics on it, you have a tepid mid-tempo snoozer of a song. I’ve listened to it several times, and I can’t get the melody. I can’t figure out the chorus. I may be old, but Obsessed ain’t no Touch My Body, and that’s saying a lot. Obsessed owes its mileage to the controversy, which tells me that…
3. Eminem and Carey should just take a lie detector test. Talk about making mountains out of molehills. If both celebrities really want to lay this issue to rest, they should just take the test and we’ll see who’s telling the truth. Thing is, they’re not going to, because…
4. Both Eminem and Carey need Obsessed. Obsessed is a calculated hit. The classy thing to do when someone disses you is to be quiet; deep waters stay still and let the shallow water babble on. Mariah may not be deep water, but she probably smelled an opportunity and took it. Just like when she mentioned YouTube in Touch My Body, Carey knows she stands to stay relevant when she employs current trends and uses it in her music. She has been in the music business for almost 20 years; staying relevant is now the most important thing for her. (If Obsessed reaches #1 on the Hot 100, she will collect her 19th #1, placing her firmly as the solo artist with most #1 hits, and putting her one short of the Beatles’ overall record of 20. She will also tie Elvis Presley for most weeks at #1, with 80 weeks; she’s currently at 79.)
Meanwhile, Eminem’s Relapse has been a relative failure, in comparison to his previous studio albums. Bagpipes Over Baghdad offers nothing new for the rapper who has been known to attack several people in his music, including his mother, his wife, and several celebrities, including fellow rappers. The controversy afforded him can result in much-needed media mileage, which he probably will get if Obsessed does manage to become a hit. Thanks to Bagpipes Over Baghdad, he actually and finally got a response out of Mariah that people can react to; it’s a battle of two celebrities trying to remain in the news, with the American public serving as arbiters and judges.
Will the public reward them with commercial success for Obsessed, or will they say – as I’m thinking – so what? At this point, the issue at hand is not whether or not Mariah has “schooled” Eminem; it’s whether or not the public is as equally obessed with them as they are with each other. We’ll see in a few weeks.