In a Nutshell
In a Nutshell
At one time or another, every one of us has been the underdog, facing a challenge that seems insurmountable, given a task we're not expected to complete, or even racked with self-doubt when we just might succeed. Eminem's "Lose Yourself" is a dramatic, catchy, and inspirational song that conjures a take-no-prisoners attitude on seizing the moment. On the surface, the song is a plot summary of Eminem's movie, 8 Mile, and a meditation on his own journey to success, but the hypnotic chorus, directed at the listener, is a pump-you-up pep talk to get you out of that underdog mindset and ready for the gym, school, or work, with Eminem serving as your motivational speaker.
When “Lose Yourself” was released in 2002, U.S. audiences were ready for a song about standing up and taking charge of their own destinies. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were still fresh in the minds of Americans; the War on Terror, until then a vague notion, was taking shape with the invasion of Afghanistan and a Congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq War; and the economy was reeling from a recession that was heavily shaped by the crash of the dot-com boom.
The aim of "Lose Yourself" is personal motivation, though, not a call for global change. Maybe you queue up "Lose Yourself" on your iTunes playlist when you're studying for the SATs, or preparing for a big date, or worried about quantitative easing of U.S. currency by the Federal Reserve. It doesn’t matter; once that guitar begins to strum, the beat kicks in, and Em begins his monologue, it's enough to start bobbing your head and centering yourself, if only momentarily, and forget that you're surrounded by uncertainty.
About the Song
|Album||8 Mile soundtrack|
|Label||Shady Aftermath Interscope Records|
|Writer(s)||Eminem, Luis Resto, Jeff Bass|
|Producer(s)||Eminem, Luis Resto, Jeff Bass|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
With "Lose Yourself," Eminem tapped into the universal theme of adversity and confrontation. At the movies, we see the underdog's challenges building, a final confrontation identified; throw in a few montages of preparation, and the movie ends with a cathartic resolution where we see the underdog deliver the knockout punch, toss the ring into the volcano, press the button to detonate the super villain, or save the universe and prove the naysayers wrong.
But unless you're reading a romance novel, literary underdogs don't always get the happy Hollywood ending. Movies often make us say, "Wow, is he gonna get make it?" and somehow, the underdog finds a way. Literature also ratchets up the tension and opposition, but when we ask the same question, the answer isn’t always as clear. Just ask Hamlet
, or Bigger Thomas
But "Lose Yourself" isn't just about being the underdog; it's also about the anti-hero, the protagonist of the story who is far from perfect, whose flaws are often the key to success or his own enlightenment. So while Em is telling us to not let the moment slip by, he also clues us in that his station in life is largely due to his own making, his anxiety, and previous rejections. From this, Em seems a lot more like Holden Caulfield
, narrating his frustrations with the world and all the phonies in it (from a mental hospital), or Randall McMurphy
, a pathological button-pusher who sacrifices himself just to rebel against the system. (Also from a mental hospital. Are you seeing a pattern here?) There are certainly a fair number of literary protagonists who do get a happy ending—just ask Edmond Dantès (http://www.shmoop.com/count-of-monte-cristo/)—, but those often involve tremendously difficult journeys and possibly jail time.
On the Charts
"Lose Yourself" is Eminem's most commercially successful song since launching his mainstream career in 1999. Released in October 2002 as the inspirational anthem for his semi-autobiographical movie, 8 Mile, the song spent 12 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It later earned Eminem two Grammys (Best Male Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song), as well as the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Having been mired in controversies over the lyrical content of his first two albums, "Lose Yourself" represented the peak of Eminem's mainstream appeal. "Lose Yourself" has gone on to rank at #93 on the American Film Institute's "100 Years … 100 Songs" list of the best songs in American cinema, and it was ranked by Billboard as the 28th most successful song of the 2000s. The song is also #166 on Rolling Stone’s
list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the highest ranking for a rap song. Not bad for a song quickly scribbled on a piece of paper, recorded in a trailer on a movie set, and finished all in one take.