Another track from Eminem‘s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (out November 5) has hit the Web. And like “Love Game” before it, the Nate Ruess-featuring “Headlights” is entirely surprising. Not just for the musical tone — it’s probably the brightest, most languid arrangement Em’s ever rapped over — but because the whole thing is an apology to his mother, whom he has lyrically eviscerated over the years.
The song presents a side of Slim Shady we’ve never seen before — he’s been earnest before, but he’s never been this regretful and apologetic. The rapper laments, “My mom probably got it the worst, the brunt of it / But as stubborn as we are, did I take it too far / ‘Cleanin’ Out My Closet’ and all them other songs / But regardless I don’t hate you, ’cause mom, you’re still beautiful to me, ’cause you’re my mom.” Later, between the fun. front man’s hooks and heavily vocodered, Bon Iver-esque backing track, he strikes a particularly mournful tone: “And I’m way too old to cry, this shit is painful, though / But ma, I forgive you, so does Nathan, yo / All you did, all you said, you did your best to raise us both…I love you Debbie Mathers, oh what a tangled web we have.”
Hear the affecting song below.
Em’s entire self-narrative, through the use of caricatures of Debbie and Kim, has framed him as the fuck-up raised by a fuck-up who ended up marrying a fuck-up, a nihilistic cycle from which he extracted equal amounts of humor and terror. This song won’t entirely recontextualize that material, but all those pill-popping cheap shots over the years will at least have an added layer of cognitive dissonance from now on.