He was written off by most of the music industry. But in 2010, Eminem came back in a major way.
After establishing himself at the top of the hip-hop heap with music that tapped into the psyche of the day, Eminem seemed to miss a turn on the pop culture highway. His earlier work relied on skits (“My Band”, “The Real Slim Shady”, “Without Me”) and shock (“Cleaning Out My Closet”). While those songs fit in well with the cultural tone a decade ago, it sounds blatantly out of place today.
Eminem peaked with two albums that sold nearly 40 million copies. The Marshall Mathers LP in 2000 and The Eminem Show in 2002 both sold 19 million copies worldwide. Sales fell off sharply for 2004′s Encore with 11 million sold, and then plummeted in 2009 as Relapse moved a mere 3 million units.
The comeback began with Eminem making successful guest appearances on two massive hit songs from 2009, “Airplanes” by B.o.B. featuring Hayley Williams and “Love The Way You Lie” by Rihanna. Those two songs brought Eminem back to the forefront, setting the table for the release of Recovery in 2010.
Recovery shows off a new, honest, and more real Eminem, with songs about insecurity, fear, and love. The songs have a human quality that fans have embraced in today’s age of honesty. Thanks to Recovery, Eminem led the industry in 2010. In July of 2011, Recovery became the first album to surpass 1 million (legal and paid) downloads.
The world is definitely different now than it was in 2000 when Marshall made his mark.
We are more connected than ever before. Social media has made more, well, social. Celebrities are more exposed than ever before, finding it difficult to hide behind their fame. We indeed are living in an age of honesty.
Roy Williams created a powerful presentation called “The 40 Year Pendulum” that illustrates how North American culture shifts from idealist values (self) to civic values (community). This shift has happened, over and over, with stunning regularity, every 40 years. According to Roy, we are heading into the peak of a civic cycle. Instead of James Bond, we celebrate Jason Bourne. Instead of going to see Wall Street we go to see The Inconvenient Truth.
Based on the 40 year pendulum concept, it makes sense that Eminem’s early music would come across as self-important and bloated in today’s environment. It makes total sense that his comeback music is more honest, real, and connected than his previous work.
How can your brand learn from Eminem and the 40-year pendulum?
You are part of a generation that rejects hype and embraces honesty.
You no longer need to get it done alone. We can accomplish greatness as a community.
Scripted stuff is passe. Today we want to watch reality unfold before us.
Selling your crap to me won’t work. Sharing your vision with me will. It is about what you stand for, not what you sell.
If you stop and pay attention to the cultural shift going on around you, your brand stands to benefit. If you listen to the changes, you might find yourself like Eminem, once again on a tremendous wave of success.
The honesty that drove Eminem’s comeback is the central tenent of Chapter Nineteen of Brand Like a Rock Star. You can pre-order your copy here, and then download Chapter One here for free so that you can get started reading right away.
And if you’d like to discover more about the 40-Year Pendulum, you can read Steve Jackson’s impressions of Roy Williams “40 Year Pendulum” here. Roy’s 2008 posting about the pendulum is an interesting one, and well worth exploring. It will also become a book in 2012.