I am generally not the sort of Mom to quote Eminem. But there comes a time when a parent needs to face the music. A year ago at this time, the 42 year old rapper was at the top of the charts for four weeks straight. His duet with the youthful Rihanna was part ballad and part rap. Here is a quick sample:
My OCD’s conking me in the head
Keep knocking, nobody’s home, I’m sleepwalking..
We hear Rihanna, too, in her refrain:
I’m friends with the monster
That’s under my bed
Get along with the voices
Inside of my head
You’re trying to save me
Stop holding your breath
And you think I’m crazy
Yeah, you think I’m crazy.
Listening to the car radio with one of my teens, I’ve heard this song so much I’ve finally been able to understand the lyrics, and I say aloud, “These people need counselling.”
The mega-stars didn’t write these lyrics (they were penned by Jon Bellion), but both Eminem and the Rihanna could use some life-coaching.
Rihanna, a self-proclaimed “Good Girl Gone Bad” (one album title), was snatched from obscurity in Barbados to the high-life of Hip Hop USA. When she was still a teen, she became a huge commercial success. She is a victim of domestic abuse, but keeps going back.
Scantily-clad, she revealed to an AP reporter: “fashion has always been my defense mechanism”.
Are we surprised to learn that Rihanna grew up in a home where Dad was addicted to alcohol and cocaine? In a normal world, someone would explain to her that acting like a sex object is self-destructive. But the Club Scene is not a normal world.
In the pseudo-feminism ideology of today, behaving in a degrading way is defined as liberating. Rihanna is a natural beauty. The music industry is happy to have her act cheap, because it makes big money when she does.
Eminem has a longer history than Rihanna, including re-hab for chemical addiction in 2007. After years of living a wreckless life-style, an accidental overdose of methadone nearly killed him.
Anyone who has fought an addiction will tell you it is not easy work. Eminem took on the challenge, and after leaving re-hab, he did a tour devoted to “addiction recovery”. I applaud those efforts. But if we are to take the lyrics to “The Monster” seriously, I’d say there is still work to be done.
Like a scary possession, addiction attempts to destroy people. It can wreak a unique sort of havoc on celebrities. Eminem rapped it himself:
I’m getting so huge
I need a shrink…
Cause I needed an intervention
in this to intervene between me and this monster
And save me from myself
and all this conflict
Cause the very things that I love
is killing me and I can’t conquer it…
His lyrics ring true. On his own, he will not be able to “conquer” his monster.
The tragedy of this song is that it completely fails to bring anyone to healing.
In fact, this song rejects recovery:
Maybe I need a straitjacket, face facts
I am nuts for real, but I’m okay with that
In 2014, several pop songs were about unredeemed drugs and demons. Some may say this is just fashion or hyperbole, but I think it is a real cry for help.
The bad news: demons are real. The good news: demons can be conquered. It is an uncomfortable thing to talk about. But as Christians, we really should not be afraid to bring spiritual talk to the table. Jesus Himself talked about demons. He got rid of them. Jesus also gave his apostles the gift to rid people of these creepy friends of the devil. In scripture we see how happy and relieved the healed persons become.
We live in a society that is antagonistic to most things spiritual. This tendency is not just among atheists, but right in our pews. We love to know that “Heaven is for Real,” but please do not remind us of Hell.
Happily, “the monster” does not always win. Even the entertainment industry has a couple of success stories. The most classic example was the hard-drinking Johnny Cash. After getting sober and turning to Christ, he went on to win three Grammy awards and grew to a ripe old age. (He was able to do what Elvis could not.)
A more recent example of recovery comes from bad-boy hip-hop artist “Marky-Mark” (aka, actor Mark Wahlberg). His jail record and drug addictions rivalled Eminem. Now Wahlberg is married with four kids. He stops by his local Catholic church every day, if not for mass then at least for a short prayer. “Augustine-like” miracles happen even in modern times.
As for Eminem fans, I would suggest approaching Eminem’s “post-addiction” work as a cautionary tale. So far, he has not proven to be a person to emulate. As for Rihanna fans, I would suggest a good dose of prayer. She seems oblivious to the free-fall she’s on.
Rihanna and Eminem will probably continue to win awards and make big bucks. But if they ever want to be truly successful, they will need to “unfriend” the Monster.
Meanwhile, I change the station whenever I hear their song. My teen protests,“Nobody listens to the lyrics anyhow.” But maybe that’s the problem. Plenty of people are crying out for help, but we just shut our ears.