LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – Eminem’s new “Music to Be Murdered By” album has an album title and cover that pay comical homage to Alfred Hitchcock, suggesting a collection full of light-hearted mayhem.
But a couple of its tracks reference real-life mass murders that occurred at concerts in recent years — the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Music Festival shootings and the Manchester bombing — and fans and detractors are reacting with appreciation and outrage.
The video for “Darkness” has Eminem reenacting the 2017 shootings at a Vegas country festival that left 60 dead and more than 800 wounded, taking on the role of mass killer Stephen Paddock and portraying him opening fire on the crowd before ending with a written message demanding greater gun control.
His stance on tighter firearms restrictions comes despite his own past violations of gun laws.
In 2001, a Michigan judge sentenced him to probation for gun charges related to an incident at a Royal Oak car audio store.
Also in 2001, Eminem pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon during an altercation outside a Detroit-area nightclub.
The “Darkness” video begins as what initially seems like a more typical Eminem track, with the refrain of “I don’t wanna be alone in the darkness” recurring over the sample from a Simon & Garfunkel tune. He’s seen pacing a hotel room before he’s eventually replaced by an actor resembling the real-life Vegas killer, breaking a window and opening fire on the festival grounds, then shooting himself to death just before police move in.
Eminem returns at the end of the video, watching a bank of TV screens with news footage recounting not just the Route 91 Festival news but reports from other mass shootings around the country. The screens are revealed to be grouped together in the rough outline of a map of the United States as the news reports turn to flag images. “When Will This End?” asks a message on screen. “Register to vote at Vote.gov. Make your voice heard and help change gun laws in America.”
Eminem also appears to take a swipe at Fox News in the video with a fictional news network named “Fux News.”
Reactions to Eminem’s “message” video were mixed on social media.
“Eminem… your ‘Darkness’ video goes way too far… I have friends that ran at Route 91, ones that saved others. Those scenes, they don’t need to relive,” tweeted Gunnar Helman.
Others pointed to how Eminem has not exactly seemed averse to shows of weaponry in the past, as gun shout-outs and sounds have been a controversial hallmark of his work.
“I’m a fan of Eminem. But advocating for gun control by making a song about the Las Vegas shooting? Same dude who said ‘Spray em, 50.’ Smh, ok,” tweeted a user identified as Jspence.
“I was there in Las Vegas seeing all the dead bodies; that new Eminem song is beyond disgusting especially the video,” wrote a Twitter user. “I understand you want to bring light to the violence in America but that’s not the way to do it. … Now every sick person will … think you will make a music video about them. Your creativity did not show in this one.”
Many fans, though, have stepped up to call the video “powerful” and “moving.” “Thanks to Eminem for this very touching music video,” read a typical fan response on Twitter. “No one cares until someone steps up and do something about it.”
(Reporting by Chris Willman. Pluralist contributed to this report.)