Grammy producers never want to live in the shadow of MTV’s Video Music Awards, but that’s more or less what happened with their showcase Eminem performance. Em and his “Love the Way You Lie” duet partner Rihanna were both better in their MTV showcase last September, and while the live introduction of the new Dr. Dre joint helped, it wasn’t the sort of performance likely to live on a la “Stan” 2001.
We’ll say this for Rihanna: she looked great, in a Cinderella-before-the-ball dress, and her red hair beautifully matched the stage design—a wall of on-screen flames. But there’s no question she was straining through much of “Lie.”
Em emerged to roars from the crowd—a sign of NARAS goodwill and awards to come later?—and he was commanding throughout. That said, his flow started out jumbled and generally emphasized fierceness over flow. Again, he lives in the shadow of his own “Stan” a decade ago—a precise, crisp performance where tonight’s was shouty.
Cut to suddenly omnipresent vocalist Skylar Grey, who warbled the spooky emo hook of “I Need a Doctor” while Em continued his punchy ways. After Em took a couple of verses by himself, out came the Doctor himself, and compared with his protégé it was a study in contrasts: Dre emerged all easy-like, laiiiiid back like it was ’92 in the LBC. Never as good a rapper as he is a producer, Dre was surprisingly strong, charming and unhurried.
After all these years and all of Marshall Mathers’s success, it’s amusing that Eminem still plays the hyperactive ying to his mentor’s yang.
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