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Eminem: 50 Greatest Songs

The best from the bloody, bombastic, brilliant career of the hip-hop troublemaker

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33. "Headlights" feat. Nate Ruess (2013)

Contrary to his well-earned reputation as a fearless cultural provocateur, Eminem has long written sentimental songs that give context and nuance to his emotional outbursts. "Headlights" from The Marshall Mathers LP2 may be the most necessary addition to this less-celebrated aspect of his canon because he finally tries to make amends with his mother – whom he had mocked mercilessly on 1999's "My Name Is," then excoriated, in heartbreaking fashion, on 2002's "Cleanin' Out My Closet." Em's use of Debbie Mathers as a musical antagonist frayed their relationship and resulted in a lawsuit, but on "Headlights" he apologizes for his part in their estrangement. "I went in head first/Never thinking about who what I said hurt/And what verse/My ma probably got it the worst," he raps. He doesn't downplay their brutal conflicts, like how she kicked him out on Christmas Eve when he was a teenager, and how they've barely spoken since his career took off. But he resists indulging in the kind of blind rage that he's unleashed in the past. "I hope you get this message that I will always love you from afar," he concludes. When asked about "Headlights" during a SiriusXM Town Hall session, Eminem responded, "What I said on the record is what I have to say about that. … There's no need for me to elaborate on it."

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