Song of the Day #2,020: ‘Headlights’ – Eminem

marshall_mathers_lp_2Guest blogger Dana continues…

Dana’s Best Songs of 2013
Eminem – ‘Headlights’

 
Okay, here’s an instance where I probably would have put your selection, ‘Bad Guy’ on my list, but since you already featured that great track from the new Eminem album, I’m going to go with another one of my favorites, ‘Headlights.’

For those less familiar with Eminem’s discography, his early records, including most particularly his breakthrough Marshall Mathers LP, spent much time with Eminem throwing his mother under the bus, most notably in the hit song ‘Cleaning Out my Closet.’

As Eminem did in ‘Bad Guy,’ the counterpart to ‘Stan,’ with a number of mea culpas as to his most outrageous lyrical attacks (against gays, etc.), Eminem uses ‘Headlights’ as a public apology to his mother for digging too deep with the criticism. Yet, somehow, this “apology” song doesn’t come off as a sell out or the weaker step child of “Closet” in any way. Indeed, I think in many ways this song is even stronger than ‘Closet.’

Here, Eminem doesn’t really let his mom off the hook entirely, but he shows a level of understanding and maturity absent from ‘Closet’ and puts a measured amount of the blame for his screwed up childhood on his absentee father.

This is truly great and powerful stuff on an album with a number of tracks that could also vie for attention on my “best of” list.

[Intro: Nate Ruess]
Mom, I know I let you down
And though you say the days are happy
Why is the power off and I’m fucked up
And Mom, I know he’s not around
But don’t you place the blame on me
As you pour yourself another drink, yeah

[Hook: Nate Ruess]
I guess we are who we are
Headlights shining in the dark night I drive on
Maybe we took this too far

[Verse 1]
I went in headfirst, never thinking about who what I said hurt, in what verse
My Mom probably got it the worst
The brunt of it, but as stubborn as we are, did I take it too far
Cleaning Out My Closet and all them other songs, but regardless I don’t hate you, cause Ma
You’re still beautiful to me, cause you’re my Mom
Though far be it for you to be too calm, our house was Vietnam
Desert Storm and both of us put together could form an atomic bomb
Equivalent to Chemical Warfare, and forever we could drag this on and on
But, agree to disagree, that gift for me up under the Christmas tree
Don’t mean shit to me, you’re kicking me out? It’s 15 degrees
And it’s Christmas Eve (“Little prick, just leave”), Ma let me grab my fucking coat
Anything to have each other’s goats, why we always at each others throats
Especially when dad, he fucked us both, we’re in the same fucking boat
You’d think that’d make us close (nope) further away it drove
Us, but together, headlights shine, and a car full of belongings, still got a ways to go
Back to grandma’s house, it’s straight up the road
And I was the man of the house, the oldest, so my shoulders carried the weight of the load
Then Nate got taken away by the state at 8-years-old
And that’s when I realized you were sick and it wasn’t fixable or changeable
And to this day we remain estranged and I hate it though
But…

[Hook]

[Verse 2]
Cause to this day we remain estranged and I hate it though
Cause you ain’t even get to witness your grandbabies grow
But I’m sorry Mama for Cleaning Out My Closet, at the time I was angry, rightfully, maybe so
Never meant that far to take it though, cause now I know it’s not your fault, and I’m not making jokes
That song I’ll no longer play at shows and I cringe every time it’s on the radio
And I think of Nathan being placed in a home
And all the medicine you fed us and how I just wanted you to taste your own
But now the medication’s taking over and your mental state’s deteriorating slow
And I’m way too old to cry, the shit is painful though
But Ma, I forgive you, so does Nathan, yo
All you did, all you said, you did your best to raise us both
Foster care, that cross you bear, few may be as heavy as yours
But I love you Debbie Mathers, oh, what a tangled web we have cause
One thing I never asked was where the fuck my deadbeat dad was
Fuck it I guess he had trouble keeping up with every address
But I’d have flipped every mattress, every rock and desert cactus
Own a collection of maps and followed my kids to the edge of the atlas
If someone ever moved them from me, that you could’ve bet your asses
If I had to come down the chimney dressed as Santa
Kidnap ‘em, and although one has only met their grandma
Once you pulled up in our drive one night, as we were leaving to get some hamburgers
Me, her and Nate, we introduced you, hugged you, and as you left I had this overwhelming sadness
Come over me as we pulled off to go our separate paths, and
I saw your headlights as I looked back, and I’m mad I didn’t get the chance to
Thank you for being my mom and my dad, so
Mom, please accept this as a tribute I wrote this on the jet, I guess I had to
Get this off my chest, I hope I get the chance to lay it before I’m dead, the stewardess said to fasten
My seatbelt, I guess we’re crashin’
So if I’m not dreaming, I hope you get this message
That I’ll always love you from afar
Cause you’re my Ma

[Hook]

[Bridge: Nate Ruess]
I want a new life, (start over) one without a cause (clean slate)
So I’m coming home tonight, well, no matter what the cost
And if the plane goes down, or if the crew can’t wake me up
Well, just know that I’m alright
I was not afraid to die
Oh even if there’s songs to sing, my children will carry me
Just know that I’m alright
I was not afraid to die
Because I put my faith in my little girls
So I never say goodbye cruel world
Just know that I’m alright
I am not afraid to die

[Hook]

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One thought on “Song of the Day #2,020: ‘Headlights’ – Eminem

  1. Clay says:

    No argument from me on this one. This album has several songs I consider among the best of the year, including ‘Headlights.’ This might be the most vulnerable Eminem has come across on record.

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