clock menu more-arrow no yes

Eminem singing “Lose Yourself” was the most baffling Oscars moment. It was also a milestone.

The audience reactions to Eminem’s surprise performance were hilariously divided, but it was a win for the rapper.

Eminem performs “Lose Yourself” at the 2020 Oscars.

Eminem’s seemingly out-of-nowhere performance of his iconic hit “Lose Yourself” at the Oscars on Sunday night capped off a montage of legendary songs from famous films. But it also allowed the rapper the chance to perform his Oscar-winning song live at the awards show for the first time — 17 years after it won the trophy for Best Original Song.

Despite the audience’s obvious surprise when Eminem took the stage, it’s pretty hard to mess up a ditty as tightly constructed and powerful as Eminem’s anthem to overcoming stage fright, and thus the stage was duly lit:

Written for Eminem’s autobiographical drama 8 Mile, “Lose Yourself” won the Best Original Song Oscar in 2003. But Eminem, who also blew off the Grammys that year, didn’t attend the ceremony. That might have been for the best, because Oscars producers were “reportedly nervous” about him performing the song and slipping in profanity. His award was instead accepted by presenter Barbra Streisand and picked up by his co-writer Luis Resto.

Things were different this year, however, when a montage of famous Oscar-winning numbers appeared to close out with a clip of “Lose Yourself.” Instead, the song failed to materialize in the montage. The video gave way to Eminem and his ensemble rising dramatically onto the stage to perform the song live. Judging by the crowd’s reactions, the audience seemed to be a solid mix of baffled and entertained.

Among the most viral reactions were Idina Menzel’s bewildered head-bop and whatever was happening in Billie Eilish’s brain:

Still, plenty of people were completely into it. “Lose Yourself” is a modern classic, after all — and as much of a bop as any Oscar-winning song can be.

And then there was Martin Scorsese, who used the moment to ... nap?:

Despite the confusion, the rapper otherwise known as Marshall Mathers clearly won over the Dolby Theatre audience by the end, judging by the standing ovation he received. Even Eilish got into it by the end.

Eminem appeared stunned by the response, even though it was his first Oscars performance — and one that came as a complete surprise, no less. But then, Eminem is full of surprises lately: He’s fresh off dropping a previously unannounced new album, Music To Be Murdered By, that immediately reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart. His presence at the Oscars may have seemed inexplicable, but it was also savvy publicity — a firmly establishment move for the rapper who’s always tried to stay edgy — but one that apparently paid off.