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:
After 18 years of winning an Oscar.— Zeeshan Khalid (@pjzaks313) February 10, 2020
Look who's back. ( not literally cause he didn't showed up in 03 )
Eminem freaking killed it
Standing ovation #eminem #Oscar2020 pic.twitter.com/9tujOGsfgp
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.
Look, if you had another shot, another opportunity... Thanks for having me @TheAcademy. Sorry it took me 18 years to get here. pic.twitter.com/CmSw2hmcZo— Marshall Mathers (@Eminem) February 10, 2020
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:
Idina Menzel's face = all of our moms' faces trying to figure out why their spaghetti was on Eminem's shirt. #Oscars pic.twitter.com/XRHKlPyXIL— E! News (@enews) February 10, 2020
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?:
Which are you? #Oscars pic.twitter.com/FgprIoynEw— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) February 10, 2020
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.