Headlights is a song by American rapper Eminem, featuring American singer and Fun frontman Nate Ruess. The fifteenth track on his eighth studio album The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013), it features production from Emile Haynie, Jeff Bhasker, and Eminem himself. The song is an apology to his mother Debbie Mathers, whom he has previously dissed many times in his songs. It has since peaked at number 73 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was released as the albums fifth single on February 5, 2014.
Background and composition Eminem has had a difficult relationship with his mother since childhood. In his music, Eminem has had a history of insulting his mother on various tracks, including his debut single, My Name Is and most notably Cleanin Out My Closet. Headlights is an apology to his mother for the years of verbal abuse and his plea for a united, or at least less dysfunctional, family. The title Headlights is a reference to their last meeting. As she drove away, he became fixated on the headlights of her car as he coped with feelings of overwhelming sadness. In the song, Eminem references to a few incidences from their rocky relationship, getting kicked out of the house on Christmas Eve, constant fighting, and his younger brother Nathans removal to foster care. He also expresses regret that his mother has not been involved in his childrens lives. In the song he acknowledges that his mother wrongfully endured the brunt of the blame for his tough upbringing and even gives her credit for her efforts to raise him as a single parent. Eminem admits that he remains estranged from his mother to this day. He also states that he cringes when he hears Cleanin Out My Closet on the radio and he no longer performs it at shows.
In an interview with Sway Calloway, Eminem stated that, everything [he] wanted to address in regard to his mother is on Headlights and he likely will not speak on the topic outside of that particular song. He also told Zane Lowe that It was one of those things thats bothered me for a little bit. It was one of those things that I needed to get off my chest. So I dont really have anything to elaborate or expand on that record other than everything that I needed to say, I put on that record.
Recording Headlights was produced by Emile and Jeff Bhasker, with additional production by Eminem with additional keyboards by Luis Resto. The song was written by Marshall Mathers, Nate Ruess, Emile Haynie, Jeff Bhasker, and Luis Resto. Recording for the song was done at Effigy Studios in Ferndale, Michigan by Mike Strange, Joe Strange and Tony Campana. The songs refrain is sung by American band fun.s singer Nate Ruess.
Critical reception Headlights was met with generally positive reviews from music critics. Julie Leconte of Now said: The tracks genius partially lies in the anticipatory tension it creates in the listener. Em loves to set us up with faux sentimentality, then laugh when were duped. But on Headlights the shoe never drops, leaving us with really sad insight into their non-relationship. Colin McGuire of PopMatters said that the song gives us quite possibly the most touching moment Em has ever put on wax.
DJ Booth stated that even though the hook on Headlights, by Funs Nate Ruess, is light and airy exactly where it should have been deep, the raw and crushingly emotional lyrics from Eminem, especially ones that put an end to his running feud with his mother, are more than powerful enough to make Headlights remarkable. Andy Gill of The Independent also praised the track, calling it an almost shockingly apologetic love-letter to the mother he once denigrated so viciously. Edna Gundersen of USA Today stated that its an admirable confession but a so-so track.
Music video The music video was filmed in Detroit, Michigan on April 5, 2014, and directed by famed film director Spike Lee. It was released on May 11, 2014, Mothers Day in the United States. The video takes a chronological look at the turbulent times between Eminem and his mother.
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