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Eminem has left the building: Grading the music at the MTV Movie Awards

May 31, 2009 |  8:20 pm

Eminem (L) and actor Sacha Baron Cohen onstage during the 18th Annual MTV Movie Awards

It probably wasn’t the comeback Eminem wanted. His appearance at the MTV Movie Awards this year will be a hard one to top. Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with his music.

Two hours of live product placement, the MTV Movie Awards don’t come back with much in the way of live music. There were two performances tonight – Eminem and Kings of Leon. For Eminem, this represented his first major appearance since the release of his No. 1 album, “Relapse.”

He brought an award-show staple – a medley of recent singles “We Made You” and “Crack a Bottle.” But Eminem’s best performance came a few minutes later in the stands, when Sacha Baron Cohen’s flamboyantly gay character Bruno descended from the rafters in angel wings and landed, butt-first, in Eminem’s face.

Punches were thrown, curse words were lip-read and Eminem stormed out with a scowl. Credit MTV for having a little fun with the often humorless rapper, who's long been a source of controversy for what many have deemed homophobic lyrics. In fact, the episode gave MTV what many of its recent award galas have lacked – a moment that felt a little daring.

Was it staged? Most likely. Eminem is a master pitchmen, and he’s used his homophobic tag to move records before (see the Grammys’ 2001 performance with Elton John). But if it was planned, Emimen should have stuck around and had more fun with the moment. After all, storming out was the obvious move, and what we’d expect from Em (as is much of “Relapse”). 

But if the moment was a surprise to Eminem, score one for Cohen, who showed that the rapper, who hadn’t released an album of new material since 2004’s “Encore,” hasn’t grown up in the slightest.

As for grading the music:

Eminem, “Crack a Bottle,” “We Made You.” Award shows continue to saddle artists with medleys, despite it being nearly impossible to look good while performing one. Tonight was no different, with Eminem sporting a cap and spitting rhymes into the floor while the lyrics scrolled behind him. We got a little bit of “Relapse’s” first two singles, but nothing that we haven’t heard before. But you know things are bad when the scripted jokes at an MTV gala are more relevant than the lyrics in your songs – you didn’t see host Andy Samberg tossing out jabs at Jessica Simpson and Kim Kardashian. Despite the presence of a small brass section, it was a relatively bare-bones performance, and a showcase for Eminem’s dexterity, not his songs. Worse, Eminem was even shown up by the host, whose musical spoof with Will Ferrell – a cute song about action heroes not looking back at the explosions they set off – was more tuneful and clever. D

Kings of Leon, "Use Somebody." Not quite sure why the Southern rockers were here, as "Use Somebody" has been in official release for months, and by all accounts it isn't appearing on any upcoming scores (tell us if we're wrong). Furthermore, this song is a tepid representation of the rock band. It's the Kings of Leon at their most tame, and is an extended solo away from being a throwaway power ballad. As it is, and as it was tonight, it's a relatively forgettable rock 'n' roll downer, with a glistening, Coldplay-like backdrop that the tune isn't worthy of. If MTV wanted a hammy song, they should have gone all the way and let Miley Cyrus perform "The Climb."  C-

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Bruno after dropping on Eminem. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images