In The Ones of the ‘10s, I’m reviewing every single that hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 2010s and working my way up into the present.
Eminem- “Love The Way You Lie” (feat. Rihanna)
HIT #1: July 31, 2010
STAYED AT #1: 7 weeks
You don’t often hear many big hit songs that deal with touchy subject matters. It’s especially true for a subject as touchy as domestic violence and for good reason. These subjects require writing and performances that understand the complexities of the matter. You can’t just pull it off as another silly pop song. In the case of “Love The Way You Lie,” the Eminem and Rihanna collaboration that was #1 for much of the summer of 2010, it also helps that you have two big-name artists who know very well about experiencing domestic violence.
By this point, Rihanna was a year removed from being horrifically beaten by then-boyfriend Chris Brown. Eminem had also been dealing with his tumultuous relationship with wife Kim Mathers which had been a constant point of discussion in his music. Despite the personal nature of the subject matter for both artists, “Love The Way You Lie” was not originally planned for Eminem and Rihanna. A series of circumstances led to the song becoming what it is.
“Love The Way You Lie” originally came from producer Alex da Kid where he recorded the backing track and the melody for the chorus. By the time the song got big, Alex Da Kid was already enjoying his big breakthrough as a producer with B.o.B and Hayley Williams’ “Airplanes” which peaked at #2 earlier in 2010 (It’s an 8.). The initial writing came from struggling singer-songwriter Skylar Grey, who at the time was known as Holly Brook. At this point she had notched a Top 10 hit under her former name with an appearance on Fort Minor’s “Where’d You Go” in 2006 (“Where’d You Go” peaked at #4. It’s a 6). After this, she did more guest appearances and songwriting but hadn’t had a hand in a major hit since “Where’d You Go.”
By 2009, Grey’s label publisher suggested that she work with Alex da Kid to further her success. Da Kid emailed Grey his track and from the demo, Grey started thinking of lyrics about her abusive relationships both with her boyfriend and with the music industry. It took her 15 minutes to write the chorus for “Love The Way You Lie” and immediately recorded it over Alex Da Kid’s demo.
Shortly after, Alex Da Kid sent “Love The Way You Lie” along with his other tracks to Eminem’s label Shady Records with its senior director liking the tracks. The tracks were then sent to Eminem as he was looking for new musical ideas for his Recovery album. After hearing “Love The Way You Lie,” Eminem decided to use it for Recovery and wrote his lyrics for the verses. For the chorus, Eminem wanted Rihanna on the song because as he put it “I felt like only she could pull it off, only she could do it.”
Rihanna immediately agreed to do the song both as an Eminem fan and for their connections to the lyrics saying, “It’s something that, you know, Eminem and I have both experienced, you know, on different sides, different ends of the table. It just was authentic. It was real. It was believable for us to do a record like that, but it was also something that needed to be done and the way he did it was so clever. He pretty much just broke down the cycle of domestic violence and it’s something that a lot of people don’t have a lot of insight on, so this song is a really, really powerful song and it touches a lot of people.”
There’s no way “Love The Way You Lie” would have been as big as it was if it wasn’t for Eminem and Rihanna being on the song. It’s a song that wouldn’t have the same amount of impact without said artists and their backgrounds. We start with Rihanna’s hook over a somber piano singing how she and most domestic violence become dependent on their partner’s abuse. Eminem is right in how only Rihanna at that point could have made this performance work. Eminem’s lyrics touch on the male perspective on how a love that began with promise ends up toxic and abusive. The thing with the lyrics is that they’re general enough to be about both artists’ experience while also relating to a larger audience.
I’m nowhere near an expert on matters of domestic violence so I can’t say for sure whether the condones or condemns this behavior as people have debated. But as someone who’s job here is to judge songs, I feel that it pulls it off for the most part. It’s not stating any moral lessons but provides an insight into how abusive relationships form, something you don’t see in any major pop hit. Eminem and Rihanna’s presence here lends the song The acoustic beat does set the right mood for a song with this heavy of a subject matter. “Love The Way You Lie” isn’t the best song among both artists’ discography but for what it is it works.
“Love The Way You Lie” became so popular that Rihanna wound up recording a sequel for her 2010 album Loud, “Love The Way You Lie (Part II)” which follows Skylar Grey’s demo version. It’s mostly Rihanna with a guest appearance from Eminem. It also uses a similar backing track and while it may not compare to the original, it does offer a good counterbalance presenting the female perspective on domestic violence.
Alex Da Kid and Skylar Grey would never have a hand in another #1 hit after “Love The Way You Lie” but would participate in several more Top 10 hits. Skylar Grey would land in the Top 10 once more as a solo artist, her feature appearance on 2011’s “I Need A Doctor” with Dr. Dre and Eminem and produced by Alex Da Kid (It peaked at #4. It’s a 3.). As a songwriter, she’d land in the Top 10 one more time with co-writing “Clarity” for Zedd and Foxes (It peaked at #8. It’s an 8.). Alex Da Kid meanwhile has landed in the Top 10 three more times, all with songs produced for Imagine Dragons: 2012’s “Radioactive,” (Peaked at #3. It’s a 10!) 2013’s “Demons,”(Peaked at #6. It’s a 5.) and 2017’s “Thunder” (Peaked at #4. It’s a 4.).
As for Eminem, after Recovery he would release an EP with fellow rapper Royce da 5’9’’ as Bad Meets Evil in 2011 which launched the #4 hit “Lighters” with Bruno Mars (It’s a 5.). In 2013, he would release The Marshall Mathers LP 2, a sequel to 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP, and will be back in this column one more time with another Rihanna collaboration. As for Rihanna, her Loud album launched a few singles that will soon wind up in this column.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s The Key of Awesome’s parody of “Love The Way You Lie”
THE NUMBER TWOS: Taio Cruz’s eternal party anthem, “Dynamite,” peaked at #2 behind “Love The Way You Lie.” It’s an 8.
THE 10S OF THE ’10S: Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars’ sunny reggae-ish ode to wanting to be a billionaire so fuckin bad, “Billionaire,” peaked at #5 behind “Love The Way You Lie.” It’s an 8.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: I want to thank all you who have been reading my column over the last two weeks. I really appreciate your support. From now on, these reviews will be posted three times a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.