Now some may attribute Eminem's change in music to his age. I agree - it's hard to be funny and relevant when you're pushing 40. But this is true only up to a certain extent. While I think Eminem is too old to still be shitting on the Britney Spears' and 'N Sync's of the world and putting out music videos like "The Real Slim Shady", it doesn't mean he has to start doing songs with them. For God's sake on his most recent album Eminem does a song with Pink! With Pink!! I had to do a double take when I saw that. The old Eminem woulda made some to be censored slur and taken a swing at her if he was drunk and high enough - obviously not the best course of action, but a much more likely action-path for the old Em than doing a song with a pop star.
Now, I haven't listened to this song with Pink so it may be fire, but I don't need to or want to. One of the primary reasons Eminem became popular in the late '90s/early '00s was because of 'N Sync and Britney Spears. He was their antithesis. He was an escape for all the young people who weren't down with the rise of the boy-band. It's the same reason Limp Bizkit became popular, the only difference is that Eminem is actually talented and was one of the best rapper's alive in his prime, so he had staying power. These 2 factors, the timing of the popularity of teen pop and Eminem's talent, were the main contribution to Eminem becoming one of the biggest most talked about starts of the early part of the decade. Yea he had legal troubles and was controversial, but no one gives a shit unless you're actually good (I can go start spewing gay slurs and pistol whipping people right now and no one would give a shit to try and ban my records). What I'm trying to say is him doing poppy songs with Pink and Rihanna is such a rapid departure from the Eminem everyone fell in love with in the first place that it's unsettling.
Furthermore, the way Eminem approaches his subject matter is remarkably different. In "Love the Way You Lie" he tells a story of a couple who are deeply in love with each other yet very self-destructive which leads to domestic violence and other acts that are disruptive to a healthy relationship. Now, like I said above I don't think it's a bad song (the lyrics aren't great but Rihanna kills it as always) but it could be so much better considering this is familiar territory for Eminem. If you go back and listen to The Marshall Mathers LP you will notice a common theme throughout the album. For the most part, every song is about him. Whether it's his trouble with the law, his troubled relationships with his daughter/mother/wife/etc., or generally just how hard his life can sometimes be, he's always talking about himself. And this is what made him so good - he was funny, angry, sorrowful, misogynistic, homophobic, and passionate in the most honest way. I'm not saying it's good to be misogynistic or homophobic, but this is what gave his music that edge: his blaring honesty, wherever that led him. His songs about domestic violence were from his own life and experiences. The song "Love the Way You Lie" is a story about a fictional couple going through it, whereas the old Eminem would have put out a song that a) sounded wayy less pop and b) was true to self.
I will always consider Eminem one of my favorite rappers because of the quality he put out from The Slim Shady LP to The Eminem Show, but he is just different now. This seems to happen to most once-popular rappers who continue to rap into their late 30s (Jay-Z, Snoop) but the difference is that Jay and Snoop have still found a way to continue to appeal to fans without changing their style too much. Like I said before, I don't expect Eminem to continue to be obsessed with tearing down pop stars because he is older, but he didn't have to become one himself.
One final note: I was hanging out with my 3 year old cousin last weekend and Love the Way You Lie came on the radio. My cousin, who can barely talk, began to sing the song just as if she was singing a Miley Cyrus song or any other pop song on the radio. Idk... this post is depressing me. I'm gonna go blast "The Way I Am" and remember the good old days.