Eminem’s surprise appearance at last night’s Academy Awards ceremony threw us for a brain-scrambling loop, along with many members of the live audience. Some celebs were visibly amped to witness this absolutely out-of-left-field “Lose Yourself” performance, nearly two decades after Eminem won an Oscar, in absentia, for the song. Others (Billie Eilish) were openly perplexed, but regardless of the individual reaction, no one has yet been able to explain why, exactly, that happened. That’s including the artist himself, who spoke with Variety on Monday, offering only the haziest outlines as to how the whole thing came together.
“I kinda figured maybe since I didn’t get a chance to do it at the time, maybe it would be cool,” Eminem told the outlet, referring to the 2003 Oscars, which the rapper skipped even though “Lose Yourself” was nominated. “Back then, I never even thought that I had a chance to win, and we had just performed ‘Lose Yourself’ on the Grammys with the Roots a couple of weeks before the Oscars, so we didn’t think it was a good idea. And also, back at that time, the younger me didn’t really feel like a show like that would understand me.”
Hm okay sure, but that still does not really clarify the central question, which is, Why now? I mean, it’s not even the 20-year anniversary of the big win; it’s the 17th. Variety’s Jem Aswad suggested the following explanation: “‘8 Mile’ was already in the montage, and the Oscars just happened to ask and you said yes,” with which Eminem basically agreed.
“I think that’s pretty much how it went,” he replied. “And it was cool because we just put out an album, so we said maybe that’ll make sense with the timing of the new album.”
As to the utter secrecy — the performance wasn’t on the program — Eminem explained that he flew into Los Angeles last week, for rehearsals conducted outside the Dolby Theater. Why did they need to keep it totally under wraps? “I don’t know, I think it was either [the Oscars’] idea or Paul and [longtime publicist Dennis Dennehy’s] idea before they brought it to me,” Eminem said. “It was presented to me that way and I said, ‘Oh that’s kinda dope, to not even announce it.’” Sure, why not!