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Eminem – 97′ Bonnie & Clyde – A criminal lullaby

Eminem – 97′ Bonnie & Clyde – A criminal lullaby

97′ Bonnie & Clyde, criminal lullaby, tells the story of a father who just assassinated his wife, and who drives, quietly, accompanied by their young daughter, to finally dump the body into a lake.

This is one of the song analyses presented in the PDF Songwriting.

Songwriting

Music video

Lyrics analysis and meaning

Intro

During the first 36 seconds, we can hear exactly the same noises as in the epilogue of “Kim”: cicadas in the night, an inert body being transported on the ground, a car passing by without stopping, some keys opening the trunk and the body being put in the trunk.

Exposition. The first situation of “97′ Bonnie and Clyde” is exactly identical to the last situation of “Kim“. But “97′ Bonnie and Clyde” was released before “Kim” – actually, it was even released on “The Slim Shady EP” that is like a draft to the longer album that made Eminem famous, “The Slim Shady LP“.

Distribution of information. Here the reception and interpretation of the song will vary according to whether the listener knows the track “Kim” already, or not. If he knows it, then he knows that the father-singer just killed the mother. If he doesn’t know it, then he will have to guess it along this current song.

Links between songs is something very rare in modern music. Songs of the same album or of the same artist often show some similarities, some echoes, but they very rarely tell a story through several songs, like it’s the case here.

Chorus

Just the two of us, just the two of us
Just the two of us, just the two of us
Just the two of us, just the two of us
Just the two of us, just the two of us

Prologue

Baby your da-da loves you (hey)
And I’m always be here for you (hey)
no matter what happens
You’re all I got in this world
I would never give you up for nothing
Nobody in this world is ever gonna keep you from me
I love you

From seconds 36 to 57, the song really starts with a chorus of Eminem singing “Just the two of us” and declaring his love towards his baby girl Hailie, in which we can hear the voice of Hailie babbling.

Contrast between the voice of an adult and the voice of a baby, but harmony between the loving father and the innocent child.

Verse 1

C’mon Hai-Hai, we goin to the beach
Grab a couple of toys and let da-da strap you in the car seat
Oh where’s mama? She’s takin a little nap in the trunk
Oh that smell (whew!) da-da musta runned over a skunk
Now I know what you’re thinkin’, it’s kinda late to go swimmin’
But you know your mama, she’s one of those type of women
that do crazy things, and if she don’t get her way, she’ll throw a fit
Don’t play with da-da’s toy knife, honey, let go of it (no!)
And don’t look so upset, why you actin bashful?
Don’t you wanna help da-da build a sand castle? (yeah!)
And mama said she wants to show how far she can float
And don’t worry about that little boo-boo on her throat
It’s just a little scratch – it don’t hurt, her was eatin
dinner while you were sweepin and spilled ketchup on her shirt
Mama’s messy isn’t she? We’ll let her wash off in the water
and me and you can play by ourselves, can’t we?

The musical style of the verses sounds rather quiet, idyllic, nearly romantic. No violent beat like in “Kim“, some nice organ and other instruments in the background, and many samples of Hailie’s childish voice which produce a charming effect of realism. This orchestration matches the surface of the lyrics with harmony, while violently contrasting with the deep meaning of those lyrics.

The father addresses the baby girl. He tells her they’re going to the beach.

The departure for the beach is the Catalyst. It informs us about the Goal of the Hero. We do not know yet why he wants to go to the beach with her baby and his dead girlfriend…

He takes some toys for her, locks her in the baby seat in the car, and starts driving.

It’s the beginning of the development, Act II.

He explains that “mama” is not there with them because she is sleeping in the trunk, and that if there is a smell in the car, it is because “da-da musta runned over a skunk”.

A very dark humor joke… the murderer dares to make fun of his victim and compares her to a stinky animal – that’s violent! (But by the way, this joke does not work in full: it’s indeed impossible for a body that’s killed just 10 minutes ago, to smell so quickly after death…)

The fake and weird “information” according to what the mother is sleeping in the trunk, lets the listener understand that something is wrong in this situation. We, the audience, can understand the real meaning of what the father tells his daughter. The whole song is based on this strong dramatic irony.

The father tells the baby that he knows it is late to go swimming, but rather hypocritically, he explains her that they are going to the beach because “you know your mama, she’s one of those type of women that do crazy things” and “mama said she wants to show how far she can float”.

This makes the goal clearer than ever: he is going to the lake to get rid of Kim’s body.

The remark about Kim being “one of those type of women who do crazy things” sounds very funny, because he is actually blaming his victim whereas what he just did and is still doing something much more crazy than what she did. This kind of humor establishes a special connivence between the singer and his audience. We share his secrets.

The father then tries to calm down his daughter who is a bit agitated, and explains to her that if the mama has a scar on the throat and some red stains over her shirt, it’s because she ate her dinner a messily way and spilled ketchup over herself.

Here again, the dark humor reaches its peak. The fake explanation sounds absurd and we know it, and we know that Hailie is too young to understand what it’s really about. Funny horror.

By the way, there’s a mistake here: since the father is driving and since Hailie is strapped on her seat, how can they discuss about the throat and shirt of the mother who has been locked in the trunk at the beginning of the song? It’s incoherent. Even great artists make mistakes…

The father tells Hailie they will play together while mama will “wash off in the water”.

That goes in two directions simultaneously: the theme of the mama “washing off” continues dissimulating the truth of his criminal intentions, while the father aiming at playing with his baby sounds nice and charming. The contrast between the two attitudes is huge.

Chorus

Just the two of us, just the two of us
And when we ride!
Just the two of us, just the two of us
Just you and I!

(bis)

“Just the two of us. Just you and I!”

“Just” means “without the mother” of course: it sounds at the same time romantic and disgusting. Ambivalence!

Verse 2

See honey, there’s a place called heaven and a place called hell
A place called prison and a place called jail
And da-da’s probably on his way to all of em except one
Cause mama’s got a new husband and a stepson
And you don’t want a brother do ya? (Nah!)
Maybe when you’re old enough to understand a little better,
I’ll explain it to ya
But for now we’ll just say mama was real real bad
She was being mean to dad and made him real real mad
But I still feel sad that I put her on time-out
Sit back in your chair honey, quit tryin’ to climb out (Wah!)
I told you it’s okay HaiHai, wanna ba-ba?
Take a night-night? Nan-a-boo, goo-goo ga-ga?
Her make goo-goo ca-ca? Da-da change your dia-dee
Clean the baby up so her can take a nighty-nighty
Your dad’ll wake her up as soon as we get to the water
Ninety-seven Bonnie and Clyde, me and my daughter

The verse 2 starts with a joke that compares heaven and hell, prison and jail, and the singer says he is “on his way to all of them except one”.

We can guess that he is not going to heaven…

Then he explains to his baby that mama has a new husband and a stepson, and he sounds skeptical when he asks Hailie whether she really wants a new brother.

This gives us the explanation about the 4 yo boy in the song “Kim”: he’s the son of the man that Kim slept with.

Then he tells her he will explain everything to her when she will be older and more able to understand, he just states for now that “mama was real real bad”.

This informs us about the Hero’s state of mind: he does not feel guilt and he thinks he will be able to explain his act later, as if it was not a crime but the right thing to do.

Then he starts to talk to Hailie in a very baby-like way, asking her whether she wants to sleep, or eat, or pee or poo – he will change her diaper, then she will sleep a while and he will wake her up when they will be near the water.

Again, the contrast between a murderer and a good and loving father seems huge and has something rather schizophrenic…

Chorus

Just the two of us, just the two of us
And when we ride!
Just the two of us, just the two of us
Just you and I!

(bis)

Verse 3

Wake up sweepy head we’re here, before we play
we’re gonna take mama for a little walk along the pier
Baby, don’t cry honey, don’t get the wrong idea
Mama’s too sweepy to hear you screamin’ in her ear (ma-maa!)
That’s why you can’t get her to wake, but don’t worry
Da-da made a nice bed for mommy at the bottom of the lake
Here, you wanna help da-da tie a rope around this rock? (yeah!)
We’ll tie it to her footsie then we’ll roll her off the dock
Ready now, here we go, on the count of free..
One, two, free, WHEEEEEE! (splash noise)
There goes mama, spwashin in the wata
No more fightin’ with dad, no more restraining order
No more step-da-da, no more new brother
Blow her kisses bye-bye, tell mama you love her (mommy!)
Now we’ll go play in the sand, build a castle and junk
But first, just help dad with two more things out the trunk

The father wakes the baby up, saying they arrived at the lake.

The Act III and the Crisis are starting.

The baby cries a bit, he calms her down, and explains that they are going to tie a rock to the foot of the mother and “roll her off the dock”.

That sounds totally gloomy: a criminal asking a girl aged 2yo to help him to get rid of the corpse of her mother… It’s obviously made to schock, and it works perfectly 🙂

He counts up to three – he pronounces “free” rather than “three” -, then throws the body over the dock, and we can hear the big “splash” of the body falling into the water.

It’s the Climax – the moment when the Goal is finally reached and when the Hero triumphs against the Antagonist.

The play of words between 1-2-3 and 1-2-FREE, sounds funny. It confirms the Hero sees the murder of his girlfriend as something positive and right, a liberation act, not a crime.

The hyperrealism of the various noises that we can hear all through the song, adds a layer of dark humor. Not only are the lyrics explicit, these noises also strongly underline every trivial aspect of the situation.

Then the father states: no more couple fights, no more step-daddy or step-brother… He asks Hailie to kiss her mama goodbye, and we can hear her saying “mommy!”

Another very dark humor joke. He is abusing her innocence to make her collaborate with him…

He tells his daughter that they’re going to play in the sand, just after having got rid of two other things out of the trunk.

The double-meaning continues. He’s actually dissimulating proofs of a crime.

Chorus

Just the two of us, just the two of us
And when we ride!
Just the two of us, just the two of us
Just you and I!

(bis)

Just the two of us, just the two of us
Just the two of us, just the two of us

Nothing new.

Epilogue

Just me and you baby
Is all we need in this world
Just me and you
Your da-da will always be there for you
Your da-da’s always gonna love you
Remember that
If you ever need me I will always be here for you
If you ever need anything, just ask
Da-da will be right there
Your da-da loves you
I love you baby

As a conclusion, the singer just tells his baby about how much he loves her, now that they are only the 2 of them: “Your da-da’s always gonna love you”.

That declaration of love ends the loop started in the prologue, and strongly contrasts with the complex mix of love and hatred that characterized his relationship with Kim.

Commentary

How many plots in this song?

There’s only one plot, that tells how a father goes to a lake with his baby to drown the corpse of his girlfriend he’s just killed.

How many actantial characters in this plot?

There are 3 actantial characters:

The Hero: the criminal but loving father, who stays unnamed in this song. Of course we know he’s Marshall Mathers, a.k.a. Eminem.

The Antagonist: the corpse of Kim.

And the Helper of the Hero: the baby girl, Hailie.

Two other characters are just evocated in the song:

The unnamed man Kim slept with (we know about it from the song “Kim”).

His 4yo boy, a potential step-brother for Hailie (same remark: we know about him from “Kim”).

So here again, the structure of characters in this song is very minimal: Husband vs Wife, + their daughter.

Let’s notice that, even dead, Kim is an actantial character in this song because she’s the source of the problem for the Hero. As a corpse, she could be found by the police or by random citizens around, so the father would be charged with crime and probably sentenced to jail for a long time. That’s why he needs to get rid of her body: as long as she is there, with proof of fighting and murder, he risks his life. She is not really an Antagonist who would have a goal, but she stays a powerful source of Antagonism.