Album: "Cleanin' Out My Closet" Single B Side
"Stimulate" is not untrampled subject matter for Marshall Mathers. But it's one of his most evocative expressions of his complex, antagonistic relationship with the trappings and superficialities of fame. His performance has a buzzed, manic confidence at odds with the song's dark mood of frayed nerves, like the sudden clarity of stimulants breaking through the overhanging clouds of alcohol withdrawal. It's easy to look at this song in the wake of Em's struggles with drug addiction in those terms: "I don't mean nobody harm, I'm just partyin'" sounds more like a stage of denial than a throwback to parties in the park.
The entire song feels like a balacing act between psychedelic exploration and the verge of burnout, as flanging guitars snake around Em's acrid, ironic singing. Bitterness drips from every phrase, as if each must be measured for sincerity: "Maybe one day we can make some progress/Food for thought, see how long it takes to digest." But the song wrestles with more than just those who attack him from the outside. Each line folds in on itself to capture every contradiction in a brutally honest appraisal of the situation that lets no one off the hook—including himself. The final verse finds Em exploring his personal resonsibility to his fans, and the internal conflicts this brings him: "I try to stimulate, but kids emulate," he explains, then: "It's inhumane for me to see you influenced but pretend you ain't," before "It's such, a pleasure, every button that I touch/I treasure every glutton that I punish in my lust, but..." —David Drake