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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Now for Pop Off, our conversations on music.

(Soundbite of record scratching)

Eminem has a new, chart-stopping single, called "Not Afraid." And it's not about getting back at his ex-wife or making fun of other celebrities.

(Soundbite of song, "Not Afraid")

EMINEM (Rapper): (Singing) I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid. To take a stand, to take a stand. Yeah. It's been a ride.

MONTAGNE: Eminem's latest is an inspirational, feel-good anthem. So is hip hop officially losing its edge? Here's our Pop Off team - music commentators Maura Johnston and Jay Smooth.

MAURA JOHNSTON: So have you heard the new Eminem single, Jay?

JAY SMOOTH: Yes. I am feeling inspired and pumped up. I am not afraid.

JOHNSTON: What are you not afraid of?

SMOOTH: I'm not sure what I'm not afraid of, but I'm ready to take his hand and go through the storm.

(Soundbite of song, "Not Afraid")

EMINEM: (Singing) Now some of you might still be in that place. If you're trying to get out, just follow me. I'll get you there.

SMOOTH: That seems like the trend nowadays - hip hop moving towards inspirational anthems instead of misanthropic, rebellious anthems - moving away from making a rap version of "Scarface," and making a rap version of "Remember the Titans" - or something like that.

(Soundbite of song, "Not Afraid")

EMINEM: (Singing) I'm going to be what I set out to be, without a doubt undoubtedly. And all those who look down on me, I'm tearing down your balcony.

JOHNSTON: You can definitely hear this song being played during "Baseball Tonight's" wrap-up of the greatest catches or something, you know. Those guys aren't afraid to slam their face into the wall to catch the ball, hey!

(Soundbite of song, "Not Afraid")

EMINEM (Rapper): (Singing) I'm standing up, I'm going to face my demons. I'm manning up, Im going to hold my ground. I've had enough, now I'm so fed up. Time to put my life back together right now. It was my decision to get clean. I did it for me. Admittedly, I probably did for subliminally for you.

SMOOTH: The verses of this Eminem song, he gets personal sometimes, talking about overcoming his addiction and wanting to be a better father for his daughter. But in the chorus, it's basically the most generic inspirational slogans that could be applied to anything in life and will be well-suited to being played at anthems, much like "Empire State of Mind" was for Jay-Z.

(Soundbite of song, "Empire State of Mind")

JAY-Z (Singer): (Singing) Yeah, yeah. I'm at Brooklyn.

JOHNSTON: Every time he mentions "Empire State of Mind," I think of the "Sex in the City 2" trailer. It apparently also opens the movie - with like, big, aerial shots of the Chrysler Building.

SMOOTH: Get out of here. That's hip-hop in a nutshell.

(Soundbite of laughter)

We've gone from the voice of the scary counter-culture to product placement and "Sex and the City 2," and sounding like Oprah.

(Soundbite of song, "Empire State of Mind")

SMOOTH: I think it makes sense as far as where the market is at right now, since not only hip-hop but pop music in general, it's so often been sold to young people as a way to market rebellion. But nowadays, if a kid wants to stick it to the man and break the law and he loves music, the most obvious way to combine those is to rebel against the system by not paying for the music.

JOHNSTON: I love this idea of like, the post-rebellion of pop music, actually, especially for someone like Eminem, who - there's, you know, a gigantic parental advisory sticker on the cover of this single - even the cover of the digital single.

You know, pop music of all types has to figure out what it's going to do now that rebellion has become - I'm going to say anti-commodified, in a way. You know, because it's, well, I'm going to rebel and be an outlaw by, like you said, like not paying for music.

(Soundbite of song, "Not Afraid")

EMINEM: (Singing) Now, I just can't keep living this way.

MONTAGNE: That's music writer Mara Johnston and Jay Smooth, who blogs at illdoctrine.com. You can find more from the Pop Off team at nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of song, "Not Afraid")

EMINEM: (Singing) I'm manning up, I'm going to hold my ground. I've had enough, now I'm so fed up. Time to put my life back together right now.

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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