Eminem’s chart rivals The Courteeners believe the rapper “crossed a line” by referencing the Manchester bomb attack in the lyrics to his new track.
Marshall Mathers was criticised by many last week, including Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, for the “unnecessarily hurtful” verse on Unaccommodating.
The Manchester band were leading the Detroit rapper in the official midweek album charts released on Monday.
Singer Liam Fray says he “feels sorry” for him for employing “shock” tactics.
“It all just felt like an old comedian who can’t get on the telly anymore just saying something outrageous,” says Fray, who accepts his band will more than likely lose out to Eminem when things such as streaming are considered come Friday.
“I just felt a bit sorry for him. I just felt like he’s jumping the shark a bit.”
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He adds: “He’s trying to be as outrageous as possible because he’s running out of ideas, that’s what it is.
“It’s nothing else [but] shock value. You have to shock to be good – that’s nonsense.”
‘Close to home’
Twenty-two people died when a suicide bomber attacked a crowd after Ariana Grande’s gig at Manchester Arena in May 2017.
In a song on his new album, Music To Be Murdered By, the 47-year-old rapped: “I’m contemplating yelling ‘bombs away’ on the game/ Like I’m outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting,” followed by the sound of an explosion.
In the aftermath of the tragic event, Fray’s band helped to officially reopen the venue months later with a special benefit gig, alongside Noel Gallagher and other popular local acts.
On Sunday, the front man tweeted words to the effect of “Eminem can get lost”, but was, he admits, at that point simply referring to their chart battle. Having been locked in “Courteeners world”, since the release of their own new music last week, Fray was blissfully unaware of the offending lyrics until he was hit with “a deluge” of replies from fans online.
“I didn’t realise really, it was almost like tongue in cheek,” he explains, “As it’s quite funny for a lad from Middleton to be calling out the biggest rapper in the world!
“But you’d have to be stone-hearted to not think of the consequences of those words really. because they’re outrageous. What is going on in someone’s mind to think that those kind of things are OK?
“Look, shock has a place in art and it always has done but there’s a line and I just think that line was crossed. That’s just my opinion and other people might think otherwise but when it’s close to home and when you’ve seen the city pick itself up piece by piece, day by day, then it gets you man.”
The BBC has asked Eminem for a comment.
The rapper previously pledged his support to victims of the bombing in 2017, and urged fans to donate money to families who had been affected.
Whoever wins the chart race, The Courteeners are on course to achieve their biggest first week of sales ever, with their well-received sixth album, More. Again. Forever.
The Guardian’s Alex Petridis wrote that “without abandoning the well-executed anthemics” the band have become known for, the record “weighs in on the subjects of ageing, alcohol and mental health”.
The NME, meanwhile described it as their “most focussed and adventurous work to date”.
The north Manchester guitar slingers have always been a curious beast, capable of putting on their own outdoor mini-festivals for their legions of adoring fans, but without having ever really translated that cult popularity into massive mainstream chart success.
(They’ve had five top ten albums, but never a number one).
This time around though, Fray – who recently bleached his hair blonde just like a Eminem – believes there’s been “a real sea change towards us”, which he admits “feels pretty good… Because it’s not always felt like that”.
As well as the usual indie rock ‘n’ roll riffs and barnstorming ballads, Fray points to the addition of hip-hop beats, a trip-hop influence and “just a lot of thought and consideration that went into it”.
“We’ve always took pride in moving it on and I never thought we were never given the credit we deserved early on for kind of changing up the sound,” says the 34-year-old, whose band will headline this year’s TRNSMT festival in Glasgow.
“Once you release a debut album [2008’s St Jude] and it does OK, it’s pretty hard to change people’s perception of what your sound is.
“But the songs will speak louder than any interview I’ll ever do.”