A “Greatest Hits” album comes with an inherent promise — that greatness should be expected. For an artist boasting Eminem’s musical legacy, pre-2005 specifically, you’d think assembling a first best-of collection would have been a relatively straightforward process. The material was ample: The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, The Eminem Show, Devil’s Night, Encore, and the 8 Mile OST were all up for grabs.
For the most part, Curtain Call: The Hits did a respectable job of collecting Slim’s most recognizable singles and packaging them accordingly. Still, despite knowing how many casual fans would inevitably flock to the project, Eminem decided to include the most absurd song of his career thus far. As the introduction no less. By now, the legacy of “FACK” is well documented. Some might say the track has elevated into a cult classic. In fact, it could be argued that “FACK” has ironically earned the right to appear on a Best-Of in the first place, if only due to its notoriety. Em himself seems amused by its inclusion, marveling on “Shady XV” that he “put that shit on a greatest hits album.”
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During a stop on “The Monster” tour, Eminem actually caught an audience member holding a “FACK” sign. “That might actually be the greatest fucking song I ever made,” he remarks. “One day I promise to perform that shit live.” And while he previously teased bringing “FACK” to life on stage, Em has never quite committed beyond the chorus. And yet, there it is, kicking off his Greatest Hits album. An album that has spent four-hundred-and-ninety-six weeks — nearly a decade — on the Billboard 200 charts. Think about that; the staggering amount of people that have been exposed to Eminem’s twisted and depraved gerbil-centric fantasies. So many casual fans, some of the parents who crossed over following an impromptu 8 Mile viewing, experiencing a crash course in Em’s most depraved lunacy.
Trying to find a deeper meaning behind “FACK” is a futile endeavor. Surely, one can make a case that the song’s inclusion on Curtain Call was a statement unto itself, an attempt to troll the critics who had already started to turn on him; if you thought Revival’s response was bad, consider that Encore was also subjected to tough scrutiny upon its release. It could be argued that “FACK” is satire, a commentary on some topic or another, as easily as it could be brushed off as a simple attempt at low-brow comedy. If “Deja Vu” is the realest shit Em’s ever wrote, “FACK” may very well be the dumbest. And yet, there remains an undeniable appeal all the same. The way it’s somehow too good to fall into the so-bad-it’s-good category. The playful, circus-like instrumental that only Slim Shady could conjure. The idea that at one time or another, Dr. Dre was subjected to a “FACK” listening session.
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Considering that at the time of Curtain Call’s release, rumors of Eminem’s retirement were swirling. Hard to imagine, given how he’s since gone on to release six more studio albums, but true all the same. Knowing what we now know about his past battles with addiction, which ultimately had a notable impact on the music he was making, one has to wonder whether “FACK” was a side effect of his tortured psyche. This was, after all, the same man who reacted to Encore’s infamous song leak by replacing the deftly penned “We As Americans” and “Love You More” with the low-effort ramblings of “Rain Man” and “Big Weenie.” In hindsight, the years of 2004 and 2005 were some of the most fascinating of Eminem’s career, musically speaking. And “FACK” stands as the defiant culmination of the long and winding road — or tube, if you will.
So where does “FACK” stand after all these years? As of now, Curtain Call is certified 7x platinum by the RIAA — in other words, “FACK” is technically a multi-platinum record. Even after it was initially met with utter disdain from even his most loyal fans upon release, it has since received a strange sort of retroactive appreciation — though still falling short of acclaim. Yet it’s likely that longtime Eminem fans will have nothing but fond words for the once-divisive hit, and yes, we can call it a hit, given the album from whence it came. Perhaps enough time has passed for the urgency surrounding the real-time decline Em appeared to be experiencing around “FACK’s” release. Now, as one of many zany chapters in the wide-ranging tome that is his career, it’s a simple dose of harmless comedic release.
And damned if it hasn’t left a lasting impression. After all, here we are at the conclusion of the first and likely only piece of long-form “FACK” related content ever penned.