Eminem, "Darkness" (Interscope)

Eminem had an unexpected gift for fans last Friday — and a stark new video that's sure to spark heated debate.

The Detroit rapper released his 11th album, "Music to Be Murdered By," a 20-track project with guests including Ed Sheeran, Juice WRLD and Skylar Grey.

The midnight drop was accompanied by a video for the song "Darkness," a six-minute saga that unfolds as a grim tale of anxiety and substance abuse before revealing its layered meanings: a glimpse into the mind of the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooter and a metaphor for Eminem's own angst as a stage performer.

Eminem's lines play off the dual idea of "killing" in the performance context — as the rapper is later seen as a lonely artist stepping onstage to wow a packed stadium: "It's 10:05 p.m. and the curtain starts to go up/ And I'm already sweating/ But I'm locked and loaded/ For rapid fire spitting for all the concertgoers."

The clip ends with a forceful appeal for gun-law reform by the rapper, 47, whose progressive political views have become increasingly pronounced in his work.

"When will this end?" a title card reads. "When enough people care." The rapper then touts voter registration with a link to vote.gov. "Make your voice heard and help change gun laws in America."

With its references to curtains, pills and isolation, "Darkness" taps themes familiar in Eminem's music, and the track's lyrical twists are likely to garner comparisons to his 2000 hit "Stan."

Eminem's stance on firearms reflect a long evolution on the topic: He was arrested in June 2000 for brandishing an unloaded gun during a Michigan run-in with an associate of rival rap group Insane Clown Posse and arrested again the next day for pistol-whipping a man he spotted kissing his wife outside a bar. He ultimately received two years' probation for possession of a concealed weapon.

"Music to Be Murdered By" arrived much like Eminem's 2018 album, "Kamikaze" — at midnight with no advance notice. Its title and cover art are a nod to a 1958 album of eerie music presented by filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock.

Brian McCollum, Detroit Free Press

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