JENI O’DOWD: Eminem’s sharp observations in hit Houdini sum up life today for young adults perfectly — s**t

Jeni O’Dowd
The Nightly
While Eminem’s lyrics in Houdini may reflect his own journey, some parts resonate deeply with what we see today.
While Eminem’s lyrics in Houdini may reflect his own journey, some parts resonate deeply with what we see today. Credit: Naomi Craigs/The Nightly

“Sometimes I wonder what the old me would say if he could see the way shit is today…”

These words from Eminem’s hit Houdini have struck a chord worldwide, with the song reaching No. 1 in multiple countries and becoming the rapper’s highest-charting single in more than a decade.

It’s a song I love, showcasing the lyrical genius of the greatest rapper of all time, now 51 years old, with three kids, ages 22, 28, and 31.

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Houdini is many things, but the part I enjoy most is his comments on today’s cancel culture and woke society.

He’s back. And I, like millions of others, couldn’t be happier. Eminem’s sharp observation about the way things are today — that is, s**t — is so true.

Compared to when the rapper was in his twenties, today’s young adults face a drastically different and challenging landscape — often dismissed with trite comments like they should eat less avocado toast and drink fewer lattes to afford a deposit for a home.

Compared to when Eminem was in his twenties, today’s young adults face a drastically different and challenging landscape. Credit: BANG - Entertainment News

Apparently, they should also be happy living on the outskirts of major cities and spending hours commuting to and from work. Oh yes, and they also need to stop spending money and save instead (when basic food costs are at an all-time high).

Today’s economic and social pressures undoubtedly make it much harder for young adults to achieve the same milestones their parents did.

Consider the rising cost of living, stagnant wages and crippling student loan debt. Consider trying to enter the housing market for the first time.

Consider the fact you are shouted down if you say something the woke police disagree with. Or even worse, you are reported to those perpetual smiling sharks in human resources.

There is no doubt that both Boomers and Generation X were far better off than the older Gen Z and younger Millennials of today — that is, young adults around 30 like Eminem’s kids.

Popular Melbourne broadcaster and panellist on ABC’s The Gruen Transfer, Russel Howcroft, captured these sentiments perfectly when he said now is the hardest time in Australia’s history to be a 30-year-old.

It’s a fact, Howcroft said, that 30-year-olds will be less well off than their parents. When he was 30, a house cost three times his salary. The cost of an average home in Melbourne back then was $109,000. Today, it’s more than eight times what the average 34-year-old earns yearly.

Howcroft said: “It’s true that HECS has doubled in the last 15 years from a $15,000 to a $30,000 bill. Baby boomers paid half the tax that a 30-year-old now pays. The reality is, it is extremely difficult to be a 30-year-old in Australia right now.”

Let me continue. According to data compiled by ABC online, fewer GPs are bulk-billing patients, with the proportion of those who do dropping from 24 per cent in 2022 to just 12 per cent in 2023.

Grattan Institute data shows that in 2016, 30-year-olds contributed twice as much to support older Australians’ living standards than Boomers did at 30. And that’s adjusted for inflation, the ABC report said.

It said data projections expect 30-year-olds in 2041 to pay nearly four times more tax, aligned with budget trends tabled in the Australian Government’s 2023 Intergenerational Report.

If we look back to Boomers of the same age, they lived in a time of relative economic stability and growth, with well-paid jobs readily available, affordable housing, and education that did not leave them buried in debt.

They could do what they liked and say what they liked (they still do) — but for young adults today, the fear of saying the wrong thing can be paralysing, particularly in a professional setting.

This cultural shift has created an environment where free expression is often curtailed by the fear of repercussion.

And, the mental health toll of the pressures on today’s young adults cannot be ignored, with reports of rising anxiety and depression reflecting the overwhelming stress of navigating today’s world, no doubt complicated by the pressures of social media.

Older generations need to show greater understanding and empathy, and the first step is to recognise the unique challenges faced by today’s 30-year-olds.

While Eminem’s lyrics in Houdini may reflect his own journey, some parts resonate deeply with what we see today.

It’s no wonder it’s the most popular and talked-about song worldwide right now. Eminem is pure genius.


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