Entertainment & Arts

Eminem 'crossed a line', says Courteeners singer

Eminem and The Courteeners are going head-to-head for this week's number UK album Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Courteeners led Eminem by 2,000 sales in the midweek album chart

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.

The US star was criticised by many last week, including Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, for an "unnecessarily hurtful" verse on his new album.

Courteeners singer Liam Fray says he "feels sorry" that the rapper has resorted to "shock" tactics.

His band are currently ahead of Eminem in the race for number one.

Their sixth album More. Again. Forever has sold 2,000 more copies than the rapper's surprise release, Music To Be Murdered By, according to the Official Charts.

Fray accepts that his band will probably be overtaken when the full chart is compiled on Friday, as Eminem is outperforming them on streaming services.

But he isn't impressed by the star's controversial lyrics.

"It all just felt like an old comedian who can't get on the telly any more just saying something outrageous," says Fray.

"I just felt a bit sorry for him. I just felt like he's jumping the shark a bit."

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 outside an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in May 2017.

The Courteeners were among the bands who officially reopened the venue months later with a benefit gig for families of the victims, alongside Noel Gallagher, Rick Astley and other local acts.

Eminem referenced the atrocity in Unaccommodating, the second track on his new album, rapping: "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.

On Sunday, Fray tweeted words to the effect of "Eminem can get lost", but was, he admits, simply referring to their chart battle at that point.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Courteeners help to re-open the Manchester Arena with the We Are Manchester benefit gig in 2017

Having been locked in "Courteeners' world", since the release of their own new music last week, the singer was blissfully unaware of the star's 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."

Fray says he hopes the controversy won't cause further pain to the families of the victims.

"I don't even want to talk too much about it because I feel like it's almost not my place," he says. "I want to give them the respect that they deserve."

Image copyright Lindsey Holt
Image caption The Courteeners were formed in 2006 by school friends Michael Campbell, Liam Fray and Daniel "Conan" Moores

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.

The cover of The Courteeners' reflective new album carries an image of the worker bee - a symbol of Manchester, which took on added meaning as the city rallied together in the wake of the attacks.

'Sea change'

Whoever wins the chart race, they are on course to achieve their biggest first week of sales ever.

In their review, The Guardian wrote that "without abandoning the well-executed anthemics" that 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 UK 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 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."

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

More on this story