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Ed Sheeran once compared Eminem to Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is one of the most celebrated musicians of all time. Eclipsed perhaps only by The Beatles, Dylan’s output has been so influential that he was even awarded the moniker ‘The Voice of a Generation’ back in his countercultural heyday. The now-iconic songwriter expertly soundtracked that decade of upheaval, and with his stark political and social narratives, characterised by unique, surreal satire, he cast himself into the collective heart of music lovers worldwide forever.

A modern evocation of the troubadours of years gone by, Dylan is a profoundly intellectual musician who takes many of his cues from literature. Adding to this intellectual density, he has also explored a wide variety of musical modes across his long and celebrated career. At different points, his work has touched on folk, jazz, gospel and hard rock, to name but a few.

Elusive and only adequately identified by the respect that his name inspires, Dylan is a true artist. His interdisciplinary approach to the arts even secured him the coveted Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016 “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. Dylan remains one of those rare artists that we’ll still be studying and discussing for many years to come in what is a sincere testament to his work. 

Despite Dylan being one of the most difficult to pin down musicians of all time, back in 2011, one of contemporary pop music’s biggest stars, Ed Sheeran, offered some insight into the Minnesota native’s work and somehow managed to compare him to another of pop’s biggest stars: Eminem. 

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Speaking WatchMojo, Sheeran made one of the most outlandish comparisons in music history. He posited: “You might look at [them] and say they’re two totally different acts, but all you have to do with Eminem is put a guitar behind his words and it’s a very similar thing. Folk music tells stories and hip hop tells stories, there’s just a beat that separates it. […] Bob Dylan [raps] his tunes, if you listen to [‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’], that’s not a million miles away from an Eminem tune″.

I get where Sheeran is coming from, and the argument that 1965’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ is one of the first rap songs is a longstanding one. However, it’s more than just a beat that separates the work of Eminem and Bob Dylan; it’s an ocean. Eminem’s work across his career could not be any more different from Dylan’s, story-telling or not. 

In later years, Eminem has released tracks such as ‘Not Afraid’, whereas, in his old age, Dylan is releasing masterpieces such as ‘Murder Most Foul’, the differences in quality and style couldn’t be more stark. Furthermore, even if you were to put a guitar behind the majority of Eminem’s music, it would still bear no resemblance to Dylan’s work. It’s wishful thinking from Sheeran, and duly, it’s an argument that falls apart very quickly. 

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