“Love the Way You Lie” is a song recorded by the American rapper Eminem, featuring the Barbadian singer Rihanna, from Eminem’s seventh studio album Recovery (2010). The singer and songwriter Skylar Grey wrote and recorded a demo of the song alongside the producer Alex da Kid when she felt she was in an abusive romantic relationship with the music industry. Eminem wrote the verses and chose Rihanna to sing the chorus, resulting in a collaboration influenced by their past experiences in difficult relationships. Recording sessions were held in Ferndale, Michigan, and Dublin, Ireland. Backed by guitar, piano and violin, the track is a midtempo hip hop ballad with a pop refrain and describes two lovers who refuse to separate despite being in a dangerous love–hate relationship.
Interscope Records released the song in August 2010 as the second single from Recovery. Critics praised its melody but were divided on thematic aspects such as poignancy and accuracy. Eminem promoted the single with performances at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo, the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards and festivals. The music video, directed by Joseph Kahn, stars Dominic Monaghan and Megan Fox in a violent relationship and shows Eminem and Rihanna in front of a burning house. The clip had a mixed reception due to scenes of domestic violence. Reporters suggested that the song and its accompanying video were influenced by Eminem’s and Rihanna’s relationships with their respective ex-lovers Kimberly Scott and Chris Brown.
Critics listed “Love the Way You Lie” among the best tracks of 2010 and of Eminem’s career. The song won many awards and received five Grammy nominations. It is Eminem’s best-selling single and ranked number one on several record charts, including the United States’ Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks. The single sold six million copies in the US and was the best-selling song of 2010 in the United Kingdom. Musical acts such as Cher Lloyd and The Band Perry have performed cover versions. Rihanna has said that the theme of domestic violence, a topic on which she claims many people do not have insight, is what makes the song effective. She later recorded “Love the Way You Lie (Part II)”, narrated mostly from her perspective.
Development of “Love the Way You Lie” began with the backing track and hook melody, which were created by the British hip hop producer Alex da Kid. When making a track, he said he spends hours making loops and produces an electronic drum rhythm before adding live instrumentation. The drums are sampled from live recordings he saves. Alex da Kid recorded an acoustic guitar for the verses with a Georg Neumann U87 microphone and an Avid Mbox audio interface. He told Sound on Sound magazine that this song had given him an opportunity to reintroduce live guitar in hip hop music. During the session, he used Waves RVerb and REQ equalization on his main kick track and a MaxxBass plug-in on two others.
Writing began in late 2009, when the American singer Holly Hafermann resided at the Artula Retreat in Bandon, Oregon, and composed songs. Later, in New York, under her new stage name Skylar Grey, she visited her Universal Music publisher, Jennifer Blakeman, to seek help presenting her work; Blakeman suggested she collaborate with Alex da Kid. The producer emailed Grey his track, which suggested a theme of abusive romantic relationships to her as she spontaneously sang lyrics to the melody. She told the Los Angeles Times that she was in an abusive relationship with the music industry: “I love it so much, and I give it all that I have, yet it beats me down.” This idea inspired her writing, a process she found came naturally, as if she were creating an alternative pop song for herself. She wrote the chorus to “Love the Way You Lie” in fifteen minutes and recorded vocals for Alex da Kid’s demo.
In early 2010, Alex da Kid offered the Shady Records Senior Director Rigo “Riggs” Morales some backing tracks. Morales enjoyed the tracks and sent them to Eminem, who was seeking a different musical approach for his next album. Impressed with Alex da Kid’s work, Eminem asked for more tracks and subsequently heard “Love the Way You Lie”. He chose it and told his manager Paul Rosenberg he wanted to collaborate with the Barbadian singer Rihanna. Eminem told Skyrock FM, “It’s one of those tracks that I felt like only she could pull it off.” Rosenberg sent the track to Rihanna, who accepted Eminem’s request “at the last moment.” Eminem then wrote the rapped verses.
Rihanna said she joined the collaboration because she could relate to the theme of the song, as she and Eminem had been in difficult relationships on “different ends of the table”. Eminem had released the songs “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” (1998) and “Kim” (2000), in which he fantasizes, respectively, about murdering and verbally abusing his then-wife Kimberly Scott. They had divorced in 2001 and again in 2006 after a remarriage. In February 2009, Rihanna’s relationship with the American singer Chris Brown had ended following his felony assault on her. Rihanna described “Love the Way You Lie” as unique, realistic and deep, saying that it “broke down the cycle of domestic violence” because few people had insight on the topic.
Mike Strange recorded and mixed Eminem’s vocals at Effigy Studios in Ferndale, Michigan. The sessions took two days. Strange edited the vocals with D-Verb—a reverberation software—and an Extra Long Delay plug-in. He preferred to make few changes; for “Love the Way You Lie” he almost exclusively used board compression and console equalization. Strange used the Bricasti and Eventide Reverb 2016 mixing tools for “brighter” reverberation. Detroit musician Luis Resto has contributed to the arrangement on many of Eminem’s songs, but did not do so for “Love the Way You Lie”. According to Strange, “Everything we needed was already in the track, apart from the vocals.” Two to three weeks after the sessions, Alex da Kid arrived to help mix and master the track. He wanted to replace the acoustic guitar on the demo, but Eminem chose to keep it. Strange said, “It was simply a matter of trying to match and then to improve on the demo [Alex da Kid]’d sent us.” Strange’s brother Joe engineered the track.
Rihanna’s recording sessions took place at Sun Studios in Dublin, Ireland. Marcos Tovar mixed her vocals, which were engineered by Spike Lindsey and mastered from Detroit over the Internet. The American songwriter Makeba Riddick provided additional vocal production. Strange used equalization, compression and reverberation but left the vocal balance. He assumed that Rihanna was satisfied with her recorded vocals and did not make major changes on her seven stereo vocal tracks.
“Love the Way You Lie” is a midtempo hip hop ballad. The lyrics describe a couple’s refusal to separate despite having an abusive relationship. According to the sheet music from Universal Music Publishing Group, the song is in the key of B♭ major with a common time signature and a tempo of 84 beats per minute. The vocal range spans from B♭3 to D5. “Love the Way You Lie” opens as Rihanna sings the pop refrain over a piano:
Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
But that’s alright, because I like the way it hurts.
Just gonna stand there and hear me cry
The refrain is based on a Gm–E♭(add2)–B♭–F/A chord progression. Fraser McAlphine of the BBC wrote that Rihanna feels confined “in a cell of [her] own creation”. She sings without vibrato, a pulsating musical effect used to add expression. One commentator, The New York Times‘ David Brownie, wrote that despite this, her voice subtly shows grief and regret. Eminem then “zap[s] out into a ballady rap”: “I can’t tell you what it really is/ I can only tell you what it feels like.” The verses follow a Gm–E♭(add2)B♭–Fsus/A chord progression. Eminem regrets an end to an abusive, failed relationship, describing mutual violence and expressing both fondness and anger. The two artists’ characters are portrayed in a romantic relationship when he responds to Rihanna by concluding the verse: “I laid hands on her. I’ll never stoop so low again/ I guess I don’t know my own strength.” Rihanna sings the chorus again, backed by an electric guitar and a piano.
Acoustic guitar, violin and drums accompany Eminem’s verses. The lyrics transition from discussing positive aspects of love to describing violent events. Eminem raps, “It’s the rage that took over, it controls you both, so they say it’s best to go your separate ways. Guess that they don’t know ya, cause today that was yesterday.” Sady Doyle of The Atlantic interpreted these lyrics as the rapper’s confession to having abused Scott, as he “turns the anger and accusations toward himself”. In the second verse, Eminem accepts the outcome after feeling sorry, admitting, “Yesterday is over, it’s a different day.” His frustration increases and he raps that two personalities can clash and devastate: “maybe that’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano”. The described love–hate relationship worsens and leads to [[domestic violence]ll]. Eminem admits to lying about promises he makes and says late in the song, “If she ever tries to fuckin’ leave again, I’ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire”, a reference to Rihanna’s lyrics.
On May 27, 2010, Eminem revealed the title of “Love the Way You Lie” as part of the track list of his seventh studio album Recovery, which came out on June 21. Initially a radio single, the song was released later by Polydor Records as a CD in the United Kingdom on August 9, 2010. Interscope Records distributed it in Germany on August 20.
“Love the Way You Lie” received generally favorable reviews. An editor for Rap-Up listed it among the four best tracks from the album. New York Times writer Jon Caramanica considered it “one of the album’s most engaging songs” and praised Eminem’s ability to assess issues from the perspectives of both sexes. MTV’s Rodriguez wrote that the song echoes content from Eminem’s earlier albums, but finds him “sober” and “more mature”. He added that the lyrics allude to Eminem’s relationship with Scott and that “Love the Way You Lie” is his closest approach to a love song. Editors of The A.V. Club compared the single with “Kim” and ‘s Jarett Wieselman wrote that they play their roles perfectly and help make the video powerful. Entertainment Weekly‘s Benjamin Sutton likened the scene in which the characters burn to the Marvel Comics character Chris Bradley, whom Monaghan portrays in the 2009 action film X-Men Origins: Wolverine. As of October 2016, the video is the site’s 24th most viewed video, with more than 1.17 billion views.
Eminem has promoted “Love the Way You Lie” at concerts. On June 15, 2010, he and Rihanna performed the song at Los Angeles’ Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010, accompanied by the drummer Travis Barker and D12’s Mr. Porter. Eminem sang “Love the Way You Lie” at the Scottish festival T in the Park on July 10, 2010, dedicating it to “everybody who'[d] been in a fucked-up relationship.” He then performed the song at Ireland’s annual Oxegen festival on July 11, 2010. James Hendicott from State wrote that the rapper’s personality “fill[ed] the stage” and that his vocals were sharp and packed “plenty of punch”. He criticized the use of a pre-recorded backing track and noted the lack of live music and female vocals. Eamon Sweeney from the Irish Independent called Eminem’s performance only “mildly impressive”.
On July 21, 2010, the rapper joined Rihanna on her Last Girl on Earth Tour to perform in Los Angeles. He then performed at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards and was voted the best performer of the ceremony in an MTV poll, earning 34 percent of votes. Rihanna made a surprise appearance despite having said she could not perform because of her schedule. Suddath of Time called their duet dull. Eminem sang “Love the Way You Lie” without Rihanna at the 2011 Bonnaroo Music Festival for almost 80,000 people. According to MTV News’ Montgomery, the “sheer tenacity with which he attacked” was his strength. Patrick Doyle of Rolling Stone felt Eminem delivered a triumphal act by “constantly bouncing across the stage” and singing energetically.
Eminem performed “Love the Way You Lie” on the second day of Chicago’s annual Lollapalooza festival on August 6, 2011. Members of the audience sang the chorus to compensate for Rihanna’s absence. Piet Levy of USA Today named the show a “tragic stunner”, while Katie Hasty of HitFix added that it displayed competition between the sexes. Eminem and Rihanna performed in Staffordshire on the first day of V2011 (V Festival), on August 20, 2011. James Lachno of The Daily Telegraph considered it an “affecting” rendition. The Guardian called their performance thrilling and an editor for the British newspaper Metro felt that it was the best part of the evening. Eminem closed the festival on the night of August 21 in Chelmsford, Essex, for an audience of 120,000. A reporter for the International Business Times thought that Eminem’s duet with Rihanna was the highlight of the show.
Various musical acts have performed cover versions of “Love the Way You Lie”. Eric Stanley, an American violinist, remixed the song on the violin. The country music group The Band Perry sang the song at the June 2010 CMT Music Awards. Two months later, Taylor Momsen—the lead singer of the American rock band The Pretty Reckless—performed a cover version for BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge as part of a mashup with the song “Islands” by the English pop band The xx. Assisted by a guitarist from her band, she began with a section of “Islands” and transitioned into the chorus of “Love the Way You Lie”. Cher Lloyd, a British singer, performed the song in the final five of The X Factor UK‘s seventh season. A writer from The Sun called the performance “stripped-back” and “without any of her usual stage gimmicks.” Mernie Gilmore of the Daily Express commented that the song is “a duet for a reason” as Lloyd performed both Eminem’s and Rihanna’s parts. In 2010, the Russian guitarist Alex Feather Akimov, released “Love The Way You Lie (Heavy Remix)”, a recording that was recognized by Billboard.biz (Web Trends). Indian Boys, Stuart Matthew (HC) & Amit Mike recorded a version of the song which topped in Botswana for Hip-Hop/Rap in iTunes Music Chart. This version has also been on radio airplay in Italy best water bottle for office. The American post-hardcore band A Skylit Drive recorded a cover of the single for Punk Goes Pop 4, the 2011 release of the Punk Goes… series.
On November 3, 2010, an alternative version titled “Love the Way You Lie (Part II)” leaked onto the Internet. Rihanna is the lead vocalist and Eminem is a featured guest. The song mainly views matters from Rihanna’s perspective and is based on Grey’s demo. Rihanna agreed to record a sequel despite initially thinking “the original couldn’t be beaten”. She said that the sequel involved less production, with only piano and drums. It is the eleventh and final track on her 2010 studio album Loud. Grey’s version appears on her 2012 extended play The Buried Sessions of Skylar Grey and her 2013 studio album Don’t Look Down as “Love the Way You Lie (Part III)”.
Rihanna performed a short medley that comprised “Love the Way You Lie (Part II)”, “What’s My Name?” and “Only Girl (In the World)” at the American Music Awards of 2010. Another medley, consisting of “Love the Way You Lie (Part II)” and “I Need a Doctor”, was performed at the 2011 Grammy Awards. While the Chicago Sun-Times considered the track an unnecessary sequel, the BBC reviewer James Skinner wrote, “‘Love the Way You Lie (Part II)’ even bests the original, Eminem’s verse exuding the kind of volatile, simmering menace that got everyone so excited about him in the first place. But it is Rihanna’s vocal—at once commanding, soulful and vulnerable—that anchors the song”.
The credits for “Love the Way You Lie” are adapted from the liner notes of Recovery.
*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
sales+streaming figures based on certification alone
Since May 9, 2013, RIAA certifications for digital singles include on-demand audio and/or video song streams in addition to downloads.