Review Summary: You may be gone, but you're never over.
If you've never heard of Eminem before, I have two things to say to you: firstly, I hope it's not too cold at night in your cave
; and secondly, you've missed too much. That in turn means two things; it means you've not had the opportunity to sample some of the best hip-hop albums of the last 11 years in the The Marshall Mathers LP
and the Slim Shady LP
, and it means you're unaware of a narrative
, an arc which has been in flight for some time. It is very unlikely that any first-time listeners will find Recovery
any better than 'very good'; it is even possible to argue that for that same reason, it doesn't deserve a review praising it any more highly. But Recovery
is an album for the people who have formed a relationship with Marshall Mathers over the last 10 years, and I don't just mean those who fell in love with The Real Slim Shady and bought all his underground ***
, I mean the people that have followed it all - the rise and the fall of a troubled and conflicted person - and haven't taken their eye off the human being behind one of rap's great talents.
That's not to say that Recovery
doesn't hold its fair share of excellent cuts, it's just that Eminem's seventh studio full-length is overshadowed more than practically any in recent memory by context. But he deals with that sharp-ish, asserting on 'Talkin' 2 Myself':
Those last 2 albums didn't count
Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushing them out.
I've come to make it up to you, now no more ***ing around,
I've got something to prove to fans 'cause I feel like I let 'em down.
So please accept my apology, I finally feel like I'm back to normal,
I feel like me again.
And the rest of Recovery
, except for the odd tangent here and there, elaborates on that point. He dedicates 'You're Never Over' - whose second verse is one of the most emotional he's ever written - to passed-on friend Proof, apologises to Kanye for nearly ripping into him on 'Talkin' 2 Myself', and sets the story straight with Kim on 'Going Through Changes'. Where Relapse
strives for real themes. The beats are dark; 'You're Never Over' floats over heavy near-static and bass drums, fitting the subject matter perfectly. The accent is gone; Mathers adopts an aggressive and direct tone for the majority of these songs (think 'The Way I Am' with less of the screams). The guest spots are mostly organic (ignore the fact that Pink actually contributed); Rihanna's presence in particular on second single 'Love The Way You Lie' allows both artists to contribute their best goods to the track, the female vocals matching Eminem's intensity with their soaring sharpness. But even Lil Wayne's verse of 'No Love' feels comfortable in its tempo.
Really, though, there's one song on Recovery
which showcases all that's good about the album it graces, and that's '25 to Life'. One of the most intelligent cuts of Mathers' career, he demonstrates his talent brilliantly on a pensive track which will
surprise you. I'm not about to ruin it for you, but it should suffice to say that the track requires multiple listens to appreciate. Eminem was always best when he was this serious, this angry, this single-minded; here, even W.T.P.
(White Trash Party, in case you were wondering) has an edge, something to say. These are frequently inspired, consistently inspiring tales of pulling yourself out of an abyss, getting to grips with your emotions and feeling alright again. Recovery
is surprising; nobody would have raised an eyebrow if it was as bad as Relapse
, and nobody would have pulled punches in saying it. Fortunately, Recovery
is everything Relapse
was not: heartfelt, dramatic and really quite good. Granted, it's not quite everything The Marshall Mathers LP
was, but it feels like the same man again. Welcome back.