Review Summary: While there are glimmers of Marshall's talent, this album sounds unnatural and forced.
If The Slim Shady LP Eminem could hear this, he’d be disappointed. This album is not maturity; it is a strained blandness. Having said this, welcome scraps of rebellious-yet-alluring Slim surface occasionally. What soon becomes apparent though, is that either Recovery isn’t as personal as it should be, or Eminem isn’t as interesting as he should be.
The album is not a failure; an excitingly skilled MC is still semi-present. He creates impressive layered rhyme schemes and toys with words audaciously. Eminem is a craftsman and his lyrical experiments are enjoyable as he cracks some pretty funny puns. On Here We Go he rhymes:
“Girl, you got a hot butt like a lit cigarette, chick-chicka-rette”
What’s more, he’s kept his musical ear – the Eminem ability to write ultra-catchy hooks. The bridge on Space Bound is oddly commanding and emotive considering the guy can’t sing! He’s distinct and powerful here, which in a weird way parallels Cleaning Out My Closet. And, there are broader highlights: Ridaz strikes a threatening bounce; it’s not perfect, but an entrancing fusion of Dre’s production and Em’s attitude that shows capability.
But, when viewed as an overall project it is painfully forced. Where great music was once effortless for Slim, this sounds unnatural. It’s not that the character of the album is artificial – Em has redeveloped his attitude. It’s that the charisma that lifted The Marshall Mathers LP is gone, and its replacement is inferior: the album becomes draining where it should be revitalizing.
Em’s triumphant return is driven by his mighty vocals. I’m kidding, but this is what he’s going for. He screams to get his point across; this is not confident maturity, but a frantic struggle. The content is uninteresting – with so much having happening to Slim since Encore: battles with drugs, the death of Proof, I’d expect a harrowing recount, mature through its expansiveness. Instead, we get Seduction: tedious braggadocio, and Love The Way You Lie, which sounds entirely impersonal. Actually, impersonality stretches across the record, with Eminem’s beats holding no edge. While the obscene and mischievous content of The Slim Shady LP was fictitious, the record was more genuine as his awkward and skittish personality was reflected in the production. Here, Eminem seems to have forgotten what makes a record convincing. He holds back on his lyrical themes, but the overall sound of the album doesn’t work, either.
Recovery doesn’t hit hard. There are moments of hope that indicate Eminem’s talent is still there, but through restrained lyrical content and lack-luster beats there is no spark. As a redefining album, comparison must be drawn between this and Slim’s previous work – I miss the old Eminem.