Review Summary: “The Marshall Mathers was a classic, ‘The Eminem Show’ was fantastic, but ‘Encore’ just didn’t have the caliber to match it”.
“The Marshall Mathers was a classic, ‘The Eminem Show’ was fantastic, but ‘Encore’ just didn’t have the caliber to match it”.
Slim on ‘Careful What You Wish For’, reflecting on the critical roasting ‘Encore’ received.
He’s right – pundits don’t take ‘Encore’ seriously. And actually, I’d say that’s justified. Eminem’s trademark craftsmanship dissolves into rudimentary lyricism, and anonymous filler is in abundance. We’re uncomfortable, and not ‘Kim’ uncomfortable – cringe uncomfortable. But, that it’s not as good doesn’t mean it’s not good.
Amidst the crap, an enjoyable Eminem is still about. Slim remains the quintessential rebel – an icon for, among many, the spotty-faced teen. There persists a puzzling likeability - one that’s entirely accessible. Let’s start with ‘Evil Deeds’,: we’re force-fed some manic (but wholly appropriate) Dr. Dre as Slim emerges in racing-lunatic mode. It’s a new type of Eminem – ‘Encore’ is entirely about eccentricity, and manic-babbling just adds to this charisma. He’s got, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, an enchanting psychosis to him; his mania’s exciting. For all its bad points, ‘Rain Man’’s cocky lunacy is surprisingly captivating – there’s something fascinating about a guy that’s just abandoned it all. It’s messy, spontaneous and chaotic, and thoroughly enjoyable. Em becomes an entertainer.
There’s a bit more to it than this: glimmers of rapping proficiency come now and again. ‘Like Toy Soldiers’ is genuinely touching and heart-felt; it’s always surprising to find yourself not hating something when it brandishes a chorus of emotional children, but there’s some real gravity there. ‘Mosh’ is provocative; a mighty call-to-arms that actually got Slim put ‘under investigation’ by the FBI. But, that’s what we’re after – it’s rebel music. And considering how vastly different his aggressive stuff is from his silly stuff, ‘Encore’’s structure makes the fusion as successful as it could be. It sort of goes jokey-outrageous-ohmygod before you’ve had a chance to catch yourself – it’s a hypnotic descent into absurdity.
It’s vastly different to his early records – often in a bad way, but one thing we didn’t have was a powerful Eminem. Before, it was Slim getting picked on – remember: “Nah, that Bully wants to beat ya ass and I’ma let him”? That was cool but exhaustive; here, Em’s delivery is mighty. It’s as if he hits the right sort of screaming – a sort he neglects dramatically 7 years later. It works even when he’s being sensitive-Eminem: Mockingbird’s chorus is touching, but there’s a dimension of hysteria there. There are threatening undertones and, well, it’s just great.
Encore’s unusual; it’s a pretty average album, but it’s never boring. Eminem’s so brash that just as there are dramatic peaks, there are dramatic troughs. Encore’s often accused of exhibiting simplified lyricism – it does. Craftsmanship takes a step back where it shouldn’t: “Over them railroad tracks” – great, where’s he going with this? – “Oh, them railroad tracks, them old railroad tracks, them good old notorious so well known tracks.” Compare this to what’s absent – the ‘Brain Damaged’s, Em was sophisticated; he isn’t now. And then there’s the cringey stuff. Feeling uncomfortable can be cool, but it has to be the right sort of uncomfortable - the ‘Kill You’ kind. The fart noises aren’t funny.
And good God, the features; Obie Trice is dire on ‘Spend Some Time’ and D12 are lackluster, regardless of their importance to Em’s history. Having said this, he’s still an icon: he’s profane, irreligious and disturbed and it’s entrancing. He can’t ameliorate the trash though, and some of it’s just anonymous. ‘Crazy in Love’ is painful, and the chorus acts as meager sanctuary. So, Em’s lost his filter – his ability to distinguish between what’s wicked and what’s crap.