Review Summary: The definitive hodgepodge of the year.
deserves praise for anything, it’s Eminem’s decision to cater to himself just as much as he’s delivering to Eminem fans both old and new. Since the dawn of Slim Shady, Eminem’s music has always found success in how incredibly consistent it was, and variety really wasn’t a concern to anyone when he was accomplishing so much with a similar basis. Being his latest 78-minute behemoth of an album, TMMLP2
is probably the only album under Eminem’s name to take tonal diversity into consideration, and actually winds up technically covering more ground musically in a 70-plus-minute runtime than any of his work in the past decade or so. While Relapse
never strayed from its dim-lit horrorcore route, and Recovery
saw Eminem on a restless soul-searching trip in the forest of pop rap, TMMLP2
takes a big leap back to put the wide scope of his career into rational perspective, and then dares to take a few baby-steps forward into hopefully successful territory.
Lyrically, there’s plenty of references that Slim Shady-purists will appreciate in the near-operatic seven-minute opener “Bad Guy” that touch base with his roots and vintage lines, and anyone who dug the most polished aspects of Recovery
’s production will certainly be fond of “Headlights” on a musical level. However, this dabbling in a range of different styles has resulted in an issue that Eminem surprisingly has avoided up until this point, and it’s that TMMLP2
is at odds with itself musically. Eminem albums have always had one clear point of focus to work off of, so it’s only natural that Mathers has issues making very separate things cohesive. TMMLP2
is his most mixed bag of an album in a literal sense, as it contains some of his best work in years, and some of his most derivative.
An Eminem song as forward-thinking as “Rhyme or Reason” that seamlessly couples his breakneck rapping pace with a smooth chillout inspired beat really doesn’t deserve to be on the same album as a song as painfully generic and vapid as “Monster” that sounds like Eminem jumped on the remix of a Rihanna song rather than it being his own. Just as something as erratic and directionless as “Berzerk” seems arbitrary when followed by the concentrated and refined finesse found on “Rap God.” So yeah, one could say the musical departments of the album can’t come to a general consensus on what the end product needs to represent, despite some disparately interesting highlights. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority of the album isn’t worth listening to, because Eminem’s voice and mind will always be the main attraction of his music.
When putting the often jarring personality shifts aside, at least half of TMMLP2
is the spiritual successor to Recovery
in how reflective it is thematically. The difference this time is that Eminem didn’t forget to bring his sense of humor along for the trip down memory lane, as he meditates on his journey from TMMLP
(his prime) to the current era in both a serious and ironic attitude within the songs. When it comes to general references, Eminem appears to be grasping at thin air for his punch lines and attempts at wit. The events he makes analogies to could be more cleverly executed and relevant to his rhymes, but thankfully the annoying accents of his previous efforts still seem to have been put to rest with Relapse
(thank God). Speaking of which, Eminem’s delivery definitely isn’t as brutishly loud as it has been in his most recent outings. He’s not as thoroughly captivating as he used to be to keep these largely 4-5-minute tracks afloat for their entirety, but he sounds more urgent without constantly shouting his head off for recognition. And with those silly voices gone and replaced by a content and at ease flow, quite possibly the most accurate comparison to the original Marshal Mathers LP
one could make for this album is that it’s the most natural and human Eminem has sounded since.
As for actual grand advancements, there’s not many aside from Eminem finally forgiving his mother in “Headlights” (which probably would have had a much bigger impact a decade ago). The success here of being an album worth mention is derived from its encompassment of the past and present Marshall Mathers. But where does that leave the man now? For every peer into new areas, there’s a retreat to old tendencies. For every mature proclamation of forgiveness and acceptance, there’s an immature gag or theme that lessens the momentum and incites the groans. But between the off-kilter beats, cheap synth blips, infectious pairing of groove and technical proficiency in “So Much Better” and downright agonizingly horrible singing in “Stronger Than I Was,” there lies a lot of contrasting substance to recommend to Eminem’s now vastly diverse audience. And through all of the unevenness, no matter where he does end up going in the future, TMMLP2
has made it apparent that he’s fully revived and open to new possibilities of all kinds.