Eminem is the biggest name in rap today. It’s nearly impossible to say otherwise. Its arguable that he is more popular than the two most accepted kings of “mainstream” hip hop, Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. However, does he deserve that kind of credit? That too is up for debate. However, taking a look at his recent greatest hits album Curtain Call: The Hits, its difficult to not see why he became the monster presence he is today.
After a little intro, we are introduced to the first new cut on the album, FACK. The best way to describe this song would be to give a little word count of a few, select words. ***: 11. Cum: 18. Total “Radio Edits”: 41. That’s close to 10% of the songs lyrics, folks. It could possibly be the worst performance by Eminem on the album, with an annoying vocal track and some of the worst lyrics he’s ever written. Luckily, the beat is interesting enough, and the final Arabian-sounding section is interesting enough, even though the line “Shove a gerbil in your ass/through a tube” is repeated 4 times over it.
The rest of the new tracks are barely noteworthy. Shake That features Nate Dogg, and is the quintessential “club banger”. However, the basic “I’m funna’ get laid yo” lyrics and monotone delivery make the song skippable after one or two listens. Then there is the supporting single for this album, When I’m Gone. Eminem gives a powerful vocal performance, with some rather touching lyrics and a nice (if cheesy) chorus. However, much like much of his previous work on Encore, it gets bogged down in a repetitive and boring beat. All in all, the new tracks should have just not been included, but that’s almost always the case with greatest hits albums.
The collection of singles gathered here are nice and varied, with three songs from the Marshall Mathers LP, The Eminem Show, and Encore, while The Slim Shady LP gets two and the 8 Mile Soundtrack contributes only one (Surprisingly enough, the only single from that album). The S.S. LP contributes perhaps the least to the album; while My Name Is is a decent enough song and warrants inclusion for it being his breakthrough single, it gets tiresome fast and pales in comparison to most of the other tracks on the album. Guilty Conscience was always a fun song, with Eminem battling Dr. Dre for the attention of a few young men. However, there isn’t much to the song past its initial impact, and despite yet another catchy beat, it fails to hold your attention by this point for more than a few listens.
The real meat of the album starts with the singles from the M.M. LP. The Real Slim Shady continues the trend of silly singles, but after all this time (around 6 years at this point), the song is still a fun listen occasionally, and doesn’t get stale like most of the previously mentioned material. However, after that, the chosen singles get progressively and noticeably darker in tone. The Way I Am may be Eminem’s most intense single, with a menacing beat and lyrics spouted with more emotion than anywhere else on the album. The song is perhaps his crowning jewel, even when you compare it to non-singles such as Kill You, Kim, and White America. The final song included from M.M. is Stan, a sweet ode to stalkerish fans everywhere. Featuring a surprisingly fitting snippet from Dido and a thunderstorm backdrop to back up the main beat, it has some of the most impressive lyrics he ever wrote, detailing a rather rabid fan sending letters. It seems much shorter than its 6:44 runtime, a testament to how it sucks you into the rather tragic and sick story of Stan.
Unlike many people, I always felt The Eminem Show was Eminem’s best album altogether, although only by a slim margin. Unfortunately, the singles don’t reflect that. We of course have the silly album drop single Without Me, a song attacking random targets and social/political issues of the day (although it doesn’t exactly pertain to the album, it featured what is probably Eminem’s best music video). Even though it’s probably the best of the fun singles, it doesn’t compare too much else on the album. Cleanin’ Out My Closet’ is a more personal song in the vein of The Way I Am, with similar emotional delivery and “angry” lyrics. However, this time around it doesn’t all come together, and although some lines do have a nice ring or impact, a lot of it seems to be rather whiney and only gives any real punch because of the delivery. The final single included from the Eminem Show is Sing For the Moment, a song sampling of course “Dream On”. Unlike most of his other songs, this has no definitive strong point, rather everything combines to turn the song into a rather strong ballad of a rap, although I find myself skipping over it whenever listening to this album.
The most recent album released by Eminem was Encore; featuring mostly inane tracks and suspect production. Just Lose It typifies this, taking a few tricks from Without Me and rewashing them with an inferior beat and lyrics that are just annoying. It’s somewhat catchy, and features a few amusing lines (“Dre/Beer goggles blind/I’m just trying to unwind” comes off as rather humorous), but it’s the low point off of any of the gathered singles. Mockingbird is my personal choice for worst cover ever; Hailie’s Song was just fine being sung. Like Toy Soldiers is one of the few instances where Eminem makes a real statement on Encore, and it features perhaps the only truly positive message on this entire collection. The Encore part of this album is easily its weakest; with none of the songs being hard hitting, and it seems to be unable to catch the listeners ear in this reviewers eyes.
Of course, there are two final songs to be included on this album; Lose Yourself and Stan Live (Ft. Sir Elton John). Lose Yourself was a powerful number off the 8 Mile soundtrack, and is one of the better songs included. Whether it’s the storyteller lyrics, the menacing (yes, menacing again) delivery, or dark atmosphere, it very rarely lets up once it gets going. Stan Live was a sight when it originally aired on the Grammies, but it loses something in translation. Stan is a great song, but considering this was a singles album, it really didn’t warrant including twice, even with Elton John’s sung chorus.
All in all, I may have judged the tracks a bit too harshly. All the singles were fun listens when they first appeared on the radio; even Just Lose It was stuck in my head for days. They all have either a nice bit of pop or edge to them, making it a varied album without much outright filler. However, if you’re looking for a career defining collection of songs, this album will disappoint you. It says singles for a reason folks, and you wont find many of his greater works included. However, I can’t detract anything from the album for that alone. If you’re looking to get into Eminem (even though if you haven’t given him a listen already, you’re a stronger man than I), this is an easy and accessible place to start, smoothing you into the whirlwind of Marshall Mathers or the intrigue of the Eminem Show. For fans, the new tracks give a little bit more of Eminem to savor, and for everyone else…well, I’m sure you’ll have fun listening to something else.