Review Summary: Hopefully the final instalment to Marshall's "R" series; and his career.Lost.
There isn’t a word to better define Eminem’s career the last 15 years. Marshall Mathers; the little skinny white boy from Detroit, Michigan who single-handedly changed the playing field for rap music forever in the late 90’s, early 00’s. Coupled with Marshall’s scintillating talent and Dr. Dre’s guidance, he went on to make some of the most controversial, humorous, thought-provoking and honest albums of his time, and quickly became America’s public enemy number one. His attitude and barefaced honesty were extremely appealing selling points for the young rapper; not giving a proverbial about who he disliked in the industry and having them quickly become subject matter for his latest album if they brushed up against him the wrong way: he was wildfire, and there wasn’t anything to tame him. And millions, like me, loved him for it. The Slim Shady LP
and The Marshall Mathers LP
are bonafide masterpieces: hugely entertaining albums that encapsulate Eminem’s cheeky, psychotic dynamics – perfectly partnered with Dr. Dre’s signature 90’s rhythm of booming beats and infectious grooves; and I don’t mean to come out with sentiments which could come across hyperbolic, but they are perfect albums in their own right. However, by 2002 things were taking a drastic change and Marshall wanted to push himself as an artist, predominantly stepping up as a producer. As a result – coincidentally or not – The Eminem Show
took a dip in quality; all the ingredients were there, but the results were tasteless and weak when compared to his last two knock-out records. Ever since then, I’ve watched a true prodigy of his craft become distorted, confused and blurred over time; albums which don’t learn from their previous mistakes, and actually end up more terrible than the last. But what’s more depressing was watching an artist of his stature looking increasingly out of touch with the world, with little awareness that he should have packed it in long ago.
Yes, I have to admit, Eminem is about as out of touch with his environment as I am with his works. I won’t stutter when I say anything post Encore
is up there as some of the worst rap albums I’ve ever heard – with the exception of the reflective cash-in The Marshall Mathers LP 2
, which manages to resurrect some of his great qualities. There are so many factors on why I feel Eminem has gone above and beyond his sell-by date, but there are two glaring ones that never seem to dissipate and has cost my appreciation for him in the process: the first is his overbearing seriousness, his voice has dropped significantly over the years, so his spellbinding ability to grab the listener isn’t as forthcoming as it once was, and as a result, I surmise, has shifted his focus into a much more despondent tone; lastly is his over cumbersome and obsessive use of guest spots for songs – and, hypocritically, the type of “guest artists” Em would have ripped apart in his earlier days. The former issue holds its weight in mishaps, but its the latter problem which dispenses the most damage: it’s something which has destroyed the cohesion to his records, time after time, and even if he manages to find a great flow which works well for him in a song, 9 times out of 10 there will be a godawful chorus sung by a guest pop artist which will put a swift end to any enjoyment you were experiencing. It’s jarring, it doesn’t fit, and it’s something that has cost a lot of his work to fall in the toilet.
As I said earlier, The Marshall Mathers LP 2
brought the first buzz of excitement I’d felt for him in 15 years. Sure, it was a patchy and inconsistent LP, but it showed me one thing: he still had it in him. So, with that and his pretty solid freestyle rap about Trump, I can’t deny I had a little bit of anticipation for this. Of course, that was quickly put to bed when he dropped the first single “Walk on Water”, a track which delivered all the horrifying traits the last 10 years of his career have been plagued by; and then solidifying my terror for Revival
when the corny “Untouchable” followed suit: bringing all the nasty, irritating humour a song like “Just Lose It” once offered. Nevertheless, here we are, and so is Revival
, and the question you’re probably wanting to ask if you haven’t decided to hit the play button yet – on what looks like a complete clusterfu*k of a record – is “how does it fair?
. And I’m inclined to tell you, it isn’t as bad as I’d predicted. That’s not to say this is a good album – it’s far, far from it – but there are a few enjoyable moments to be had during its colossal 19 track journey. The biggest surprise comes from the guest spots, which function fairly tastefully at times: Ed Sheeran’s spot on “River” stands to deliver a pretty solid and catchy track, one which didn’t rip me out of what was a pretty decent verse from Em before shifting into Ed’s part; while the subtler spot from PHRESHER on “Chloraseptic” provides a far from immersion ripping listen, and certainly one of the stronger tracks here because of it, keeping to the same page than feeling like two completely different songs fighting it out. Having said that, the guests on here do damage more often than not, but sometimes it’s handled with nuance than an outright catastrophic mesh of tones being banged together. Another reason why some of these spots don’t leave me irate is because of Eminem stepping it up a notch and making sure his parts resonate throughout the songs: “Like Home” delivers a scathing message to Trump, and I found that so interesting and worthwhile, that Alicia Key’s odd section – which, once again, doesn’t work for the song – didn’t matter that much, I could look past it. Further positives come from tracks like “Believe” and “Bad Husband”, which balance out the serious nature of his music these days and bring it to a level ground where it doesn't sound goofy, and it made the tracks a lot more enjoyable in the process.
At 19 tracks, even if Eminem was in his prime, there is going to be flaws with Revival
, given the sheer scale of it. But when it’s modern day Marshall this does serious damage to the product as a whole. This is a record that has a couple of solid tracks, a couple of bearable ones and then a remainder of bad to outright terrible ones. “Offended” is a prime example of why Em has been left in the dirt all these years, it might have extremely impressive technical proficiency, but it’s tarnished by some truly dire lyrics that focus on his out-of-touch humour, backed by kitten-weak and forgettable beats. “Nowhere Fast” and “Need Me” are tracks which feel like they should have been on the guest’s latest project featuring Eminem than on his album, as he’s hardly on the tracks in question, and feel completely out of place. Then you get really odd tracks like the terrible “Remind Me”; an “I Love Rock’n Roll” remix designed for one thing: the incinerator. After all this, what you’re left with is an album that completely derails itself by the time it gets over “Bad Husband”. It’s just track after track of awful lyrics, flat music and dodgy melancholy, delivered by cliche instrumental arrangements or a singer; and the presentation of these tracks are cheesy as hell. Had this thing been at 10 tracks, he might have salvaged a half decent album here, as it is it’s an extremely bloated, inconsistent and, largely, cringe-induced mess. It’s like The Marshall Mathers LP 2
never happened, and while it’s a step up from Relapse
, it really doesn’t say much, does it?
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A