Review Summary: Music to be Murdered By is the best album that Eminem has released this decade. It's also the only album he's released this decade, so don't expect that to stay for long.
Ya know, if I've observed anything from Marshall "Eminem" Mathers' presence in the past 5 or so years, it's that he's somehow completely misunderstood how this whole "Eminem" thing seems to work. That seems like a sweeping, grandiose statement on its face, so in order to understand precisely what that means, well we have to put his career up to this point into perspective, especially for those who only seem to have gotten into him through his resurgence in popularity in the 2010s:
In 1999 and 2000, Eminem was basically unavoidable, and to the seeming legions of kids kissing the ground he walked on, mainly because he seemed to love ripping celebrities and politicians a new asshole. What those kids seemed to miss, however, was the bigger context: it was not just going after celebrities and politicians, it was the fact that he went after celebries and politicians that were more powerful than him
. It seemed as if nobody was safe: Tipper Gore, Britney Spears, Moby, or even Dr. Dre himself
, the man who made Eminem what he is today. Better yet, these were famous people who could, in theory, do something to utterly destroy his career. But they knew that wasn't possible, because they'd only be giving him more power. Even more so, he was making callouts to critics and politicians that seemed to strike a raw nerve with them, probably because of how true they were, whether or not it was the then-relevant Grammy race ("You think I give a damn about a Grammy?/Half of you critics can't even stomach me/Let alone stand me"
), artists being such an easy target for media scrutiny ("When a dude's getting bullied and shoots up his school/And they blame it on Marilyn /Or the heroin, where were the parents at?"
So what does that have to do with Eminem in 2020? Well, it's almost impossible to bring that up without bringing the two albums responsible for this identity crisis he's in to mind: His 80 minute anti-Trump screed known as Revival
, which only seemed to further his unpopular image, and Kamikaze
, a very clear... erm, attempt that was something of a hail mary, but only seemed to remind us all of how out-of-touch he is with lyrics about "being charged to take a Selfie", or comparing his critics to gay men. Lovely. So the short version of that, of course, is that nothing has really changed, except his targets. What once seemed like a surefire way to get everybody to notice him has, ironically, become a surefire way to dig him even deeper into the hole he's been in for a whopping three years
In fact, "Premonition", the first track on awkwardly-titled Music to be Murdered By
makes one thing abundantly clear: Eminem is STILL not over the bad press that Revival
got, and he's somehow even more bitter over the damningly faint praise that Kamikaze
seemed to conjure up at best. And unfortunately that seems to be the perfect indicator for the rest of the 61 minutes that follow. Next in line is "Unaccomodating", the song that has no doubt already made waves for talking about being "bombs away, like an Ariana Grande concert", and believe me, that's not even the worst thing about it. In the span of 3 minutes, he makes numerous poop jokes, takes a hit at "retards", compares himself to Osama Bin Laden, and the list just goes on and on. So despite copious amounts of butthurt (for lack of a better term) in the preceding track, Eminem is somehow so desperate for the world to see him as Slim Shady again, that he's completely forgotten the most important aspect of it: context
. The problem? He's no longer Slim Shady. He's that class clown you went to school with, and somehow never grew up, if the sad state of him you see at your school reunion is any indication.
Despite this, Music to be Murdered By
surprisingly does make more of an attempt to jusify its presence than Revival
. It's clear from the album cover alone that he is attempting to bring back his Horrorcore sound, and it surprisingly works on tracks such as "Premonition", the multiple interludes from Alfred Hitchcock Presents
, and even detectable morbidity in tracks such as "Darkness" and "Godzilla". Additionally, there's more production value apparent here, with tracks such as "Godzilla" (featuring the late Juice WRLD), and the chorus of "Those Kinda Nights". Unfortunately, that's about it. When Eminem is not lashing out at Critics, embarrassing himself with playground level poop jokes/dick jokes or insults, he's making clumsy political statements like "Darkness", a pro-gun control song that clumsily tries to link mass shootings with mental illness or substance abuse issues, imagines himself as the Las Vegas Country Concert shooter, and has the audacity to do all this over an extremely
tired sample of "The Sound of Silence", padding the song out to length with newsreel audioclips. He's also making defiant statements, especially in the final quarter of the album's tracklisting, about how he'll "never change", especially on songs like "Marsh" and "No Regrets", and lashing out at Kim again
, on tracks like "Farewell", where he declares that "you're still a cunt, and I'm still a fuckin' jerk". Again, lovely
The sad thing about this all is that, in some ways, Eminem still has a little bit left of what made him a walking blockbuster. Moments of brilliance shine their heads in songs like "Godzilla", where in the song's final 30 seconds, he somehow manages to top the speed that he once set a record with with "Rap God". But just how many times can one listen to him waste this undeniably impressive technical ability on lyrics about how he's the best rapper ever? How many times can one want to get turnt to an undeniable anthem like "Those Kinda Nights" but have to ignore puerile lyrics about fucking mini-skirts and Maxi-pads
in order to do so (and that's ignoring Ed Sheeran's presence)? And just how many times can Eminiem rap about how much he hates his ex-wife, Kim, before one goes "Yeah, we get it Em, you hate her"- that is, if songs like "Puke" and "My Dad's Gone Crazy" haven't done that already? If you haven't been keeping track, Eminem is almost 50, and is still unable to mature in any way, so at this point, if he doesn't really care, then why should we
Even worse, it's hard to comprehend why Music to be Murdered By
even exists. The reason? Because it pretty much has none. It won't attract new fans. It will hardly appeal to old fans. Worse, it raises far more questions than it answers. Who is this album for? What exactly is he trying to accomplish? Is this really going to be his last album? Or is going to be just another dud in a long line of them? Is he trying to pull a Linkin Park- meaning, he makes a bunch of albums that are shit, and then suddenly he makes something that's NOT shit, and then everyone goes batshit? And most of all, who even gives a shit at this point?