Review Summary: A semi-focused surprise album that emits indifference, if nothing else.
At this point, I have to ask myself what makes Eminem tick? Em’s music career has been a peculiar journey and a fascinating spectacle to observe – especially in its most recent portion. After all, twenty years ago Eminem literally didn’t give a damn what you thought about him. Now? He’s the antithesis of that earlier trait; a hollow caricature of his former glory days and a deeply self-aware and sensitive rapper, functioning on a diet of contradictions and empty words. Criticised for years now, he has been under fire from both critics and fans alike, all citing the same problems: be it a lack of something meaningful to say, a detachment from the world around him, or the consecutively awful and misplaced creative decisions he has been tumbling over post Encore
. Retrospectively, all of this has made the 2010s a bloody tough decade for Eminem to get through, yet people still find these sentiments to ring true. For too long now, we have been getting terrible albums that lack even a fraction of the genius behind his earlier works. The kind of archetypal artist Em would have torn apart back in the day has now become a frequent fixture on his songs, the lack of satirical humour in favour of a laughably self-serious demeanour, and ham-fisted and egregious pop elements, which have neutered his rap-style, are just a few of the glaring issues that have eroded Eminem’s reputation. Of course, as we all know, the apex to all of this came to a head when Revival
dropped – a record so universally reviled it left Eminem shell-shocked at the backlash.
Yet, judging from Music to Be Murdered By
, it seems he’s learned very little from the mistakes made this past decade, hugging onto his delusions of grandeur like a safety blanket and looking on at the whole situation with a warped perception on how it really played out. In fact, credit where it’s due, the album wastes no time at all in declaring Em’s ill-grasp on the collective reactions Revival
received. “Premonition” is evident of that, as it pompously and ignorantly hisses at the detractors for slamming it – proclaiming he still “doesn’t give a fu*k” (plot twist: he really does care), before flaunting his half-decent follow-up, Kamikaze
, like it’s the Second Coming of Christ. But then, anything would have been infinitely better received next to Revival
, wouldn’t it? If nothing else, it’s just a confirmation that Marshall Mathers really is out of the loop and is buried in his own wonderland, surrounded by personnel that wouldn’t dare give him an honest piece of criticism if they still wished to see the purse strings.
But I digress, thankfully, outside of the usual, trite lyrical themes – which ranges from self-adulation to cheap shock value, ala “Unaccommodating”, which drops the 2017 Manchester bombing in there with tasteless tact – Music to Be Murdered By
follows closer in the footsteps of Kamikaze
than its insufferable 2017 counterpart, inconsistencies and all. If you’re wondering why there’s a superficial Alfred Hitchcock theme at the baseline of this album, the jury is still out, because it holds absolutely no significance to the record’s continuity, or lack thereof, bar the album’s imagery, title and nod to Jeff Alexander’s own LP of the same name. Outside of the visual aesthetic, the occasional arbitrary Hitchcock-sample is about as deep as the theme gets, further distancing the cohesion and highlighting just how bloated and unedited the record feels. In fact, while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the album’s length, which clocks in at sixty-four minutes. At twenty tracks, this LP was obviously going to go into self-destruct mode the moment it started, as there wasn’t a hope in hell Eminem was going to maintain a decent standard of quality, given his track record in recent years. I will say though, like its predecessor, there are some decent moments peppered throughout – be it the sub-bass beats on “Premonition” and “Those Kinda Nights”, or the mischievously angled rap performances on “Godzilla” and “Marsh”. On these tracks, I can at least acknowledge the fact Eminem is trying to zone in on his strengths, but the fact remains that these highlights are derivative at best, and are executed far better elsewhere.
In all honesty, Music to Be Murdered By
could have been a much stronger record if it had just cut off some of the fat hanging from it. It’s a task Eminem is seemingly incapable of meeting. The final product opts to throw mountains of material at the listener over delivering short, cohesive and quality songs. It’s a ropy hike that has a few solid moments – as generic as they are – but is largely overshadowed by tracks with bizarre and goofy electronic gimmicks (“Little Engine” and “Godzilla”) or corny, flat ballads (“Darkness” and “Leaving Heaven”), rather than focusing on back-to-basics beats with solid bars. The lyrics maintain the modern-day cringe we’ve come to expect from Eminem, but they’re more diluted and hackneyed than on recent efforts, though still far and away from the witty bite we’re used to hearing from his earlier works. While his incessant lean on technical ability over solid flow continues to endure, only accenting his detachment from good writing these days. Like on “Godzilla”’s closing section where he rips through bars at 10,000 mph; it’s crazy to hear that kind of speed and precision coming out of a human being, but it just isn’t all that fun to hear when compared to a well-timed and thought-out bar.
It doesn’t go unnoticed that maybe Music to Be Murdered By
would have sat better with me if it wasn’t being so gaudy at times – mainly stemming from Eminem gloating every now and again that he made an album that wasn’t a complete dumpster fire. Yes Eminem, we get it, you made an album that isn’t a total trainwreck, but you’ve still got a long way to go yet, lad. The thing is, when you’ve set the bar so low, anything that comes after Revival
is bound to receive praise because you can’t get any lower. Music to Be Murdered By
doesn’t improve on Kamikaze
, that’s largely down to its run time and hodgepodge of styles, but I can say there was at least some effort put into this one. The production is decent, the vocals occasionally hearken back to his playful era, and the guests do a pretty great job throughout, but there’s still too much baggage being carried over from the ‘10’s Eminem albums, and it kills a lot of the potential here. It’s kind of a middle ground compromise between Revival
, albeit with the awful traits of the former being toned right down. As a result, it isn’t completely godawful, but it’s hardly an album that acknowledges and understands why Eminem got so much heat from this past decade.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
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