Wednesday 17 January 2018

Review of 'Revival' by Eminem

The new Eminem album is a disaster.

It’s usually a bad sign whenever Eminem titles an album Re-something. Both Relapse and Recovery were big duds in the rap icons’s career. Then the Marshall Mathers LP 2 came along in 2013 and seemed to restore Eminem’s legacy – whilst I may have been a little forgiving of the corny choruses and bland beats in my review, the album had enough head-spinning flows and choppy rhyming to make up for it.

Sadly, Revival is a big backward step – Regression would have been a better name for it. It’s not that Eminem isn’t trying new things. He boldly addresses race politics, spends a whole track attacking Trump and even incorporates some trap-flavoured beats into the mix. He even takes the brave step to confess about the way he used to treat his ex Kim, having spent numerous tracks in the past throwing death threats at her. All of this, I respect – but why is it all so badly executed?

Honestly, I like a good bit of Trump-bashing, but ‘Like Home’ is just Em spewing out insults we already thought up ourselves, peppered by corny puns such as ‘Like a dictionary, things are looking up’. This isn’t even the corniest line on the album – this award has to go to ‘I’m looking at your tight rear like a sightseer/ your booty is heavy doody like diarrhoea’, which had me sighing out loud.

The lyrics aren’t the only source of corniness. Hearing Eminem pull out a trap rap flow on ‘Chloraseptic’ makes him sound like Migos crossed with a muppet, backed by the blandest trap beat available so that the whole thing sounds like a parody. Then there are the multiple rock instrumentals as on ‘Remind Me’ and ‘Heat’, which only serve to make each track sound like some terribly dated Beastie Boys song. Then of course there are the countless mushy choruses from guest pop stars such as Ed Sheeran and Beyonce, taking away any intimacy from Em’s bars (there’s even a track almost entirely dedicated to Pink - is this really what Eminem thinks his fans want?).

The rapper might have created a less messy album is he hadn’t tried to appeal to so many audiences at once. He seems to be out to impress everyone from mainstream pop fans to rock fans, whilst covering subject matter as expansive as sociopolitics to poop jokes. There are so many incarnations of Eminem on this album that it’s like listening to a compilation album, when all you want is the real slim shady.

It’s irritating, because there are glimpses of brilliance on Revival that could have been the entire premises of the album. If all the tracks were like ‘Bad Husband’ and ‘Like Home’ without the corny choruses and corny lines, this could have been Eminem’s long-awaited grown-up-rapper album – similar to the recent confessional Jay-Z album. Alternatively, I would have loved to have seen an experimental album from Em, as the track ‘Offended’ gives us a taster of. The crazy rhyme schemes, avant-garde beat and playful nursery rhyme chorus show that Eminem still has the talent and innovation in him. Even the celebrity disses in this track are funny (I chuckled at ‘like R Kelly with a full bladder’). A whole album of similar songs probably wouldn’t have got much radio airplay, but it would have impressed people enough to restore his legacy. Instead we’re left with a tin of corn with bad beats and no focus.