Album Review: Revival by Eminem

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Back in the day, Slim Shady was the undisputed king of the rap game. Albums like the Slim Shady LP, Marshall Mathers LP & The Eminem Show were the creme de la creme of shocking, humorous and somewhat thoughtful rap, each track landing with the force of an atomic bomb. However, since 2006’s Encore Eminem’s subsequent retirement, rap has changed massively, with grime bigger than ever, and rappers have stepped the game up massively, with rappers like Kendrick Lamar Kanye West at the very peak of their powers. With that evolution in the music business, Eminem’s post-retirement efforts have barely failed to register on the Richter scale, with Relapse Recovery being largely disappointing and The Marshall Mathers LP 2 being the worst sequel since Taken 2.

But with Trump in office & the world in turmoil, surely that’s enough to get Em’s dander up to a point that he stages a career restart with his new album, Revival?

Er, perhaps not.

As we touched upon earlier, rap has changed a lot, and Eminem was knocked off the throne a long, long time ago. The lead single from RevivalWalk on Water, featuring the one and only Beyonce was promising enough and a surprisingly honest track from a man so used to dealing in absurdity and abject anarchy. Untouchable was also another promising single, if not for some shonky production values, something unbelievable on an album that credits Rick Rubin and longtime friend Dr Dre as producers. Recognising institutional racism, police brutality & his own white privilege, it was a different side to Eminem, a man once obsessed with killing his own mother, his ex-wife & anybody else who caught his bad side. However, Untouchable is about as good as it gets on this album. Two singles in and already spent, Revival doesn’t really lift itself on the bed.

Notice recently how “Bare Minimum Twitter” is becoming more of a thing? Boys who hold the door open & don’t send photos of their dick to your sister are the new Lotharios, and it’s never been harder to pole vault over the bar. In this vein, Revival is “Bare Minimum Protest Music”. This album is the equivalent of those verified weirdos who manage to shoot a fifty-tweet thread to Trump about thirty seconds after he produces some kind of verbal diarrhoea on Twitter, but the crux of it is “Buhhhhh DRUMPF is bad!”, whilst offering no real venom in their bite. Woke for the sake of wokeness.

But lest we forget, this is the real Slim Shady we’re talking about here, so strides forward calling out the President for “banning transgenders from the military with a tweet” in Like Home ends up with a stride forward into a steaming dog turd with Ivanka Trump ending up in the boot of his car on Framed. Wanna talk tone deaf? #MeToo has been rolling on for a while now, so if you were Eminem, you’re a smart guy, you read the news, you see which way the wind is blowing, so you hit play on your new track, Offended, and then you think to yourself, “Hmm, should I REALLY leave the line ‘I’m still copping a feel like Bill Cosby at will‘ in this track?”. You wouldn’t, would you? You’d read the room, realise that maybe weaving in a line about notorious rapist Bill Cosby isn’t such a good idea.

Right, never mind, that’s just Eminem and that’s what Eminem does because whilst some go for laughs, he goes for gasps. Should you, Eminem, now listen to your other new track, Heat and take a good look at the line, agreeing with Donald “Grab ’em by the Pussy” Trump by saying “Why do you think they call it a snatch?”, read the FUCKING ROOM and decide that yes, this line is perfectly passable, but please, Eminem is now totally woke. Although what he’s trying to do is balance an edgy new woke persona, whilst trying to keep the Venn diagram of Eminem fans who are also Trump voters on his side.

One of the few saving graces of this album is that despite being 45 and in the game for 29 of those 45 years, his delivery & flow is immaculate as it was on the Slim Shady LP. There’s no difference between the Eminem in 1999 and the Eminem in 2017 if you held him on pure flow & delivery. Despite the fact his faux-woke act is confusing, jumping the lowest bar possible, his penchant for wordplay & smart lines hasn’t waned a single bit, with the staccato delivery in Believe, plus lines like “Started, from the, ground up, like a snowman” showcasing just what got Eminem to the top in the first place. Times change too, and Bad Husband is a track about his ex-wife Kim that isn’t threatening to slit her throat, so… there’s that… he’s not threatening to murder his ex-wife. Good, right?

And it just wouldn’t be 2017 without a collaboration with Ed Sheeran, the man who seemingly can pour cold custard into your ears and have more money than half of Africa for doing so. River sounds exactly like any other Ed Sheeran song, except Eminem is trying to kick-start his career over the top of it. Fair enough, you can only do so much with a Martin guitar and a loop pedal, but don’t do the same thing over and over again. With the absolute disappointment of DivideEdandEm manage to kick you in the face once more in 2017.

The album is bloated, and it feels like the multitude of pop stars brought in to feature, collaborate have been brought in just to add a bit of star power to the album. Eminem is a star, yes, but when Pink, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran and Kehlani are on your album, it adds a bit more credibility to your offering, because who’d jump on a sinking ship? Joan Jett also makes an appearance, with I Love Rock & Roll being sampled on the utterly fucking horrible Remind Me. Nineteen tracks long, including interludes & intros and clocking in over an hour and a quarter long, it feels like the concept for Revival was Eminem saying “throw enough shit about and see what sticks”. Of course in this day and age, it doesn’t really matter, as you can pick and choose your moments, stream your choice cuts and leave the fat on the side of the plate. But an album that’s over an hour long, nineteen tracks long, many of them not very good is just absurd.

The sentiment in Like Home is strong enough, with Eminem once again railing against the Commander in Chimp, taking aim at Trump’s penchant for consuming copious amounts of cable TV, banning transgender folk from the military and even calling him a Nazi. The addition of Alicia Keys in the chorus really brings the song up too, and is actually one of the only worthy talking points from the album. The beat & production feels overly “‘Murica“, mind you, and it’d be worth putting some money on the President mistakenly using the instrumental version of Like Home on one of his indulgent, overly patriotic & frankly terrifying video montages whilst shrieking MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! As Robert Mueller & the gang begin to unscrew the hinges on the Oval Office’s toilet door.

On the cover of Revival is Eminem facepalming with the American flag faded over him. Clearly expressing his discontent at the State of the Nation, you’ll sit with this album and end up doing the same. It’s bloated, confusing and stating the absolute obvious. Eminem has nodded to the fact that Revival may be his last, but all things considered, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 should have been the final tug of the curtain, because this, this just feels like the resident barfly refusing to go home despite the last bell has been rung, and the staff really want to go home.

Track Review: Eminem (ft. Beyoncé) – Walk on Water

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Unhook the phone, close your curtains and strap in. Eminem is back, and he’s brought Beyoncé along with him. In his first offering since 2013’s Marshall Mathers LP2, bar for the beat-less freestyle Campaign SpeechWalk on Water is a gospel-esque track, with incredibly self-aware lyrics from Slim Shady.

However, a lot’s changed since Marshall Mathers released his album, and many, many rappers have come through to stake a claim for his position and, indeed, have succeeded. Why have a Slim Shady when you can have a Kendrick, Kanye or Chance? Is there still a place for Eminem?

The lyrics question that, and whilst his use of r*tard really has no place in 2017’s music scene, the use of an offensive word really isn’t the worst crime committed by a musician in this year. The song begins with that silky smooth, instantly recognisable Beyoncé voice, moving aside for the original benchmark. Aurally it’s a very simplistic song, with just a soft piano riff with some strings, but adds plenty of emotion to the song.

Of course, there’s not a lot to be said for the musical prowess of a piano riff & some strings, so let’s have a butcher at the old lyrics of this particular “rap song”.

It’s a very self aware song from the Detroit rapper, almost somewhat worrying about his relevance in the modern age, with “It’s true, I’m a Rubik’s — a beautiful mess, at times juvenile, yes, I goof and I jest, a flawed human, I guess, but I’m doin’ my best to not ruin your expectations and meet ’em” a standout part of the song. It feels like he recognises that he’s flawed as a person, but he’s still doing his best to produce the same quality for his fans that he’s always done.

Image result for eminem 2017

Truthfully, this isn’t the best Eminem song you’ll ever here, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s a change of pace from someone who’s used to producing vitriol, humour & anarchy by the bucketload. Usually Slim Shady takes over the record, but as he recognises himself in the song, that it’s a “facade and it’s exhaustive“. It feels like that for the first time in some 20 years, the curtain has come down and we get to see the man behind the chainsaw and hockey mask, someone who is afraid to let everyone down & recognises they’re not a perfect human. It’s a rare show of humility, and it works. It details the struggles he’s faced throughout his long & storied career, and actually packs a punch.

Beyoncé really does add something to this song and follows a strong trend of Eminem bringing in female vocalists to collaborate & sing on songs with him, including Rihanna and Skylar Grey (who plays the piano on this song!) to break the track up & really flesh it out.

Is this a one-off track from Eminem or the starting gun to signal something more? A recent Twitter post had a note with “Walk on water. Take as needed.”. The interesting part of this? It was written on a prescription-style note with “Revival” (backwards E) on it, following the similar themes of comeback albums Relapse and Recovery. The critics haven’t had much to say about Big E Rapson since his comeback in 2009, but hold onto your peroxide blonde hair, there may just be a revival about to go down.