“Now take your best rhyme, outdo it, now do it a thousand times
Now let ’em tell ya the world no longer cares or gives a fuck about your rhymes”
Time for an amateur album review. Eminem. Revival.
I admit I’m a Stan. I’ve followed Eminem since I was 12 and now I’m nearly 31. He’s by far my most listened to artist. This is something which I guess makes me biased. But I don’t want to be biased. I want to honestly review this album whilst also giving a few thoughts about Eminem and his fans and critics if I can.
It’s been four years since the last album. Every new Eminem release is a big event for me. Every album reminds me of the period of time around when it came out as it becomes all I listen to for a while. And I’m always intrigued by other reviews of the albums. First and foremost I see Eminem as a poet and wordsmith before the musician that he is. He’s a writer of the English language and he does it in such a creative and interesting way. But it’s music that he makes and it has to also be good to listen to as well as something to be analysed. He’s now got 9 studio albums and 3 are considered classics by the critics. Infinite is considered to be a great album. And now the other 5 are mixed or slightly above or below average. It’s a strange one for me at times. I saw Relapse got a few reviews around the 4 out of 10 mark. Yet it can also be studied as one of the best pieces of multi syllabic rhyming ever. Surely the best album for rhyming to ever sell millions. But this is the balance Eminem needs to get right on every album now. Technically he’s as good as he’s ever been. An absolute master when it comes to rapping. But does the music suffer at the cost of dazzling rhyme schemes? At times it has. On the Shady XV compilation album there are songs that are literally mind blowing when it comes to the technical side of things. He can have so many rhyme schemes going at the same time that he can rhyme hundreds of times in a singular verse with no exaggeration. But as songs a few of those tracks can be forgettable. When you listen to them they’re just ok unless you really sit there listening deeply and thinking about the talent on display. To sum up recent releases I would say Relapse is a pure showcase of that talent that is fun to listen to and nasty as hell. But maybe the fact almost the whole album was from the mind of a serial killer was a bit too much. We want songs about different kinds of subject matter right? Recovery put this right and totally revived his career. But it was quite poppy and maybe missed some of the nastiness. Then came the Marshall Mathers LP 2 and it had was a right throwback. For me as an album it was the best since The Eminem Show other than a few weak tracks. I definitely rate those three albums higher than most critics and maybe that shows my bias. But I enjoy them and listened to them so many times. Maybe Eminem can make great albums for his fans but just cannot satisfy the sometimes overly harsh critics anymore. It’s been 15 years since The Eminem Show. If none of the albums since have been much good then it’s a feat in itself that he’s still considered a legend of the game and one of the best of all time. After putting out 5 straight average albums he’s still the highest selling artist of the 21st century? And after mixed release followed by mixed release every critic is still frothing at the mouth to get an opinion out on anything he does? I’m skeptical of these reviews that are released on the release day of the album. Their minds are made up so quickly that it seems to me minds are made up before even hearing it. Anyway, that’s enough background. I should just crack on with the review myself.
I didn’t like the way it was called Revival to make it part of the Re-trilogy after Relapse and Recovery. Eminem has always done that. Every album title relates to another. It’s like he absolutely needs to remind people of past albums with a new album. First minor criticism for this Stan here. It’s a long album but that’s cool if there’s no filler and a need for every song. Not sure that is the case though here. When I saw the track list I was disheartened a bit. Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Alicia Keys, Skylar Grey and Pink? Damn it seemed like it was going to be Recovery part two that targets being liked by the masses rather than the hardcore fans. And for some of these tracks I definitely get the Recovery vibe. They would not sound out of place there at all. It’s not a huge complaint because I still like Recovery but it’s just that I think he can make better albums than that. The thing that is great about this new album though is also something that could be a negative. It does have the Recovery type tracks and yet also has many of the other sounds from Eminem’s past. It’s like he’s made an album that has got something for everybody. It has the Recovery type songs but also a track called Framed. That song is him totally tapping back into the serial killer persona and sounds like it could have been on Relapse. It also has the deep songs that talk about the public soap opera that has been his life. Bad Husband is an apology to Kim. The last couple of tracks are letters to his daughter and documenting when he nearly died and was all fucked up in hospital over Christmas and yet coming back, getting sober, being a Dad an resurrecting his career. He also has the political songs going at Trump and talking about racial inequality in America. And he has the songs that are there to display his ability as a rapper. So he has the lyical songs, the pop songs, the sick songs, the personal songs and the world view songs. This mix is great for people that like all those types of songs. But what about the people that love Relapse and hate Recovery? I guess you can only ever partially like this album if that is the case. If you love the stadium anthem pop songs about relationship troubles then there are a good few tracks to love here but maybe you’ll dislike it when he raps about murdering toddlers. I can see how critics can call it a messy affair. From one track to the next you don’t know what you’re going to see from him next and so as a collection of songs it doesn’t really stick to a theme or concept like a Kendrick Lamar album would. I love tight albums that seem like a complete body of work and this Revival album is not that. I guess not every album can just be a complete perfect statement and also be amazing artistically. And other than Relapse I don’t think any Eminem album has ever been a concept album. Maybe Recovery was in the fact that the whole album was full of potentially radio dominating singles.
I’m going to get a few negatives out of the way now here. There are two songs that I’m really not feeling at all after multiple listens. The first is called Heat. It’s a bit cringey with the bad puns and the beat does nothing for me. Eminem is unbelievable when it comes to wordplay most of the time. But he throws so many puns and lyrical stunts out there and so in a 77 minute or so album there are bound to be times when he misfires. This is my main complaint about the Eminem of 2017. Sometimes to complete a rhyme scheme he seems to say something stupid. And so part of you wants to applaud the rhyme and part of you wants to put your head in your hands due to how lame the sentence actually was. He seems unwilling to compromise here though. He rhymes first and asks questions later. If a bad pun completes the rhyme in a cool way then he will keep it in even if it harms the song. Heat seems to have many of these puns. It’s a throwaway song. It has some good lines but is quite skippable. The other track that I’m confused by is Need Me featuring Pink. I don’t really have anything against Pink but I would never buy a Pink album or really sit on my own listening to a Pink song. And this track feels like a Pink song and not an Eminem song. I couldn’t believe it when she sang the first verse, did the chorus, then the second verse (with backing vocals from Eminem) and then the chorus and after two minutes we’d barely heard Eminem on an Eminem song on an Eminem album. And the subject matter is one of those about troubled relationships. There’s a couple of those on the album that are better and so I don’t understand why this Pink song with an average verse from Eminem was needed at all.
It also does seem like he follows a formula. He has few songs that sound like he’s trying to make another Love the Way You Lie. They are pop songs and that’s fine but damages artistic integrity I believe. It’s another example of how torn Eminem is and always has been. Money and fame doesn’t motivate him at this point. All that matters to him is his place in the rap game. His legacy. You can sense he struggles for subject matter at times but just wants to pen some lyrics as that is his hobby that he is very competitive about. But he’s always had amazing sales and his albums sales pay for peoples’ salaries back at the record label. So on some tracks he’s trying to be the nasty emcee that does not give a fuck and will blow your mind with his talent. And on others he obviously does give a fuck and wants the song to be popular and so is rapping with shackles on as he tries to force his talent to produce something for the radio play. It’s a fine line and somehow he’s always balanced it well. No critic can say he hasn’t done well there and it can be proved by asking anyone who they would put in the top 10 lyricists of all time and then asking about number of sales of albums and songs. Eminem dominates both and that cannot be easy. Especially after 20 years of doing it when you’re now 45.
It sounds like I’m making excuses there but it does feel like people have been overly critical of him and he isn’t getting the credit he deserves lately. And after discussing some things about the album that I didn’t like I find plenty to say about the things I do like. Walk on Water is a great song and an honest view of his own self doubts. I find it admirable that it bothers him how he’s perceived after all he’s done because we all feel that. I do wish he’d not give a fuck again about what people think. That’s when he’s at his best. Some of his best ever verses are when he’s on somebody else’s album and has no pressure to make an Eminem song and just raps. His talent is insane and we all know it.
The second and third tracks see Eminem rapping in a more modern style like many of the rappers are doing today. I had to research this a bit but apparently many rappers these days are rapping in a style involving triplets. It’s a very stop-starty way to rap to me. But Eminem does it well whilst taking the piss out of these rappers. A bit of showing off which is good after the Walk on Water song. When I hear the chorus to Believe it gets me pumped up as I’m totally on his side. I guess that’s the difference between a Stan and a critic. We are fans of his story and so are naturally supportive rather than wanting to tear his albums to pieces at the slightest misstep. These two tracks are the only songs where I feel he’s battling present day rappers with their own style. A nice bit of lyrical bragging before some serious subject matter.
The next track is Untouchable and has divided many including me. I’m still not sure if I’ll end up loving this song or skipping it. Most people hate the chorus but I find it catchy. I love the concept of it. Many fans want to see Eminem using his words for serious worldly subjects and this is a political track where he raps as a white cop to a rock-rap beat and then raps as a black dude with a more typical hip hop beat. He tries to sound like an ignorant prick in the first two verses and I’m not the biggest fan of them. The last verse is better and says a lot of things that most people agree with. For me he’s preaching to the choir so maybe this song isn’t for me. And it’s a long verse. I’m on the fence with this song currently.
Ed Sheeran next. River. My thing with Ed Sheeran is I find myself sucked in to his songs and his melodies really quickly and love it. But very quickly that same melody gets boring due to overplaying and lack of substance. This is the Love the Way You Lie track of the album. It’s going to be massive. There’s talk that it might be UK Christmas number 1. It will get about 100,000 plays on every radio station. And this will likely ruin it for me and so to preserve it a bit I’ll have to start skipping this song. Even though I currently like the song. Eminem’s verses are good but nothing special for him. It’s a formulaic song targeting sales and they’re always weaker songs for me but this is him giving something for everyone and the potential problem with it. So far we’ve had self-doubt and inner turmoil, lyrical bragging and showing off, racial inequality and a smash hit single and we’re at track 5. And the song has just come on now and here I am bopping my head and rapping along. It’s just damn catchy man. Written for the masses and the sheep will lap it up. It sucks that record executives can have a formula and then it just works and creates wealth for themselves so easily. We’re all idiots. Have our money. Just take it. You win. River is great.
Remind Me is the next song. The sample and basically the chorus is “I love rock ‘n’ roll, so put another dime in the jukebox baby” with Eminem rapping over it like a Beastie Boy. For me it’s a lot of fun though it does have a few cringey lines. Instruments getting blown and all that. And it’s also home to the worst Eminem line I’ve ever heard…”your booty is heavy duty…like diarrhea”. Damn Em, I know it rhymed with the previous line but Jesus. You’re better than that. And real tits are better than fake tits no matter what Eminem says. It’s an average Eminem song. Doesn’t make or break the album.
The Revival Interlude was unexpected. Eminem has nothing to do with the title song. It’s a female singer who is now dead I’ve heard. It’s pretty cool. And it’s like a check point as a few serious songs are coming up.
Like Home with Alicia Keys comes next. I love to hear him bashing Trump and it’s a brave thing to do since a lot of his fan base are likely Trump voters. He disses Trump but also makes the song a positive thing as America is more than just Trump. The chorus wasn’t too great. It’s a Recovery type anthem chorus. I do like it when the music cuts out and Alicia Keys sings the last line. I do like the song.
The next song is called Bad Husband and so we know what it’s about before listening. Kim. It’s a crazy story those two share and Eminem fans have followed it since the beginning. It’s interesting that after all the fantasies of murdering her he says sorry to her and he sounds so mature here. It has some real good rhymes that make you think about your own experiences. Weird to hear him admit to abuse even though it shouldn’t surprise us I guess. He is a psycho after all. The chorus is a problem though. X Ambassadors do the chorus and I just find it so bland and boring. Really does nothing for me.
Tragic Endings with Skylar Grey comes next and this is a song that I’ve read that many critics hated but I really like it. I like the beat, love Em’s verses and like the chorus. It’s about troubled relationships again (think maybe there’s three of those types on the albums). I do think he talks about this subject a bit too much on this album but as I stated earlier I would scrap the Pink song and keep this one. Em’s voice sounds more passionate here.
Stand up for the real Slim Shady. Shady is back on the next song. No Marshall Mathers on Framed. It’s totally a Relapse song. Relapse is an album that was loved by fans and hated by critics and eventually hated by Eminem himself. But strangely the critics seem to have warmed to it. That album is insane and really could be a module to study in an English class. Wanna see a guy take one syllable and rhyme it a ridiculous amount of times while tell a story? Wanna see each sentence rhyme with the next in four places in a consistent melody all through a song whilst telling a story? Relapse is a masterclass. Count the multiples per verse. You won’t be able to as they come so fast. And this song could be on that album. It’s mental. It’s sick. He rhymes like a beast and the beat is disgustingly amazing. One of the best tracks on the album for me.
Next is Nowhere Fast. It’s a bit of a confusing song as he seems unable to stay on topic. It’s mostly about nihilism creeping in due to constant terror attacks and the bleak future for today’s generation. But he often slips into bragging lyrical mode. Still, I relate to the song and I like it. The chorus is another Recovery type one and I do like it but it will get overplayed and might get annoying in future.
I’ll talk about Offended next as it’s sandwiched between Need Me and Heat which I’ve already talked about. Offended reminds me of Rap God from the last album. It’s a pure showcase of ability. He pulls out all of his lyrical stunts including the always popular super speedy million miles per hour rhymes. Every line is something sick too. Pure Eminem at his best and another of my favourites from the album. It’s another that has gained criticism for it’s chorus but I like it. It’s like a nursery rhyme and I like how it takes us out of the dazzling rhymes to this basic rhyme before diving back into insanity again.
The next three tracks are linked especially the last two. In Your Head plays over the Zombie song from The Cranberries and uses it’s chorus. This is one of my favourite songs from the 90’s and to hear Eminem rap over it is amazing for me. It’s a deep song as he wishes he could take some rhymes back and had thought more carefully about the impact his lines would’ve ended up having when it comes to his daughter.
Then we have Castle and Arose. Castle is incredible and even critics finally agree with me here. The verses are letters to Haillie from three points in life. It reminds me of Stan. Great storytelling. The chorus is from a woman who has done a few Eminem songs now (Liz Rodrigues) and is really eerie and cool. She always does a great chorus as she has such a cool voice. I guess I should put a spoiler alert here. If you are looking forward to this album to either enjoy it or bash it then don’t read from here. It’s unlikely that the alert will matter haha. But you hear him take his pills at the end of this song and collapse and it goes straight into Arose which is him when he nearly died of an overdose in 2007. He raps from his death bed with all of his regrets and is pretty emotional. But then he comes back (Revival) and rewinds and the beat to Castle comes back as he re-does the last verse with triumph and flushes the pills down the toilet. Nobody can deny that those two tracks that make up the finale are Eminem at his storytelling best. He is a modern-day Shakespeare.
Well there is my track by track review. Final verdict is I’d give it an 8 out of 10. It’s not perfect and he tries to please everyone but there’s enough on here for a Stan like me to really enjoy. I find the songs sticking in my head and I look forward to listening to it. It doesn’t really tread new ground but it’s like he’s said himself: when you start as an artist you have a blank canvas and everything you do adds more paint to it. There comes a time where you run out of room on the canvas for new paint and that’s where he’s at. This album is a serious attempt to acknowledge that fact and yet still try to make something new that fans will like and it mostly succeeds I feel. Where does he go from here? Who knows. I can’t see how he can make too many more albums and maybe this is the last one. Either way what a career this dude has had. There’ll never be another Eminem. From Stan to D12 to 8 Mile to now he’s gave the world a lot and deserves to be regarded as a living legend.