How long has it been since we heard peak Eminem? Maybe 12, 15 years?
That’s not meant to insult a man who is undoubtedly one of the greatest rappers of all time. Heck, even Marshall Mathers knows it’s true.
His new album, Revival, is littered with references to his former self and scathing proclamations aimed at people who wrote him off after a few lackluster albums.
At the end of the lead single and album opener Walk On Water, Eminem goes out of his way to remind us he wrote Stan. But no one forgot that. Walk On Water is a fitting opener since it serves as a microcosm of Revival. It reaches for (but never revives) Eminem’s glory days, as guest Beyonce completely steals the show.
Songs like Nowhere Fast, which features Kehlani, and Like Home, featuring Alicia Keys, aren’t necessarily bad. It’s just weird to see Em leaning on vocalists like crutches to prop up what are otherwise so-so tracks. Even the standout Need Me, led by Pink’s soaring chorus, would probably sound better if Eminem wasn’t even on it.
I suppose it helps not to view Revival as a rap album. There really aren’t any traditional hip-hop tracks. River, featuring a game Ed Sheeran, is undeniably a well-conceived pop song; while the X Ambassadors-assisted Bad Husband could appeal to indie pop fans.
But regardless of genre, there are songs on Revival that are virtually unbearable.
It’s hard to make it through a minute of the politically charged, but terribly produced Untouchable, while the intro on Remind Me shows promise before the song cringingly samples Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll. Admittedly, a sample of The Cranberries Zombie works much better on In Your Head.
Elsewhere, songs like Offended and the emotional Arose remind us Eminem will never stop being a great lyricist. But how many Ivanka Trump references can you fit on one album? And what is Heat supposed to be, Eminem and Rick Rubin’s playful (and terrible) version of 99 Problems?
Revival just feels uninspired in places that used to give us those Eminem-induced chills. On Believe, Em asks, “How do you keep up the pace and the hunger pains once you’ve won the race?” It’s just sad he never finds an answer to that question. – Troy L. Smith/Advance Ohio Media/Tribune News Service