A repost for this week, as a weekend of moving has left me with scant time to write on new tunes. Here is my take, shortly after release, of Eminem's previous "Relapse"
10 years ago, The Slim Shady LP ripped a hole in the fabric of the "rap" universe. Love him or hate him, it was, if nothing else, at least a respite from the endless tiresome spew of "bling, girls, money, I'm better than you, I got guns" garbage that was, well, nearly everything else in the pop-culture field of view at the time. Sure, you could find deeper, but only deep, deep underground, with a lot of hunting.
On that album, he was shocking, he was offensive, but even amidst all the shock value, there was tales of a tough life that at least then, sounded believable - believable because, against all odds, slim shady LP could have gone the way of infinite - no success, terrible sales, and thus...no riches and/or fame. Having attained all that fame and success, the woe-is-me slant to the lyrics feels dated and far from believable.
Relapse opens with "3am" a cluttered, sing-songy-voiced mess that boasts some slightly clever wordplay, but is too mired in the "I'm getting hopped up on prescription pills" mess for its effect. "Insane" ratchets up the abused-child fantasy/reality blur so far over the top it crosses the line into ridiculous. Tellingly, one of the best songs to surface has a title which describes this whole album - that being "Same Song & Dance". It's essentially a re-write of "As The World Turns" but doing the same idea twice, with a new spin - sometimes works. Here it does, and also on the cutting "Medicine Ball" which has one of the better backdrops on the album, and says it all with the lyric "I guess it's time for you to hate me again."
And that's what's wrong with this album. Eminem is just going through the motions, spewing out things tailor-made to get people talking about how horrible he is. "Underground" itself is another ridiculously over-the-top attempt to convince people he can still pull off the fine balance of shock and razor-sharp wit/reality checks. One listen to the embarassingly poppy and overly-full-of-itself "We Made You" - including the rest of the disc, with only a few rare exceptions - proves he can't.