Sunday, January 20, 2013

Back to 2004 for an Encore

This week is a (almost) 10 year flashback to 2004.  Eminem is a polarizing act in the pop world - people generally love or hate him with no middle ground.  While there are some things to love on Encore, it shows the cracks that were beginning to form in his veneer around the time - and serves as a foreshadowing to his disappearing act a year later due to various reported personal problems.

It was easy to tell from the first single off this album that he was getting lazy, as he repeats his "Guess who's back / back again" line word for word from "Without Me" off the last album.  That laziness aside, it's a fun enough track, with some of his trademark cleverness at hand (witness the mid-song riff on a guy caught streaking down main street laughing like pee-wee herman).  That song comes at about the half way mark. Opening track "Evil Deeds" manages to construct more catharsis-in-song melodrama, but occasionally peers a tad too deep into the [supposedly] tortured human being speaking the words.  It opens with "Mama had a baby and it's head popped off" after all - not exactly a bright start to things.  Later on "Yellow Brick Road" forms a fun trip down memory lane, and is followed by the too-obvious but still effective rumination track "Like Toy Soldiers" which reflects on the cost of life in rap feuds (such as Tupac Shakur, Christopher Wallace, etc.)
Far removed from this cleverness are other songs like "Never Enough" which is a too-short, too-played-out, half-finished wreck of a song.  It sounds like something that was half edited, then slapped on the album at the last minute with no prior thought to whether all the pieces were in place.  "Mosh" attempts to replicate the anti-Bush administration rants of the previous album, but comes off as just an empty chest beater - a retread of an idea already done better before.  "Spend some time" tries hard to be an overly lewd combo of sex-rap meets dirty-romance kind of thing, but simply comes off sounding disgusting in the process.  And "Puke" is just so over the top with the "hell with you I'm done" breakup ranting - it's one of those songs that might resonate if you just went through a painful breakup yourself - but only in that moment.  Outside of that moment it's just too far over the top.
And later on "Rain Man" is mildly amusing, yet has plenty of lyrics that make no sense - such as "Eat a peanut butter jelly tuna sandwich / and I ain't even gotta make no sense / I just did a whole song and I didn't say shit".  When you're actually recording songs where you admit in the lyrics that they make no sense - that should be a warning sign right there.  On the flip side, he works this to better effect on "My First Single" with a hand-clapping, clattering beat that says it all with "This was supposed to be my first single / but I just fucked that up so...." and goes into various verbal contortions that show off his skill while simultaneously making fun of himself.  And even as the cleverness returns, the targets of his abuse get more ridiculous, as on "Ass Like That" he rips on...Triumph the insult comic dog?  Really?  And the posse-closer that ends the album sits in the same train-wreck status as "Never Enough." 
Bright spots aside, this album should have never seen the light of day - or at least, someone should have had the sense to shelve it, pick the better tracks out and release it as an EP - something, anything but what actually surfaced.  Everyone has their blunders, and for Eminem, Encore is definitely one of them.

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