Eminem, Revival | Album Review
Following a four-year hiatus, veteran Detroit rapper Eminem returns with a lengthy, jam-packed new album, ‘Revival.’
It’s hard to believe that Eminem is 45 years old. It seems like only yesterday the Detroit rapper was “shocking the world” with never ceasing controversy. But, there comes a time when even the most innovative musicians have revealed the majority of their tricks. Even if that’s the case with Eminem, throughout the course of Revival, he shows he’s still among the best in the game.
“Walk on Water”
On “Walk on Water”, Eminem reflects upon his place on Earth as well as his career, assisted radiantly by Beyoncé on the chorus. His rhymes are honest and reflective, backed by restrained production led by piano. On contrasting companion piece “Believe,” he spits over slick, trap production. He’s is confident in his delivery, though he does pose a question on the chorus: “Do you still believe in me?”
“That’s what it’s like when the mic is out / ‘Cause I’m tearin’ at your flesh with it / ‘Til your larynx and neck are split.” Eminem ‘goes in’ on “Chloraseptic,” featuring Phresher. Unapologetic, he asserts himself as being lethal when it comes to spitting. Phresher kills it on the catchy hook.
Em is socially and politically-charged on “Untouchable”, focusing on race issues. During the first part of the song, backed by a rock backdrop, he speaks from the perspective of a white man. The man isn’t empathetic, sympathetic, or understanding of the black man. As the production switches to a more contemporary sound, Eminem portrays the perspective of the black man.
Ed Sheeran assists on “River,” serving up a repentant, well-performed chorus. The chorus is the first thing we hear, in advance of Eminem’s verses. On the verses, he imparts a narrative encompassing a cheating boyfriend, vindictive girlfriend, and a one-night stand that results in pregnancy. What’s notable about follow-up “Remind Me” is the Joan Jett sample, “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.” Rick Rubin produces.
Alicia Keys joins Eminem on highlight “Like Home,” clearly an anti-Trump statement. It should be noted, this isn’t the first time the rapper has criticized a president (“Mosh” from Encore). Despite being critical of the president, this isn’t anti-American. Keys definitely confirms the pro-American sentiment on the chorus. On “Bad Husband,” the rapper speaks on his poor relationship with his ex-wife Kim, taking his share of the responsibility. X Ambassadors frontman Sam Harris sums up the rapper’s shortcomings on the hook.
Maintaining numerous featured artists, the rapper’s main partner in crime, Skylar Grey, joins him on “Tragic Endings.” Her vocal bite on this particular track matches the bite Eminem exhibits on his rhymes. On “Framed,” Eminem gets dark – murderous to be precise. He claims he’s been framed for murder, rapping on the third verse:
“But it never occurred to me I could describe a murder scene / In a verse and be charged with first degree / ‘Cause it just happened to match up perfectly / With the massacre or the Burger King burglary / No, officer, you see / I was framed…”
Kehlani guests on the brighter, more thoughtful “Nowhere Fast.” At the least, there are no murders. Nonetheless, Eminem asserts early, “I feel sorry for this beat, sympathy pains for this track… / Down memory lane with this rap.” Following his nostalgia, he brings the “Heat” with more rock production courtesy (Rick Rubin again). “Offended” outplays strong showings from “Nowhere Fast” and “Heat,” as Eminem amplifies the shock value. Besides the overt offensiveness captured on the verses, an interpolation of children song “Nobody Likes Me (Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms)” on the hook is the cherry on top.
P!nk joins Eminem on the respectable “Need Me.” Given the length of Revival, by the time the listener reaches “Need Me,” it doesn’t necessarily pack a sizable punch. Nonetheless, P!nk shines vocally. The Cranberries fuel the fire for “In Your Head” – or at least a sample. Like “Need Me,” it’s solid, but suffers from being deep in a lengthy album. Closing cuts “Castle” and “Arose” pack a deeper punch. “Castle” is thoughtfully addressed to Eminem’s daughter, Hailie. At the end, he ingests drugs and falls on the bathroom floor, recreating his overdose in 2007. “Arose” fittingly samples the Bette Midler classic “The Rose,” and shows a more positive, thankful, and ‘alive and well’ Eminem.
Ultimately, Eminem returns in top-notch form on Revival. Throughout its course, he tackles numerous topics including politics, racism, and father-/husband-hood. Keeping things interesting, he assembles a star-studded cast and at times, does unique, compelling things with his flow and rhymes. The album is too long, but the quality is indisputable.
Gems: “Walk on Water,” “Chloraseptic,” “Untouchable,” “Like Home,” “Framed,” “Offended,” “Castle” & “Arose”