Eminem emerged from his usual reclusion last October to drop Campaign Speech, a pointed criticism towards the polarizing Presidential race. A year later, the 45-year-old rapper held nothing back with his Trump-assault track titled, The Storm. So when Eminem finally announced Revival – his long-awaited ninth studio album, fans expected an hour long attack on the turbulent political climate in the United States. While this is true on some tracks, Revival offers several glimpses of the attitude and skill that created Shady-mania.
Eminem’s Career Revival
Eminem’s post-peak catalog is very diverse to say the least. 2004’s Encore is a portrait of an artist trapped at the top of world. The follow-up, Relapse, was Em simply “flushing the drugs out of his system.” Recovery was the comeback album everyone knew he was capable of making and 2013’s Marshall Mathers LP 2 saw the return of America’s cockiest and most daring hip hop artist.
What Revival does best is satisfy every single Shady fan. There are songs for everyone on his latest release – racially charged anthems like Untouchable and Like Home are music to the ears of those craving vintage Shady. River, featuring Ed Sheeran, is an emotional ballad in the Love The Way You Lie realm. As with any Em album, there is a touch of over the top silliness; this time it comes in the form of Remind Me set to the rhythm of Joan Jett’s I Love Rock n Roll. And of course, there is a super-juiced sample of The Cranberries’ Zombie, which Mathers somehow turns into one of the best tracks on the record.
While Untouchable may prove to be the most talked about single of the album, the Alicia Keys-aided Like Home is the true triumph. Instead of taking a pessimistic look at America, Eminem channels the strength to bring society together. Referring to Trump, Em raps “He’s trying to divide us/but like Johnny he’ll only unite us. Because nothin’ inside drives us like the fight does.” Of course, Keys’ roaring chorus makes this an unforgettable track. The finale, Arose, addresses every trauma in his past. From his failed relationship with Kim to his struggles as a father. But he doesn’t stop there as he triumphantly tackles the death of Proof and his stained memories of his mother.
From the first track, it’s obvious that the background music is truly that – background music. The beats and complimenting instruments truly take a backseat on this album. Em’s emotional lyrics are at the forefront more than his previous efforts. The acoustic guitar, featured extensively on Recovery, seemingly disappears on this record. Sheeran’s duet is the only tune to showcase it. Dr. Dre’s reduced role as a producer on Revival is obvious, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Starting with Recovery, the Michigan native has made a strategic attempt to attract a-list popstars to perform on his albums. He struck gold twice with Rihanna, but the singer is not featured on Revival. Old friends Pink and Skylar Grey do make an appearance though. Of course, the most notable newcomer to Eminem duets is Beyonce. Her beautiful voice can be heard on the plodding debut single, Walk On Water. Then there’s Sheeran, who provides an excellent chorus on River, a song destined to be a smash-hit. X Ambassadors join the fun on Bad Husband – one of the most intimate songs on the album. But are there too many a-listers to take seriously? Is Eminem desperate to stay relevant? Shady should not have to enlist the help of all these superstars. As The Storm and Revival as a whole suggests, Em is still mighty relevant in today’s rap game.