The controversial rapper known as Eminem has had a long history of provocative rapping tied into some generally well-produced music. His career has been one of lyrics and the headline writers they outraged.
However, his latest album, Revival, is little more than an uncreative political statement and already-done song themes haphazardly thrown onto half-hearted beats.
Let’s start with what the headlines have caught on to: Eminem calls Donald Trump “Adolf Hitler” in the song “Like Home.” The insults he tosses at Trump while Alicia Keys sings about America in the chorus seem borrowed from the least articulate Twitter accounts that respond to Trump’s tweets every morning.
It’s an odd song because the underlying theme of the song is about how good America can be, yet he just repeats these unoriginal insults and critiques of Trump and saying “American can be better.” There’s no real hope provided by the song, which makes the lame lyrics seem forced when played over an upbeat, somewhat inspirational beat.
What’s so bad about this track isn’t even this, however. It’s the fact that fans of Eminem (a group which I typically belong to) can and should expect better creativity from the rapper. This is the bottom of the controversy barrel, yet, it isn’t even the worst part of the album.
A couple of tracks later, the song “Framed” touches on the type of controversy we’ve come to know and expect from the man who goes by “Slim Shady.” This particular track is told from the point of view of an insane serial killer who claims he’s been framed. The problem? “I’m A Psycho Killer” Eminem was pretty much the entire theme of the also-widely-panned album Relapse, which is actually a more enjoyable album than Revival.
One of the more curious lines in “Framed” comes when Eminem jokingly refers to having Ivanka Trump in the trunk of his car, which I guess is his plan for helping America get better. I dunno. Just seems weird.
Fast-forward again, and you get to the track “Heat,” where the same rapper who spent an entire track insulting Donald Trump actually tells a fictional woman:
Wanna wrap you up, put you in a bow like an arrow
Grab you by the (meow!), hope it’s not a problem
About the only fact I agree on with Donald is that
So when I put my palm on your cat
Don’t snap, it’s supposed to get grabbed
Which can lead the more innocent listener to the conclusion that the awful thing about Donald Trump is his political alliance with the alt-right/neo-Nazis, but his treatment of women is something we can joke about and not really care about. For the more seasoned listener, it’s a clear sign that the outrage at Donald Trump, while perhaps genuine from the rapper, was used primarily to spur on sales among the more rabid anti-Trump forces in the music marketplace.
The majority of the rest of the album just suffers from lower-quality production, both lyrically and musically. The aforementioned “Heat” is practically indistinguishable from “Like Me,” a track that uses the guitar riff from Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N Roll” and describes loving a woman because she reminds him of himself. The problem is that the lyrics describe the same girl – one with a thick rear end and crazy sexual appetite.
There are also vocal talents, like Alicia Keys, Skylar Grey, Pink, and Kehlani, who are utterly wasted on the songs they are used in. Grey is the only decent thing about the generic “I constantly screw up relationships” track, “Tragic Endings.” Pink’s vocal contributions make “Need Me” listenable. Keys is basically pointless in “Like Home.”
There are some tracks worth listening to, however. “River,” which features Ed Sheeran’s singing, is an emotional piece about a fling-turned-relationship with a married woman. The woman ends up left by her husband (who was originally cheating on her) and pregnant by the song’s narrators, and she chooses abortion while he laments letting her make that choice.
“Untouchable” is an uncomforable song to listen to, but one worth listening to if you feel passionate about the issue of police brutality in the black community. Despite the repeat of the “hands up, don’t shoot” myth, Eminem does put the issue in the proper emotional context.
However, these two tracks are simply not enough to save what is arguably the worst album Eminem has put out to date. It’s a shame because his success is built across several successful albums and songs. However, this one is a swing and a miss.