Ever since his ‘comeback’ in 2010 with Recovery, the name Eminem hasn’t carried the same punch it did during his earlier records. That could be a combination of factors like we got used to his schtick, others stepped up on their punchiness, or he began to back down and mellow out. Recovery and its followup, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, were both late career highlights but Eminem’s days of influence were seemingly behind him as indicated by both album’s biggest hits which were Rihanna collaborations. Now, over four years later, he continues that model of teaming up with some of music’s biggest names. Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran, among them.
Eminem’s style has often felt like reading from the pages of a journal, with a delivery always on point in songs like Cleaning Out My Closet, Mockingbird, When I’m Gone. With Revival, that remains true except it’s like he’s forgotten people are listening. Walk On Water lacks the rhythmic delivery and flow present in many of those past autobiographical tracks. The highlight of it was easily Beyoncé‘s chorus, even if it still felt like a wasted collab.
With Revival, Eminem takes a few steps back to reflect on the bigger picture. He’s become apologetic. To Kim (on Bad Husband), to Hailee on how his fame has impacted her life (on Castle), and to the public regarding his own persona (on the Cranberries‘ sampled In Your Head) and how incorporating a character into much of his earlier music led to so much criticism of him as a person. But most of all, he seems to be realizing his own mortality as an artist, insecurely addressing his own achievements and fame and his struggle to remain on the same pedestal he used to stand on – going so far as to remind everyone he wrote Stan.
But it’s hard to stay on top when he’s no longer leading the charge. Much of Revival feels like he’s playing catch-up over rock beats and samples, both with an industry that has moved on, and with himself. He challenges racism in America on Untouchable, goes anti-Trump on Like Home, and tries to recreate the magic of Rihanna-past with Ed Sheeran on River – a song about a one-night-stand that results in an abortion. There’s no new insights or perspectives, and for an Eminem record, that’s kind of shocking in itself.
1. Walk On Water [featuring Beyoncé]
3. Chloraseptic [featuring Phresher]
5. River [featuring Ed Sheeran]
6. Remind Me [Intro]
7. Remind Me
8. Revival [Interlude]
9. Like Home [featuring Alicia Keys]
10. Bad Husband [featuring X Ambassadors]
11. Tragic Endings [featuring Skylar Grey]
13. Nowhere Fast [featuring Khalani]
16. Need Me [featuring Pink]
17. In Your Head