I remember really loving Eminem when I was younger and he was new. I think part of it came from my older cousin, Anthony, being so into his music. But another big part of it came from that inner desire to rebel and like something my mom would've been upset that I liked.
Yet I still figured out how to defend his art when she figured out I knew who he was.
That said, here's his 7th studio album, making the big come back in a very different rap scene than the one he was last prominent in.
“Parking Lot (Skit)” is kind of just a lot of yelling and sirens. Clearly he’s running from something. And there’s a gunshot. Let’s move on.
In a cool sampling move, “Rhyme or Reason” starts with the questions from “Time of the Season” and Eminem answers them. THEN he samples the melody and gives his own spin to the words. Holy cow, this is creative and kind of amazing. You might not agree with the lyrics all the way, but this is a really cool spin and he makes it all his own. Not badly done at all.
“So Much Better” sounds like pretty damn classic Eminem. The chorus is bitter and loud and I could feel this blasting in my cousin’s SUV in my head. There’s an interesting bridge in there as far as timing and rhythm goes. Listen to it – you’ll hear what I’m talking about. While I’m listening to the anger, this feels like a good time to point out some cool promotional tactics for this album. Did you watch the VMAs this year? Because Dre gave the album title away in two Beats commercials (man, I can’t wait till Christmas). Also, Em went blonde again. Please tell me others out there are as happy as I am.
Well, now that those superficial comments are out of the way… heh, sorry. I like sharing oddball info about the albums I hear. Liz Rodrigues is the uncredited female vocalist on this chorus for “Survival.” It came out in April when it premiered in a trailer for “Call of Duty: Ghosts.” It was then later released in October as a single. If you’re curious, it’s #67 on the charts this week, and has only been there 3 weeks. Weird timing, but whatever. I love the fight feel of this. It’s strong and hard. If this doesn’t show up as an MMA fighter’s entrance theme in the next few months, I’ll be very disappointed.
That said, “Asshole” comes fast and hurts like a punch. Skylar Grey is back in our world taking on the hook, which is amazingly light compared to the quick raps around it. I can’t say I love it as an overall song, but damn if this boy doesn’t rap faster and faster every time I hear him. But he’s so clear. I haven’t heard something like this outside of the realm of Jay-Z, and if you know the amount of respect I have for that guy, you know that’s really saying something from me. Whew.
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“Berzerk” was the official first single back in August. You’ve heard it if you listen to radio. It’s charting right now at #25 and has been there for 9 weeks. It got as high as #3 – not bad for such an intense song. Ready for the list of sample credits in this? “The Stroke” – Billy Squier, “Fight For Your Right” – Beastie Boys (which I can’t pick out in the track, but okay), and “Feel me Flow” – Naughty By Nature. I think the sampling licenses probably cost what my apartment’s rent is… for half a year. Ouch. But it’s a good compilation all told, and something about it flows very well. I don’t know that I could ever make all of that work, plus add a rap on top, but hey, this is Eminem.
“Brainless” has me feeling how a lot of Eminem tracks have in my life – like I’m being yelled at during the verses and just trying to catch a breath during the choruses. I mean, he kind of growls in some of his rapping, doesn’t he? Don’t get me wrong – tone-wise, this guy has an amazing amount of control. He whispers and creates an intensity unparalleled, and he growls and shakes you up.
And now we get another moment to breath. “Stronger Than I Was” is almost border-line ballad. There’s no sampling, and very little rapping. It’s also all Eminem. No singers added. I never would have pinned this as one of his songs. Is this… a love song? Anyone else flabbergasted? I mean, okay, I guess it’s open to interpretation. As he builds up, you kind of realize it’s a self love song, in that it’s the one after the breakup. It’s the anthem about being okay after the fall. And there’s the rapping. Ha, we’ve come full circle on this track.
“The Monster” marks Rihanna & Eminem’s 4th collaboration. It’s super twisted, and not in that cool dark Tim Burton way. It’s sounds a lot like every other song until you hit the chorus. It’s a great duet, but I gotta say, these two have done much better together before.
Now this one’s different and interesting. There’s almost a Southern Rock feel to “So Far…” and I’m digging it. It contains samples of “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh and “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?” by Schoolly D. Granted, it’s all about Detroit, which I wouldn’t have expected given the sound, but who cares? It’s well done, and ever city needs a bragging song, right?
“Love Game” totally almost passed me by. It flowed in so seamlessly from “So Far…” that I never heard the transition. I only noticed that the hook was a little different and looked over. Keira Marie is on here with vocals, Kendrick Lamar is featured in additional rapping, there are samples of “Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders, and there are interpolations of “The Object of My Affection” by Jimmie Grier, Coy Poe, and Pinky Tomlin. Whew, that was a lot of info to include. The song itself? Well, it kind of bops along. It’s fun, but not hilarious, and that’s just fine.
And we’re back to growling. I promise I’m not complaining. “Headlights” is tough, if for no other reason that is drags and is just tough on the heart. It’s a track that you feel somehow, just a little deeper than the others. I think that feeling has something to do with the backing music. And… it’s a tribute to hit mom? I was not expecting that one at all. OH! Also, Nate Ruess is featured in this, which you’ll recognize right from the start. Is fun. Recording more music, or is Nate just recording with every big artist on the planet? Nonetheless, his voice does add to the slightly haunting quality of this song, including the moments that he hits you with harmonies.
“Evil Twin” launches back out of that nice warm place that you thought you were in. Out comes Eminem’s anger towards, well, everyone. He definitely is taking this opportunity to get it all out. And it’s all against an electronic background – I know you hear that in the background, don’t deny it. The falling ‘notes’ in the back are just as hypnotizing as the rapping over top.
Did you know that was supposed to be the end of the album? We’re now into the Deluxe part. Thanks Wiki. And thanks Spotify – love that you always bring on more. “Baby” keeps things high-octane, not missing a single beat. And you’ve gotta love the “nobody buts Baby in a corner” line. It’s a warning to not ignore because that person you shove off will flip later on. I mean, that’s my little summary of the chorus. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, and then I’d be sorry. But for not, I won’t be. These are the things that Eminem teaches me.
“Desperation” came on completely unexpected. It may be my favorite song of the album Jamie N. Commons is featured, and the whole things is hard-hitting and amazing. It’s a rock song as much as it is a rap song. And that chorus is just incredible and impressive. You could lose yourself in this completely – and I promise I’m not trying to make a cute pun there. AND he calls out Carrie Underwood. Amazing.
Okay, for every good there’s bound to be one that’s less than good. That’s some sort of physics rule, right? “Groundhog Day” is just kind of meh. It is cool that he’s keeping his tone so high, considering you normally here Marshall Mathers reach down a little deeper. The beat is steady and there and just a little annoying, if I’m being entirely honest. It’s those little bells up top. Just, get them out of my head. It’s like a nail being shoved into your brain, at least in my care. I just cannot take it.
“Beautiful Pain” is another one of those hauntingly beautiful songs. Sia comes in to share some vocals (also was a co-writer). Yeah, musically, it’s really pretty. The arrangement’s downright perfect. The words are a little lost on me mostly because I’m trying like hell to stay out of the realm of depression. But maybe it’s a saving song for some. I mean, I’ve always believed that if you can connect to music instead, that can be a saving grace.
All right y’all, last song. “Wicked Ways.” Anyone else less than surprised? This one features X Ambassadors. I’m trying real hard to be into the words, because this dude has some awesome things to say. It’s also been an exhausting experience trying to keep up with every moment throughout this album. This is a good general rap song to end on though, I think. The beat’s classic and the count’s easy to keep up with. The chorus vocals are Imagine-Dragons-esq and keep it moving. Overall, not a bad way to wrap things up.
Added to My Playlist:
- “Rhyme or Reason”
- “Stronger Than I Was”
- “So Far…”
- “Beautiful Pain”
I don't think I've sat through an entire Eminem album before, to be honest. Just batches of his songs in Ant's car, nice and loud, through the streets of Parsippany. I'm kind of half loving it, half meh about it. It's a good album as a whole, and the guy is talented as hell. Glad to have him back.