Eminem’s “Revival” Reviewed
Eminem’s Revival is a summation and a continuation of Eminem’s concentrated concerns over 74 minutes of world class featured artists, including a heads up to Slim Shady, an open hearted exploration of his marriage, fear of relapse, sex explorations and a coupla “Love The way You Lie” knock offs one featuring Beyoncé and one with Alicia Keys. It isn’t a triumph but it has moments of triumphs, at its best when its at his friskiness, woke Eminem is as much a drag as woke Jay Z and woke Katy Perry, at its worse: the failed serious-poo “Walk On Water,” for one, it disappoints through too much ambition. But for every over arching conceit there is a “Remind Me” memory story, about the day he first met his ex-wife Kim, while sampling Joan Jett and The Blackheart’s “I Love Rock And Roll” to make up for it (apparently Joanie has forgiven him for al the “faggot” comments, old rappers like old prostitutes become respectable). All the Kim songs are great and “Bad Husband” is the song Jay-Z couldn’t quite pull off for Beyoncé.
If “Bad Husband” is Eminem’s best song about love, “Heat” is not his best song about sex, but at least somewhat on the down low side, “In Your Head” a slice of pop-psychology to a Cranberries hit, is catchy and pointed, “Offended” a Slim Shady rap, is honor bound to offend the indefensible over years of firebomb lyrical bombardments, plus a chorus to the tune of “Nobody Likes Me (Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms)”. “Framed” is the welcome return of “Stan” by other means, slice em and dice em. And speaking of “Stan” -Dido is replaced by everybody: Bey, Alicia Keys, Skylar Grey, Kehlani, and Pink.
Politically, Eminem hates The Donald only a little more than the vitriol he poured over Bush Senior, and with much less wit than “Square Dancing”. “Untouchable’ is an excellent pro-African American reach out, even though it is baffling that he didn’t include the superior “The Storm”. If you’ve reached the seventy four minute mark, how much worse is it if you go for 80 minutes?
For “Arose,” the final song of the album, Eminem remembers the time he nearly died from an overdose, remembers his parents without the vitriol he has always shown, and the love for his daughter, that love he has always shown (the flip side of “Bad Husband” is “Good Dad”). Revival has the space and depth of a masterpiece without actually being one, for a very long album it never bores, it never tires, it remains a steady well built work of pop culture and as much about us as Eminem. Completely outside the norm of 2017 rap, it exists in a vacuum of Eminem’s making that invites us in and then closes the door. Not his best work, it is no The Eminem Show, but it is a serious artistic statement and if it fails, it fails on its own terms.