I was as excited as the next Slim Shady fan for December 15th, the release date of Eminem’s newest album, Revival. His last album, The Marshall Mathers, came out in 2013, so the excitement for Revival has been building up for nearly five years. With such a long time to refine and record his ideas, I felt there was no way Eminem’s new album could disappoint. Unfortunately, it did just that.
Maybe, in part, the time itself made my judgments worse; Too much build up to the album- five years of it- led to my expectations being higher. But, as I listened to and contemplated the album, I knew the time elapsed between albums was far from the only problem.
The first time I listened to it, I tried to remain hopeful by saying to myself “maybe I’ll like the next one!” after every song. But as I got to the nineteenth song and had liked- not loved- only three songs, I knew I wasn’t going to be calling the album outstanding.
Of the nineteen songs, two of them are intros (less than a minute), eight of them have features, and the featured artists are “basic”, if you will. In the past, Eminem has featured fellow rap artists such as 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, and Obie Trice. Some artists featured on Revival are Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Skylar Grey, and P!nk. It’s not that these artists aren’t good, it’s that they aren’t the type of music I expected, or wanted to hear, from Eminem.
Regardless, I liked a couple of the features in the album. “River” feat. Ed Sheeran was by far the best. It includes an interesting beat that builds with the song, good harmonies from Sheeran, and tells the story of Eminem being the “other man” in a relationship and dealing with the repercussions.
The song “Bad Husband” feat. X Ambassadors is another I enjoyed. After years of dissing and abusing his ex-wife, Kim, in his music, Eminem finally wrote a song addressing his part in their failed marriage. The song also features his daughters voice from the song “My dad’s Gone Crazy” on The Eminem Show (2002), as a nod to the past. This song was one of the few off the album where Eminem’s usual anger and passion shines through.
“Castle”, with Liz Rodrigues, speaks to Eminems daughter, Hailie, telling her about how and why he raised her the way he did, as well as the effects of growing up in the spotlight.
PHRESHER is the only featured rapper on the album, but their song together “Chloraseptic” falls through as Eminem’s verses are slow and what felt like half-assed. However, I thought PHRESHER’s chorus was catchy.
It is not a surprise the best songs on Revival are about Eminem’s daughter and ex wife, though I felt he had an opportunity to broaden his spectrum but fell short in this area as well. Eminem raps about racial injustice in America (“Untouchable”), his dislike for current president Donald Trump (“Like Home” and “Offended”), and mentally abusive relationships (“Tragic Endings”). These types of topics are important to talk, or rap, about, but unfortunately, none of the songs have the complete package of good lyrics, beat and performance.
The songs that turned out best reminded me most of the old Eminem. Dissing others in tracks, sampling another artist’s song (The Cranberries’ “In your head”), and transitioning smoothly between songs are among the qualities that have, in the past, made his albums stand out.
In many of the songs, the beats are too slow and the raps don’t flow well with the beats they’re paired with. Among these songs are “Like Home”- though Alicia Keys’ feature is good- “Believe” and “Untouchable” which are my least favorite songs off the album, “Nowhere Fast”- the beat was boring and Kehlani’s and Eminem’s voices don’t vibe well together- and “Heat” and “Remind me” which both have more of a rock beat that don’t go with the sound of the album or of Eminem in general.
Overall, I give Revival a 4/10. If I was just reviewing the lyrics, the score would be higher, as he addresses many prevalent issues, but there are simply too many problems with all the other aspects of it for the album to be considered great. In a few songs, Eminem experiments with slower rapping, as many popular rappers have begun to do. This did not pair well with his style and voice. The features are too “pop” instead of rap, and songs that have good features are still not great songs overall. None of the songs have the same passion and anger fans have come to expect from Eminem, which is probably the most disappointing factor of the album. This missing piece could be attributed to Eminem not being the young rapper that he used to be, and maybe he matured in the past five years
Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another five years for an album from Eminem, and hopefully in it, the old Eminem will be revived.