So, this new Revival album is pretty securely the worst album I’ve listened to all the way this year. There have been worse records, but this one is so shocking in its existence, that I could not stop listening. It was instead of watching a car crash in slow motion, more akin to an airplane clipping its wings on buildings and slowly but surely crashing in a glorious blaze of flames.
Eminem’s discography has been filled with different styles and influences that span nearly 20 years. The aggressive and no-bullshit Slim Shady LP and The Eminem Show propelled him to stardom almost immediately, garnering him the reputation of a no nonsense bastard of rap, capable of launching verbal attacks of nuclear capacity.
With the gargantuan level of attention he was getting, though, Eminem decided to change. He began collaborating with some of the biggest names in the music industry at the time, and not just in the rap and hip hop community. Pillars like Rihanna, Sia, and Nicki Minaj began to release songs with him, and after a while, the tone of Eminem’s music would change drastically from whence it began, affecting his style in albums like Relapse and Recovery.
And here we have the result. The 77 minute long, 4 years in the making Revival LP. The magnum opus hinted at the end of The Marshall Mathers LP2. And what do what we get?
A complete insult of a record with jarring flow, petty and childish lyrics, tone-deafness, bad genre clashing, boring structure, and thin production. This is one pasty, ear-piercing trainwreck. I expected mediocre, but certainly not this. It’s so bad that we have to go track by track and pick apart why this record is as atrocious as it is. And you’re sitting through it. Let’s fucking go.
Walk on Water (feat. Beyonce)
Let’s start with the first track, Walk on Water. Learning that Beyonce was going to be the feature was rather optimistic, as she is a respectable musician, with decades in the industry and tons of banging, sticky tracks that have resonated over the years. 2016’s Lemonade is amongst her best, for example, so having her here might have been a positive. Instead, though, we get a rehash of a lot of songs from Eminem’s past, such as The Monster or Love The Way You Lie. It has that staple flowing and holy chorus interspersed with hard-hitting spits by the man himself. Here though, the tone feels weak, flat and generic. Beyonce does nothing other than sing the chorus, which will be a constant theme throughout this album. The flair is nothing new and it carries no weight. The lyrics are Eminem rapping du jour, with no style changes or new ideas. Same old, same old. Already a wrinkly start.
Believe might actually have the singe worst chorus on the album. It takes the concept of a spacey chorus and pumps it up to 11, with an incomprehensible bass line that has no beat to it, wavy and hazy riffs that melt horrifically into the background instrumentals and with vocals that sound distorted and fat. Outside of the chorus, the song is desolate, with Eminem using a modern trap beat that moves sluggishly through his choppy delivery and rhymes. Very difficult to listen to and instantly temporary. No catchiness to it whatsoever.
Chloraseptic (feat. Phresher)
Chloraseptic is possibly the worst song on the entire record, mostly due to it’s lost potential. The beat is empty, with random drums and snares hastily forced onto the droning, tinnitus-inducing bass line. The feature in this song, though, Phresher, an up-and-coming Internet famous rapper with actual musical talent, gets backseated and constrained into the chorus and bridges, while Eminem goes nuts on the verses and even drowns him out in sections where both of them are voicing. It’s as if the features are only here to emphasize Eminem’s own flow, completely killing the point of even having features at all. A feature is meant to add something to a song, mixing both artists’ talents and styles to create a song that is unique and diverse. Instead, Eminem does nothing with him at all and dominates the song with his monotone, uninteresting staccato raps. We’ve heard that before.
Untouchable features one of the two hot-button issues presented in the album, and it does so with as much tact, care and subtlety as a cedar baseball bat to the temples. In this song, Eminem raps both from the perspective of a white man and of a black man, and discusses the racism and oppression of the black community in modern America. Not to mention the fact that artists like Kendrick Lamar have done so already, all the while doing so with banging, catchy tunes, a standalone story that feels tense, nerve-wracking and even bone-chilling at times, but also with the very important fact that they are part of that oppressed community. Eminem, though, resident whitey, does so with a glaring yell, spouting justice like brimstone, or so he thinks. He’s simply late to the party and is doing what’s already been done in a much worse way. Also the beat on this thing is a rather bland, blaring rap track that layers some screeching and annoying guitar riffs in the background, which mesh very abruptly with the rest of the song. It’s not pleasurable to listen to.
For this song, just substitute one of the many female features for Ed Sheeran but keep all the drab instrumentation and theming. Song!
Remind Me is a bold-faced, blatant ripoff. It simply takes I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jet and the Blackhearts, places the most basic and spread out beat in the distant background, and then lets Eminem rap over it. No extra changes, no creative uses of the sample, absolutely nothing. This is more than just ripping off a song. This is like a mixtape someone would make as a joke. As in, how did anybody think this was a finished, fully produced song? No originality whatsoever.
Like Home (feat. Alicia Keys)
Then we get into Like Home. Talk about a pointless, petty and dated song that feels like it’ll vanish as soon as 2017 ends. Just another spacey beat shitting on Trump. What riveting commentary, Eminem. Namedropping Twitter twice sure is some biting, sizzling lyricism. This type of middle-school tier confrontational attitude will get swallowed up by Never-Trump bleeders, though, regardless of the lack of musical inventiveness and purpose other than its bashing of Trump. It’s as if that’s all a song needs in order to sell well in today’s obese, retched plane called the modern pop music industry.
Oh, I guess Alicia Keys is also featured in this song. Not that it matters.
Bad Husband (feat. X Ambassadors)
Bad Husband‘s drone-y X Ambassadors feature totally doesn’t blend at all with the rap, feeling like auditory whiplash between the verses and choruses. No thought whatsoever put into the actual flow of the instrumentals of the song, all while Eminem desperately tries to keep up with a beat that chops up his words and throws them into a blender.
All throughout this first half not once did I hear Eminem change up his vocal delivery in the slightest. It’s all the same drab, aggressive yet soulless speaking/shouting voice the entire record. This makes every single song bleed into each other and turn unrecognizable. It also doesn’t help that the beats have no flair, fire or energy. Just trap-influenced and flatter than a board. Awful.
I feel like I have to mention the repetitive, boring as hell song structure that’s being constantly repeated throughout all the songs with features. They start off with a intro/chorus, then Em’s flow, then chorus, Em flow, chorus, Em flow, chorus, end of song. No experimentation here! Just repetition, that’s how music works! Gobble it up, you fatsos. Get diabetes.
Tragic Endings (feat. Skylar Grey)
Tragic Endings is yet another overly long, redundant song about some soap-opera level relationship drama that I’ve heard 20 times already. One thing is to talk about your family, which has actual weight to it, but to constantly be writing edgy and dour dramas that have no connection to you is just embarrassing. It’s about as mindless as a pop song about love. It lacks all artistic input and personality. Musically this song is as dreary and same-y as all the other “emotional” raps in the record. Completely interchangeable.
Framed is the first song so far that feels like it has a distinguishable attitude. It’s harsh, brutal, Eminem actually throws his voice around in fun ways this time, portraying a paranoid, schizophrenic man caught up in an exorbitant number of murder conspiracies. The lyrics are bloody, nasty, and disgusting, yet quirky, funny and over the top. It reminds me of the golden days of the Slim Shady LP and The Eminem Show. This track has actual creative effort injected into it, not just verbally, but musically too, featuring this creepy, horror-core riff that screams B-movie plot. This one’s a pass.
Nowhere Fast (feat. Khelani)
And immediately after the fun and snappy Framed we jump right back into another spacey, droning chorus intro with Nowhere Fast. Khelani’s feature feels the exact same as the others before it. One drop of creativity and pizazz in a sea of drowning trap nothingness. Not to mention the horrid mixing on this song. The intro/chorus feels like it belongs on a 2012 EDM fling, the violin backups are totally distracting, and the beat that continually cuts off during Eminem’s flows are super disconnected and grind the song to a halt. A total clusterfuck. Not to mention the gag-inducing chorus lyrics.
What the fuck is this? Is this some cheap chorus taken from some 4 year old summer electro/dance track? What is it even saying? It’s so generic and without substance that it hurts. Either get better ghostwriters, get better features, or learn to write relevant lyrics outside of the flows. This is honestly baffling.
Not to harp on Heat since the beat is at least listenable, but these lyrics are painfully groan-worthy. These certainly aren’t the clever and punchy insults of Slim Shady, but more like some 12 year old SnapChatting his degenerate friends and laughing in Sex Ed.
Just pathetic. Other than that this, the song is plain old forgettable.
Offended is total self-indulgence. I guess that’s the point, but when you deliberately pause the beat to emphasize your “sick raps” it just comes across as you actually huffing your own farts. I know that’s in the song, but when you push it that far, with the actual song warping around the tone, the line has crossed from irony to reality. You’ve stepped out of parody and entered plain old bad.
Not to mention that the “Everybody hates me, gotta eat some worms” chorus is very grating and lame. It stops the flow right in its tracks for some kiddie song that feels tacked on and ridiculously on-the-nose. A total distraction.
Need Me (feat. P!nk)
What can I say about Need Me that I haven’t said about the other vapid, completely useless features on this blunder of a record? Spacey, overly grandiose and absolutely not meant for a hip hop album. Again, is this a fuckin’ Chainsmokers LP? Charlie Puth? These instrumental hooks and bridges are pulled straight out of something my party-head high school classmates would mindlessly blast in the club at 2am in the morning. Is this really the pinnacle of your musical inventiveness, Eminem? Or are you simply too lazy to work on some fresh, ear-tickling beats and prefer to just copy and paste them over and over? Whatever.
And guess what? You thought this song only failed musically? Need Me is yet another sad, depressive song about a toxic relationship that goes sour. It seems as though Eminem nowadays can’t write anything other than “woe is me” soap opera stories, teenage-level diss tracks and political anthems so drenched in fist-shaking frustration that there’s no space left for innovation.
Also P!nk is the feature on this track. Not that it matters.
In Your Head
In Your Head is meant to be a self-criticism of various aspects of Eminem’s career, including and most especially his Slim Shady persona. Oh, so you mean his most iconic, memorable, catchy, fun, personality-infused, abrasive, and entertaining persona, huh? Is that really what Marshall thinks about his best records? The ones that gave him the fame he lives off of now? It’s like he wants to resonate with the mindless pop crowd instead of rebelling against it like in his early records, like he’s lost all his fierce identity. It’s just sad at this point.
Castle and Arose
Castle is one of the better songs in the record, but only because here, Eminem actually touches on some deep, core-shaking dilemmas inside of him. You know, stuff that actually gives purpose and weight to the music, and not just empty filler for a pop hip hop tune? Sadly, this and the latter track are still both musically unimpressive, resorting to some forgettable hard-hitting trap-hop beats. Boring.
To be fair, both Castle and Arose provide interesting and introspective accounts of Marshall’s experience with death (overdosing in 2007), which was very fascinating to me personally, since this story is new to me and it felt as though his performance was genuine, gripping and intense. I wanted more of that. Getting this glimpse of what could be only made the rest of the album seem ever more hopeless and dead.
Overall, Revival is bloated, vapid, aesthetically tumultuous, dissonant, tone-deaf, dated, petty, pointless and a complete step backwards in terms of musical evolution for Eminem. A severe lack of emotion and passion save for some very specific sections. Clocking at 77 painful minutes long, this thing is atrociously hideous. I really don’t have anything else to possibly say. A complete disaster.
Instead of listening to this trite garbage, listen to BROCKHAMPTON’s Saturation III, which dropped literally the same day as Revival. It’s one of the most consistent, solid, experimental, energetic and fun hip hop albums of 2017. Now that is worth your time and attention.