A Review of Revival: Music Icon Eminem’s Political Raps and Fallen Rude-Boy Persona

“Revival is Eminem’s worst album to date.” Is the statement overtly melodramatic or indicative of truth?

Fans and critics of Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem or Slim Shady, are in a tug-of-war, dishing out insults and praises that leave this feuded debate at a stalemate. But the critics’ passionate grievances and the fans’ veneration of Revival are both within reason. critics blast Revival for its saturated features of mainstream pop-artists that tend to divert from traditional hip-hop sound, and fans praise it for its sanctified do-good aura.

The tracks with artist features lack some quality instrumentation where there are often synthetic-sounding melodies containing ballads and chord progressions that cheaply delve into the familiarity of Top-40 pop, rock enclave. Those melodies seem like secondary, even tertiary attempts to re-write heart-rending hits like “Love the way you lie”, “when I’m gone”, or “Beautiful”, and these attempted cross-references stick out like morning wood in first period math class. The lyrics fluctuate between redundancy and quick-wittiness, but most of the buzz on “Walk on Water”, “River”, and “Need me” are quickly drowned out by a kind of dime-a-dozen sound. “Walk on Water” featuring Beyoncé is likely the most lullaby-esque, cheesy song on the album. As mentioned, Eminem’s flow is still present, but something just sounds off-key. Some important puzzle pieces are missing, or maybe the instruments just need some extra tuning. choruses sung by Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Kehlani, and especially, Ed Sheeran, are awkwardly placed at the epicenter of Revival. They just don’t pair well with a rapper  known for capitalizing on his individual rawness, rude boy persona and dirty, uncut lyrics. One can understand why this may turn off even long-standing Eminem fans, as those pop-ish ballads prompt a sing-a-long by a car full of teeny boppers. There’s nothing wrong with this sound, except for the fact that these tunes just happen to be housed in the wrong genre and intermixed with the wrong rapper.

Eminem fans anticipated hip-hop maturity to produce a Rated-R type album that instead came off sounding like a teenagerish PG-13 album, however, hip-hop is a conglomeration of diversity that tweaks and experiments with many sounds. Mixing hip-hop with pop or rock isn’t alien, and when in the right producing hands, the result can be a masterpiece, but when elements of these genres are incongruously mashed, the result is a broken record. Some of the pop mash-ups on Revival are aesthetically unfit. It’s like mixing milk with lemon juice or wearing UGG boots with mini shorts: The collaborations just result in a confused cringe.

Argumentatively, critics must toss out the barometer of precision, which badly calculates small increments of change. If Eminem is still dabbling with his haunting past, critics complain, but then, if he tries to supress his popular, unhinged tantrums, sprinkling them with delicate harmony, they also complain. Synopsis— they complain that shit hasn’t changed, and contradictingly, complain that shit has changed. Eminem is 45 years old now. He’s not the late twenty-something rising star he was upon releasing Slim Shady LP in 1999 or Marshall Mathers LP in 2000 or Encore in 2004. Plus, It’d be hard to simulate the old, firey cadences in his voice and the evoking narratives mastered on those albums— unfiltered detailing of his many trials and tribulations. Those stone-setting tracks cannot be reproduced, as they were most effective when the first-hand experiences, in relation to his daughter Hailie and ex-wife Kim, were still fresh occurences. Likewise, the thirst to mercilessly confront all of the nay-sayers and whiteboy-rapper haters was quenched almost a decade ago. The raw and uncut alter ego of Slim Shady has transformed and evolved, and finicky critics are just a byproduct of this. They’re like unforgiving jurors, keeping tallies on all of Eminem’s fuck ups, presupposing his every step— past, present and future and refusing to write off any amends.

Truthfully, one will like whatever he/she can mostly relate to. The political references catapult with resonance and portray the plight that currently infests American democracy. The argument here is that plenty of rappers have grazed this muddy terrain, so much so that the lyrics of “Untouchable” falter and disappear into media abyss, like a scholarly pdf document on social oppression that reiterates everything old Harvard academics have already written, edited, and drafted over and over and over again. However, most of these charges are poor defenses. Just because big names in the music entertainment industry have elicited outrage on poignant political issues, doens’t mean that dialogue should be suddenly discontinued. It’s like saying that society should cease discussion on rape since rape allegations in the entertainment industry have been the primary topic of discussion in the media over the last two months.

This time is rich in government upheaval and citizenry divisiveness, which also makes it a crucial time to re-acknowledge prominent political issues. But this is where critics, again, lash back, revisiting past traumas and ripping the bandages from wounds that haven’t entirely healed. How can he rap about  Trump’s banning of transgenders from the miltary, call out his allegiance to the KKK, and so honestly confront racial inequality when he’s guilty of dishing out past insulting jabs with homophobic and sexist overtones? How can he say that him and Trump have a particular similarity— pussy grabbing? The answer is that he’s an iconic hip-hop artist, who over time, can adapt to change and mature in nature. As for the pussy-grabbing blow, well that just goes to show that the Slim Shady-Eminem duo is still full of lewdness and trickery. The star has long been known for behaving like a cold-blooded viper, but Marshall has more heart than expected, and this shows more with age, as he morphed from viper into a color-adapting chameleon, evolving with his surroundings and acclimating to atmospheric change.

“Untouchable”, “Offended”, “Castle”, “Arose”, “Believe”, and even “In Your Head” fluently capture the fundamental storyline of Revival and exhibit the reconstruction of Eminem’s long-fought musical journey with hip-hop, as well as the hard-fought exploration of himself. The political symbolism, reflection on racial profiling, social inequality, and white priviledge orchestrate the true stardom of “Untouchable”, and “Offended”, with its gritty beat and fluid snares, is a fast-flowing diss anthem at the world that reclaims Shady’s influential rapping skills. “Castle”, “Arose”, and “Believe” revisit difficult past scenarios with reawakened honesty, providing one last bout of closure on issues that he, Hailie, and Kim deeply struggled with. “In Your Head”, sampled by the Cranberrries’s “Zombie”, is a daunting look back at Eminem’s old self, and that self, while not entirely repaired, is seen making a come back from the accumulated internal catastrophes over the years. To conclude, Mr. Mathers still remains one of the most controversial rappers to ever grace the platform of hip-hop. 7.5 out of 10 stars given here. One should listen to the album at one’s own discretion, and then decide how good, mediocre or awful Revival actually is. It’s difficult to shuffle through a bunch of heated album reviews and not come out with clouded judgement.

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