Eminem – Revival review

Secret Meeting score: 38

by Phil Scarisbrick

Eminem is one of those artists for whom the release of a new album is an event. After his exciting, acapella freestyle hit the internet in October (recorded for this year’s BET Awards), it created a palpable sense of excitement for his ninth studio album, Revival. As someone in their early thirties, his work has sound-tracked my journey from a pre-pubescent ten year-old, through teenage struggles and early adulthood, right through to today. His use of language and rhymes are almost unrivalled by anyone in the last two decades. He has transcended his genre to become a global superstar and adored by those far beyond the hip-hop audience. With someone who has such a rich talent for words, huge global standing and such a deplorable target for his ire, President Trump, it should be a recipe for something wonderful. Unfortunately, with Revival, it just doesn’t work.

At 19 tracks and 77 minutes, it is a mammoth record. This fact on its own wouldn’t be too worrying if it wasn’t for the fact that there is a large amount of music that doesn’t need to be there. One big issue is the beats over which he is unloading his vitriol. The backing tracks here feel dated and over-inflated. Other veteran hip-hop artists are still managing to release albums that sound fresh, most notably A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service and Jay-Z’s 4.44. Both released in the last 18 months by artists who have been working for over two decades, but absolutely right for now. Even legendary producer Rick Rubin gets it wrong. There are exceptions to this though. Chloraseptic in particular has a bare-bones backing that allows Mathers to unleash his trademark scathing and throaty soliloquys to great effect.

There is also a huge issue with the Trump bashing that features throughout. One of the many significant issues people have with the ‘Leader of the Free World’ is his history with women. From accusations of sexual abuse to unfettered misogyny, he has a despicable track record. This is something you can also say about Marshall Mathers. His history of domestic violence and tracks littered with misogynistic lyrics make it hard for him to call Trump out on this subject without addressing these issues. This is something he attempts. There is clear contrition on his behalf and even an apology to former lover Kim. No sooner do we hear this though, we get a track like Offended, where he slips in references to some of the women in Trump’s life in a less than flattering manner. Either he is letting the mask slip or his own internal struggles are something he still hasn’t got under control.

Despite odd glimpses of the Eminem we love, this album feels like a litany of missteps and wrong choices. None of the political posturing comes close to the BET freestyle, a fiery call-to-arms laying bare the concerns of many around the world about POTUS. The tried and tired formula of choruses sung by global megastars also fails to land the kind of punches Love The Way You Lie or Stan have previously (despite heavyweight guests such as P!nk, Beyonce and Ed Sheeran). As somebody who has in the past taken risks collaborating with up and coming artists, he is trying to play it safe. When you are dealing with subject matters as unsafe as those featured here, this approach leaves the whole thing feeling half-baked. As a fan, this is terribly disappointing, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one who feels this way.