In mid-October, the “Rap God” Eminem released a freestyle rap dissing Donald Trump, calling him and all of his supporters racist and said he wanted nothing to do with them. Beyond being extremely offensive, as per usual for Eminem, it wasn’t even all that good compared to his previous freestyles. This rap stirred up a lot of controversy and was likely part of a media push for his upcoming album. The album, Revival, was released on December 15th, to mixed reviews.
The album is less than memorable. For the past decade, Eminem has tried to rebrand himself after his initial popularity. His 2010 album, Recovery, managed to successfully bring him back into relevance. Revival won’t revive Eminem.
Almost nothing about the album was original. Three of the last songs were completely forgettable. There were great vocals from artists like Ed Sheeran, Skylar Grey, Kehlani and even Beyonce, but Eminem’s lyrics and themes in those songs were just repeats of same ideas that he has been hammering into the ground for the past two decades: He can’t handle fame and he can’t handle women. The songs “Remind Me” and “Heat” tried to combine rock and rap and were so unlistenable that I skipped them halfway through. Framed attempted to get back to his humorous and shocking beginnings but the chorus was irritatingly nasal, and the lyrics didn’t come across as shocking or funny, they were just gross.
Eminem drew on the attention that his freestyle got with highly politicized lyrics in “Untouchable” and “Like Home”. “Untouchable” spoke on police brutality and the unfair treatment of African Americans in society today. While these are real problems, Eminem hyperbolized the issue and insinuated that cops are on the hunt for African American kids and that there is a vast conspiracy in the United States to keep black people at the bottom of society. The chorus was unlistenable.
In “Like Home” Eminem spends four minutes tearing into President Trump saying that it’s “time to bury him, so tell him to prepare to get impeached”. He called the President Adolf Hitler, said he hated blacks and Hispanics, and fraternized with the Klan and Neo-Nazis, none of which is true. If Eminem was attempting to stir up controversy with these lyrics, he certainly did a good job, if he genuinely believes them his song “Insane” makes a lot more sense.
There were some solid songs on the album. “River” and “Tragic Endings” sounded great even if the themes were old. “Offended” was funny, even with some questionable lines about the women of the Trump family and Kellyanne Conway.
“Chloraseptic” was probably the only good song on the album that was original, as it drew on new styles of rap and made fun of the new culture that surrounds rap music today.
The album was mediocre at best, and as an Eminem album, it was terrible compared to his previous work. Being overtly political likely alienated part of his white working-class listeners.
Eminem was desperately trying to stay relevant with this “Revival”, and while millions will still likely go see him perform and will buy the album, his glory days are over.
Photo credit: Eminem promotional material