Revival Fails To Live Up To Eminem’s Reputation
Eminem’s long, accomplished career requires no introduction, and also requires no more musical output for his name to be considered among hip-hop’s elite. The 45-year-old rapper has earned his place in the rafters through witty punchlines and creative, abrasive lyrics, yet obviously still feels he has more in the tank and more to prove to the world. His latest album, Revival, was released in December to heavy anticipation, after a carefully-crafted marketing scheme that involved a website advertising a fake pharmaceutical drug as well as a pop-up restaurant in Detroit serving “mom’s spaghetti,” referencing the iconic lyric from his 2002 hit “Lose Yourself.”
Eminem cited Jay-Z’s Grammy-nominated album 4:44 as an inspiration for the project, aiming to give his fans a more introspective, thoughtful album. Certainly a noble aspiration, but there’s little debating that the final product missed the mark, instead showing an artist still too reliant on shock-value rhymes that no longer impress the way they did at the peak of his career. “Believe” sees him adopting the 808-heavy, trap-influenced beat that dominates much of mainstream hip-hop today, but the halting, herky-jerky cadence he uses on the song restrains it from settling into any kind of groove. He tries the same start-stop rhythm throughout most of Revival, but it rarely succeeds, serving as more of an exercise in auricular agility than a smooth, enjoyable listen.
“Pop-rap” was a common term used to describe the tracklist when it first arrived, thanks to features from the likes of Skylar Grey, Ed Sheeran, and P!nk. It’s certainly an apt description for those tracks as well as many others, with even the Alicia Keys-assisted “Like Home” fitting the bill as the singer is drenched in autotune rather than allowed to boast her soulful vocals. “River” featuring Ed Sheeran might be the most impressive song on the album, however, succeeding with a relatively natural flow and a guitar-heavy beat fitting for the soundtrack for a modern western film.
Outside of songs that fit the pop realm, there is a heavy Rock & Roll influence on songs like “Remind Me.” Sampling the classic “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, lines such as “your booty is heavy duty like diarrhea” certainly grab the listener’s attention, but show limited artistic evolution and fail to draw more than a slight chuckle. “Heat” also shows Eminem’s hard rock side, with playful yet harsh raps about a woman who’s sparked his interest.
The Beyonce-assisted “Walk on Water” served as Revival’s lead single, and sees Eminem lamenting at his fading stature in the current hip-hop landscape. Over emotional piano keys, the lyrics hold weight and certainly tug at the heartstrings, even if the song itself offers little replay value. Aging in (and out of) hip-hop can be an ugly affair, and although some choose to handle it with grace and contentment, here Eminem struggles with his relative lack of notoriety and attempts to rhyme his way back into the spotlight.
Over a bloated 77 minutes, however, Eminem unfortunately does himself more harm than good on Revival. Too many lines fall roughly on the ears, and the halting flow is nearly impossible to attach yourself to. It will be interesting to see how fans react to hearing the album live as Eminem rounds the festival circuit at Coachella, Bonaroo, and Governor’s Ball (among others, most likely), but as it is, Revival slots in near the bottom of the Detroit rapper’s extensive discography.