“I count my blessings, but I suck at math,” Eminem announces midway though a smartly-lifted Joe Walsh riff on “So Far...” It’s a great, pithy line that epitomizes the new Eminem. He’s cutting-edge without being cutting; he hasn’t lost his edginess or his edge. He’s still angry, even though he at least knows now that he has every reason not to be.
It’s always tempting to repeat past triumphs, and even beyond the title, this album clearly references "The Marshall Mathers LP," which was a black hole of an album, so bleak and dark and massive that it warped the cultural space-time of 2000. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it, or hearing people argue about it; it was the perfect soundtrack for drunk-driving to the nudie bar with your lowbrow friends, and the perfect topic of conversation for arguing with your highbrow friends about whether he was a genius or an evil genius or simply evil. And it was a genuinely awesome listen, but truly uncomfortable at times—not because he lacked talent, but because he was so clearly focused on using his talents for ill.
The good news is he’s mellowed a bit--but in the right ways. He’s still himself, America’s class clown, the misfit kid who dropped out of 9th grade and followed the exact opposite trajectory from what society expected, somehow turning stupid dick jokes into clever rhymes, and clever rhymes into super-stardom. And he’s getting away with things even he couldn’t get away with back then, rapping Columbine-related lyrics that were deleted from the first album just to see if he can get away with it. Only here, instead of an omnipresent Slim Shady lurking at Burger King and spitting on our onion rings, he’s the ultimate victim of his own misdeeds, hounded by fans and besieged in bathrooms, having his onion rings spat on because, hey, that’s how karma works in our flawed understanding.
But the only thing that really matters is the songs. And I can’t stop listening to the songs. I’ve probably listened to this album every other day since I got it, and I’m still hearing new and amazing lines. Eminem’s chief virtue, besides being a devoted father, is that he’s incredibly hard-working. Society’s gotten stratified enough that it seems like rap stars and athletes are the only people truly able to raise their station in life through sheer hard work, and Em may have slacked off for a few years of addiction and sickness, but he’s working as hard as anybody else in the business, and, most importantly, far harder than his critics, who are lazily taking potshots at the Eminem that used to be, rather than recognizing he’s beyond all that. They’re still confessional stories (except for the character sketch in track 1, which has Stan’s brother hunting him down to kill him), but they’re self-aware, very meta, featuring criticism of criticism, and an awareness of the irony inherent in his situation. If "Relapse" was an outlandish cartoon of an album, and "Recovery" a clear-eyed and intermittently amazing attempt to be something he’s not, this all Eminem, honest and reflective and true, the "Eminem Show" of his later period, embracing self in an attempt to transcend self, and making what might be the best album of his career.
- Release Date:
- Label: Aftermath/Interscope/Shady
- Copyright: ℗© 2013 Aftermath Records
- Record Company Required Metadata: Music file metadata contains unique purchase identifier. Learn more.
- Total Length: 1:42:21
- ASIN: B00GBCMW9S
- Customer Reviews: 1,261 customer ratings
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#6,731 Paid in Albums (See Top 100 Paid in Albums)
- #459 in Rap & Hip-Hop (Albums)