For some reason ‘Revival’, the new album from Eminem, has been getting a lot of bad reviews, and I’m not really sure why, as I’ve quite enjoyed it and have listened to it a few times now.
‘Revival’ has the same humour as Eminem’s other work, the freestyling flow is still there, the real talk is there too. I think there are people who are a bit put off by his politics but whatever – Slim Shady has always been about confronting people’s opinions. For instance, I’m not into overt sexual themes in music, but I appreciate the confrontation in ‘Heat’. It’s not PC, but it’s not meant to be: it’s parody.
It’s clearly an immensely personal album, and ‘Bad Husband’ in particular moved me. Eminem is acknowledging he could have done much better with Kim. His children – natural and adopted – will attest that he’s been a great dad – but at the same time he’s not been the best husband. It’s this song which makes ‘Revival’ the third part of the trilogy that started with ‘Recovery’ and ‘Relapse’.
The collaborations are well chosen, if at first glance maybe too many. Ed Sheeran is everywhere at the moment but I feel his presence on this album is perfect – pun intended. Eminem has played a major part in Sheeran’s musical career as well as his personal life; I’m sure most people by now have heard Ed’s story of how he had a stutter and because he was into rap, his father bought him the ‘Marshall Mathers LP’, and he learned it word for word – and conquered his stutter. Eminem bringing him in on this was surely a way of acknowledging this. Sheeran has recently said that he had a song in mind for if ever he was asked to sing on an Eminem album, and if ‘River’ is that song, then it’s a beautiful choice.
Special mention must be made of ‘Arose’, which samples the likes of ‘The Rose’ (Bette Midler), ‘I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More Baby’ (Barry White), ‘Do The Funky Penguin’ Rufus Thomas), and ‘When The Levee Breaks’, by Led Zeppelin. Poignant and again, deeply personal, it’s the final thanks and regrets of a man on his deathbed, and makes reference to a lot of those in Eminem’s life, including his daughter Hailie. It follows on from ‘Castle’, which was entirely dedicated to her, and is also written as a last note. Like the other tracks on this album, although it’s referencing real people and is his actual feelings and thoughts and regrets, it’s couched in a clever fiction.
Beyoncé is also everywhere (even duetting with Ed Sheeran on one of the many versions of ‘Perfect’), and having her on ‘Walk On Water’ is a brilliant decision, her pristine vocals are the superb counterpoint to Eminem’s exasperated freestyle. The song itself made me very sad. To see Eminem where he is, at the top of his game, and still he is affected by haters; people misjudge him. Words hurt. Armchair critics and keyboard warriors have been knocking his music and indeed knocking this album – and the words have cut him, still cut him, even twenty years into the business. Creatives are sensitive people. They create because they need to: it’s an outlet, if they don’t release the words, the music, the art, it twists inside and drives them mad. Nobody has the right to judge the creative expression of others – “judge and you shall be judged”. And after all – this is the guy who wrote ‘Stan’.