Album Review: Eminem – Recovery

Eminem – Recovery
Interscope: 2010

The operative question in any discussion of a new Eminem album is how it measures up to his Slim Shady LP. The Detroit MC’s first album is viewed by many as a classic, and as is the case with debut albums of any repute, all of his subsequent works have been measured against its high watermark. This is a humorous dilemma in Em’s case because give or take a few standout hits, most of his albums are almost completely interchangeable in terms of content and quality. The first three in particular all share the same patent irreverence, celebrity potshots, introspective dysfunctional family drama, Paul Rosenberg, Steve Berman & Ken Kaniff skits. Encore may have left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth on account of the funny accents and goofy sex rap, and Relapse’s knee-jerk attempt at an abrasive horrorcore return to form resulted in an hour’s worth of ill-conceived murder and rape fantasies, but really, though, it’s all the same song and dance. So when Em ditched plans for Relapse 2 and announced Recovery in its stead, people got excited. Judging from the pre-release buzz, motivational lead single, and title, Recovery was to introduce the world to a new Eminem, a man, haunted by death, who was finally ready to lay his personal demons to rest and move on.

When Recovery opens with Em crooning “Some things just don’t change/It’s better when they stay the same”, it’s as honest an assessment of his career thus far as you’re likely to hear committed to tape. “Cold Wind Blows”, the song that follows, adeptly dismantles the promise of a kinder, gentler Eminem amid a flurry of curse words and put downs. By the end of the first line, there’s incest. By the end of the first verse, he’s made three cheap shots at other celebrities. By the end of the song, he’s dropped all of George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” at least once, if not twice, and spewed as much misogyny, homophobia and general hate speech as he ever has in his career. It’s difficult to discern who this kind of thing appeals to at this point anymore or why, as a grown ass man pushing 40 with three kids, he still finds murder, rape, and mayhem to be so damned funny. All those diatribes about media persecution and censorship suddenly ring hollow. His detractors were right. This guy’s mouth is pretty foul.

Things get murkier with the next song, “Talkin’ 2 Myself”. Here Em actually does deliver on Recovery’s supposed concept, spitting confessional bars about his struggles with addiction and self loathing over DJ Khalil’s reggae flavored track. “Talkin’ 2 Myself” along with the emotional 1-2 punch of the Black Sabbath sampling “Going Through Changes” and the triumphant “Not Afraid” are as arresting as they are frustrating. They don’t sit well at all beside the more nonsensical material. They offer a glimpse of what Recovery could have been but isn’t. Em still seems more interested in wordplay this time around than storytelling. Thankfully, Em’s one of the better MCs currently walking the earth, and the druggy headspace that marred his last few records is gone, leaving behind an absolute lyrical beast.

For all Recovery’s conceptual flip-flopping, its one constant is its brilliant wordplay. It transforms the confessional joints to glorious, life affirming anthems, and it even renders the goofier moments obnoxiously listenable. The bratty, smack talking “W.T.P. (White Trash Party)” is easily one of Marshall’s greatest lyrical performances ever. He co-opts the flow and cadence of Southern rap legend Scarface for “On Fire”, wherein he drops some jewels about dead dogs and hogtied hoes. Even when he’s indulging his most impish, childish tendencies, he’s doing it in a way that dazzles the listener. Recovery isn’t all a loss, despite it mostly reprising the same potty-mouthed chicanery of previous work. It’s at least a step in the right direction.

Where Relapse attempted to recapture early career magic through imitation, Recovery is not afraid to shake up the formula. The pesky skits are all gone. Em’s Shady/Aftermath compatriots largely are absent. The only rapper cameo comes courtesy of incarcerated Young Money CEO Lil Wayne, who turns in a spitfire career highlight of a verse for “No Love”. Em’s go-to producers, Dr. Dre and Bass Brothers, are all but an afterthought. The production is largely handled by a who’s who of modern hitmakers. Just Blaze, DJ Khalil, Boi-1da, Jim Jonsin, and more pump fresh musical vigor into Em’s tracks with their cinematic beats. Canadian producer Script Shepherd’s “Cinderella Man”, almost all drums with a spattering of guttural guitar, bangs like Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. Boi-1da’s string-laden track for “Seduction” provides the perfect platform for Em to spin a tale of stealing an inferior rapper’s girlfriend through sheer force of lyrical dexterity. Barring a few awkward clunkers, the production on Recovery is pretty good.

Billing Recovery as an expression of Eminem’s newfound maturity was a mistake. The album’s handful of serious joints may be more mature, but they’re no less vulgar. The album goes for cheap thrills and shock value. Eminem still baits every bit of the controversy he complains about. He’s still trying to balance the court jester act that brought his music to the masses with the sobering realities of his life as a recovering act and family man in the spotlight, but it’s about time to cut the class clown act and be real.

★★★½☆
3.5 out of 5
[audio:http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/05.-W.T.P.-Eminem.mp3|titles=Eminem – W.T.P.]

16 thoughts on “Album Review: Eminem – Recovery

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  1. nice post… ;), Eminem I love you..;)

  2. eminem is actually a definitely amazing rapper, end of!

  3. See the problem is your making me out to be a diddy stan.

    im not.

    im just giving credit to a hip hop icon.

    First of all Diddy is a producer. He is part of one the best production teams in hip hop.

    diddy is more like a Quincy Jones in the fact that he conducts beats. if he has a sound in his head then he tells someone to play it if he has a idea in his head he tells someone to create it.

    you cant fault him for that.

    2nd Mase. Mase in his hey day would run rings around 95 percent of emcees around today.

    everyone from 50 cent to fabolous to kanye west has bitten his style.

    and hes better then all three.

    i still remember he a freestyle with him a b.i.g back in the mid 90s and mase murdered it.

    even biggie said this is one the best rappers he heard.

    3rd.

    as a exec producer there are probably none better.
    the way he puts records together are brilliant.

    and lets not forget from the early 90s to 2002 bad boy were the best record label in the business.

    now puffy might have sold out. and become less relevant over the years and become very frustrating but you deny he has done more for hip hop then most.

  4. real Mc’s:
    P MONCH
    KRS ONE
    TALIB KWELI
    MOS DEF!
    KANYE WEST (HE CHANGE THE GAME!)

    REAL SPLIT WORDS!
    PLUS: THE VERSE IN “NO LOVE” FROM LIL WAYNE IS THE BEST I’VE HEARD FROM WAYNE.

    EMINEM IS GOOD.. HE NED TALKING TO SOMETHING ELSE TOO!

  5. First of all, the last, really the only, worthwhile rap career Diddy fostered was BIG’s. All these Maces and Loons and Shynes are ASS. Ripe, sweaty ass.

    Secondly, you don’t give the guy who runs the label the credit for the quality and success of the music on it. Diddy did not write any of ArchAndroid. He did not touch those 2 8ball & MJG records (it’s worth note that they left Bad Boy for Grand Hustle after 2 albums…). He does not produce without the assistance of Sean C, LV, Mario Winans and D-dot.

    He does not write his own lyrics. This is a well known fact. He barely even performs on his records. His albums are shot full of guest features and posse cuts. His best album, the apex of that trash heap he calls a career, was most notable for OTHER people’s verses. No Way Out was all about Lil Kim, BIG, and whatever little hoodrats he’d wrangled at the time. Not him. Now he’s hiding his tone deaf vocals between poor Dawn Robinson and that fake ass Estelle looking chick in Dirty Money.

    What he is is a glorified talent scout, media mogul, actor, and a reality TV star. That’s all well and good, but he ain’t done shit for hip hop since co-producing parts of What’s the 411 and Ready to Die. And if Jay Elect knows what’s good for him, he’ll keep his distance. Diddy cannibalizes talent.

  6. I would be the first to slam diddy for the last 5 years.

    but 10 years ago he still had one the best group of artists in his label.

    g-dep, black rob, loon, shyne, 112….

    lets not forget 8ball and MJGs album which was sick.
    and lets not forget like someone mentioned above

    ArchAndroid which was one of the best albums released this year.

    PS

    im not the biggest fan of diddy anymore but i do acknowledge and give credit when its due.

    PS

    plus he got jay electronica in his corner…..

  7. Well, he did put out ArchAndroid. Ms. Monae seems to be the captain of her own ship, though. Pretty sure all Corpserider did was slap a sticker on the label and toss some bucks around.

  8. Let me also add that Diddy hasn’t done one noteworthy thing in music in 10 years. So miss me with the history lesson on Bad Boy. He’s only aligning himself Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross or whatever artist is relevant so the spotlight remains on him….AS USUAL.

  9. @afan
    Regarding Em vs. Canibus, both of their styles annoy the shit out of me, for different reasons. Both of their lyrical content is overbearing and hard to listen to. At least Em has the pop smarts to make his worst qualities go down a little smoother.

    Regarding Diddy, you said he’s worked WITH the best. His only skill is figuring out how to make bank off of greatness. And all of his greatest exploits end around 1996. Since then, he’s brought us one hit wonders, court drama, shootings, wrecked careers, sensational TV shows, selfish and self-centered business practices, shitty solo albums… a whole parade of awful. And the only one who benefits from all the hoopla at the end of the day is HIM. He’s not even recording on his own label anymore!

    And now, a list of artists who are worse off now than they were before meeting Diddy:

    The LOX, Total, Foxy Brown, Black Rob, G. Dep, Loon, Day26, Da Band, Danity Kane, Shyne, Cherri Dennis, Dream, New Edition…

  10. @craig Jenkins

    funny, i wrote this whole long thing about nothing and ended up deleting it. anyway.

    Canibus is a better lyricist then Eminem period.

    you would rather listen to eminem talking about killing his moms and raping his girlfriend and dissing britney spears
    then
    listening to canibus giving you a history lesson?

    and PS. Sean ‘puffy’ combs is responsible for some of the greatest hip hop and soul music in history.

    this is a guy who has created, produced and work with with some of the best.

    he gave us biggie, mary j blige, craig mack, jodeci, mase, usher (dont worry about usher)

    was instrumental in the careers of heavy d and even jay-z.

    gave mariah carey her career back.

    and created one of the greatest production teams in history.

    the hitmen.

    peace

    afan.

  11. @afan
    I think it’s pretty self serving of hip hop heads to shit on this “commercial elite.” Quite frankly if your favorite rapper was able to write hits, he/she’d be doing it. The state of modern hip hop has as much to do with people’s lowered expectations as it does with the inability of cats to relate to the masses. If your style is willfully obscure and off beat, you’re going to sell less records. What’s the sense in throwing shade at more famous rappers?

    PS Em freaking Hiroshima’d Benzino. Be honest

    PSS Jay Elect is out cavorting with none other than Sean “Corpserider” Combs. His integrity is suspect.

    PSSS Canibus? Yuck. If I wanted to get in some astrophysics and history, I’d read a book. Listening to Canibus is like studying for a science final on Halloween night – creepy and overwhelming.

  12. The album is poor in my opinion.

    Slim Shady LP is a classic, his second album was good too but ever since then he has failed at every attempt.

    The problem with Eminem is his fans and i think that ways heavily on him. By the end of the day his legacy might be hurt by the ones he calls Stans.

    Everytime his album comes out he is considered the greatest his easy topics to rap about are considered unbelievable, he’s clever word play sometime covers up the fact that he isnt rapping about anything.

    He will always be respected as one of the greats. I put him in the top 30 rappers to ever do it.
    but there are so many emcees that dont get the respect they deserve.
    and i think that only hurts eminem.

    He himself has said his whiteness and the fact that he is easier to understand then most rappers is both a gift and a curse.

    but its deeper then that.

    Rappers like the GZA, AZ etc who i think a way more lyrically solid then eminem fail to get a mention when people give there all time great emcee list.

    You see Eminem is a different rapper then the other greats like big, LL, rakim,Nas, or a Scarface etc but lyrically there is no question who is better.

    i like to put Eminem in the category with Pharoah Monch, Big Punisher, Canibus and maybe a Ludacris.

    All these emcees are clever with there wordplay and in my opinion all but ludacris are miles ahead of Eminem.

    This album is nothing more then fluff. His constant singing and really scary singing voice are distractions. The beats on this album are terrible.

    The overall production is not as clean as Relapse.

    And it seems rushed. Dr Dre has fallen off with his simple and uninspired production so theres no surprise he went the other route.

    This album is good in some parts and really poor in others.
    A year when Nas and Damian Marley made a classic and The Roots are doing something special you have Eminem releasing this.

    i give the album a 5 out of 10 but only because lyrically Eminem seems as hungry as ever.

    I wouldn’t put him the Top 20 rappers of all time because there are too many great emcees better but there is know doubt that he is great and maybe what he needs is abit of competition because at the moment the competitors aren’t there.

    and when he said he was going to diss Lil Wayne and didn’t he lost alot of respect in my opinion.

    lil wayne has purposely went out of his way to make tracks with jay-z and eminem.

    because he knew that your not going to be dissed by your friends but Eminem has never challenged himself when it comes to comparing Rappers.

    He dissed Benzino. and Benzino held his own. (2 very different emcees by the way)

    He dissed Canibus. True. but only when Canibus was already down and out.

    hopefully what my step brother who is friends with people in certain circles said is true in that artists like Pharoah Monch, Jay Electronica, Mos Def are fed up with the commercial elite like 50 cent and eminem and jay-z and might throw some jabs there way.

    like Jay Elect said. Pharoah Monch would murk Eminem lyrically.

    afan

    peace

  13. BC, I never mentioned anything Em said about the album. Musicians are often laughably bad at describing what they’re working on. This review is about Recovery’s serious case of identity crisis. It’s about how even at his most deadly serious, Em still relies on crutches (profanity, misogyny, homophobia, debauchery, gallows humor, need I continue?) to get by. It’s about how eleven years and six albums worth of this shit is enough. It’s about how even HE must realize it’s time to change cause he’s fooling with the formula.

    PS. “Drop the “World” sucks. “No Love” 4 eva.

  14. While I agree with this review for the most part and certainly with the score, I don’t think the basis of the review should rely so heavily upon what Eminem “said” he was going to do or act like. I feel like the music should be analyzed independently, rather than about what the artist says the music should be like.

    Music, and especially popular music (and especially in today’s times) is pretty much the only art form in which people even go to the artists for insights into their work. Even when you see people going to painters and sculptors asking for what they think of their own work, they are hesitant to give a truthful answer.

    I didn’t walk into this album expecting much change in terms of content anyway. Judging off interviews, I expected him to be more focused and for the album to be well crafted. And he delivered for the most part on those accounts. Oh, and no way is Wayne’s verse on “No Love” a career highlight in anyway. It’s a failed rehashing of “Drop the World” and it is not nearly as good. Wayne had better verses on his last mixtape than he did on that song.

  15. Paul, that is a devastatingly concise assessment Em’s Achilles heel. But the problem with being the kind of artist who can move 740,000 records in a week amid a complete industry talespin is that there’s no checks and balances. Em’s worst record (can we agree it’s Encore?) has sold 11 million copies worldwide. It doesn’t actually matter what he says or does on these records anymore. If he so much as shows up, he sells a guaranteed 5 mil.

  16. Paul Christiansen|

    I agree with the score and a lot of what you wrote on about this album.

    Throughout my first listen and the few that followed (must admit, with Big Boi, Scarface, Big K.R.I.T and even Vinnie Paz having new release out, Relapse hasn’t gotten too many rotations … ) I couldn’t help but be amazed by how someone so talented could have such an inability to understand what makes him one of the greatest emcees. From his sugared first singles to accents, skits and cringe-worthy singing on hooks, Em’s career has always been marred by a lack of quality control … as if he can’t tell the genius from the rubbish. Its too bad he doesn’t have any handlers able to reign in his tendencies to the lame and emphasize his gifts. As enjoyable as a few of the moments may have been on Relapse, nothing he can put out will live up to Slim Shady. This is the (deserved) curse of a classic.

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