By JUN YUN
Revival, Eminem’s ninth full-length studio album is a representation of his late-career political consciousness. After Eminem’s appearance at October’s BET Hip-Hop Awards, in which he freestyled a comprehensive anti-Donald Trump rant, such an overtly political album is of no surprise. In this album, Eminem not only tackles political issues, but also involves his own personal narrative – critical stories of his troubled relationships with family and familiar themes of personal redemption – in an album that deviates from his typical musical style.
The most notable song on the album, “Walk on Water,” is Eminem’s self-critical evaluation of his musical career. He asks himself, “Why are expectations so high?” in a beautifully written ballad featuring vocals from Beyonce. This work can be seen as a piece of reflection, a self-consideration of Eminem’s own fame and standing in the hip-hop industry. The opening song certainly introduces a more contemplative tone to the album.
Despite Eminem’s praiseworthy efforts in tackling political issues throughout the album, the album itself is simply too lengthy and monotonous. With a tracklist of 19 songs, Revival makes for a tedious listen, which tends to detract from the originality and emphasis of the themes. This is not always the case, however. “Untouchable” still manages to be one of the most impactful and intense songs of the album, explicitly addressing issues of police brutality and white privilege. This song even goes as far as to not only critique police brutality, but also offer a possible solution. “Hire more black cops, the crap stops.”
Another consequence of the album’s length is the blurring together of multiple songs. Aside from different guest artists, several songs such as “Nowhere Fast,” “Tragic Endings” and “Need Me” are difficult to distinguish. There is a lack of distinctive beats that characterize each song; this was a pillar of Eminem’s previous albums that contributed to their success. An exception may be “River,” which is highlighted by its upbeat tempo and Ed Sheeran’s distinctive voice.
It is unfortunate that the features on this album are unable to memorably contribute to the album. Most of the features are simply present to sing the hook. There seems to be a lack of cohesion between Eminem’s verse and the feature’s verse. Another important difference in Revival is Eminem’s loss of playfulness and liveliness, present in his prior albums of Recovery and Encore. Eminem has a distinct anger and aggression in his musical tone, which is present in Revival, however, he also possesses a certain youth and vigor in his other albums. Possibly due to the political gravity of this album, Revival no longer features this unique passion and playfulness in Eminem’s voice, which began back in the Slim Shady EP.
Many viewers will contemplate the political voice present in many of the songs. The reminiscent, throwback attitude of the songs will appeal to many. It can also be seen, however, that rhetoric Eminem employs fails to support the intensity of the lyricism. Additionally, Eminem’s usual lyricism, stark and concrete, is less impactful and more drawn-out. This is an album that neither boosts nor harms Eminem’s legacy in the musical and political realm.