But legendary executive producers Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin managed to stuff a bloated tracklist with uninspired production and instantly forgettable pop hooks. Even Beyoncé couldn’t save “Walk on Water,” a stale piano ballad that undercuts Eminem’s attempt to explore the weight of his self-doubt. This time he’s competing with a version of himself that no longer exists. Lyrically, Eminem mainly falls back on old tricks. One dismayed fan tweeted: “Hurts my soul to say this, but this is a terrible listen.” Well… It’s not his fault that all Trump has to do to beat him is ignore him, but it is his fault that the beat makes it so easy to do so. © Copyright 2020 Rolling Stone, LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Business Media, LLC. One dismayed fan tweeted: “Hurts my soul to say this, but this is a terrible listen.” Well, that’s perhaps a little harsh. The Alicia-Keys-featuring “Like Home” is equally limp and toothless, defanging Eminem’s attempt to battle Donald Trump. Want more Rolling Stone? The only thing the battle-tested, Oscar-winning, best-selling hip-hop artist of all time has to prove is that he’s got another classic in him, the one thing that he hasn’t proven since the curtains closed on 2002’s The Eminem Show. When Revival‘s confessionals work, it’s proof that, when the real Marshal Mathers stands up, he can still pull us into his evocative dramas. “I only go to meetings court-ordered from a shrink,” he jokes on a Revival pick-up line. With features from Ed Sheeran, Beyoncé and Pink, here was an opportunity to make a sustained – and more focused – statement. And though it’s easy to empathize with his creeping self-doubt, it’s tougher to swallow in the context of an album that ultimately proves that those doubts are correct. That being said, Eminem is due no accolades for having thumbed through a copy of Between the World and Me or for finally acknowledging the humanity of non-binary people. On Revival, his ninth studio LP, Eminem is largely fueled by his own self-doubt, a creeping fear that we might forget he was once one of the best to ever hold a mic. He’s still firing off juvenile sex jokes (“Your booty is heavy duty like diarrhea”), but he’s clearly still tortured by his love for his child’s mother. This is the contradiction of Eminem in 2017. These fears are relatable—what artist hasn’t struggled to find motivation?—if not necessarily interesting. Eminem details his own missteps and self-doubt over a mostly beatless track as the sounds of crumbling paper and errant swears underscore his lack of confidence. “River” (with Sheeran), “Tragic Endings” (with Skylar Grey) and “Need Me” (with Pink) are self-lacerating narratives about powder-keg relationships, each seeming like an attempt to recreate the lighters-up majesty of Number One hits like 2010’s “Love the Way You Lie” and 2013’s “The Monster.” On the Cranberries-sampling “In Your Head,” he says sorry to his daughter for forcing her grow on record with the fucked-up character of Slim Shady. The rapper’s antipathy – to put it lightly – towards the 45th President of the United States was widely noted at the BET Awards back in October. has already received an extremely mixed response online. Here he goes further still, using ‘Like Home’ to call Trump “a Nazi” and “basically… Adolf Hitler” before defiantly concluding that “you ain’t ruining our country, punk”. … ’Cause you don't got nothin’ left to prove at all Another politically motivated Rust Belt blond, Paul Newman, once said “a man with no enemies is a man with no character.” And few musicians could boast more of either than Eminem, the poison-tongued, potty-mouthed scourge of Lynn Cheney, boy bands, clown posses and eventually – on a string of self-auditing post-rehab albums – himself. It will ultimately be for the listener to decide whether these songs land as an exploitation flick made of intricately stacked syllables (“In Hamtramck, got the panoramic camera, Xanax, a banana hammock and a Santa hat”) or a disgusting, unnecessary display of misogyny (“Gotta stab a bitch at least eight times/To make it on Dateline“) that’s more distracting than transgressive in the #MeToo era. The shock value comes not from the album’s overwhelmingly bland hooks or cringe-worthy humor (of which there is plenty), but from the moments where his growth as a human is most apparent. Eminem’s long-anticipated ninth album, Revival, has already received an extremely mixed response online. But sales and fame have never been his primary motivation. He’s always wanted to be the best, and ever since he conquered the music world in the early aughts, it’s as if he has no idea where to go. These multitudes might be reconcilable were his considerable technical gifts not consistently wasted on tired themes and lame attempts to revive an irrelevant persona he outgrew years ago. However, at 77 minutes, Revival is a heavy listen, going deep on ballads with guests like Ed Sheeran and X Ambassadors. “Believe” and “Chloraseptic” are the type of boast-heavy rap-a-thons that no fan of Run the Jewels would shrug at; Em even has a go at a Migos flow. When it ends with his very real 2007 methadone overdose, he imagines the effect of his death on his family on the album closer, “Arose,” with a funereal beat that interpolates an elegiac backing vocal with the beeps and gusts of air from life support machines. Elsewhere, he’s clumsier and less effective, if equally well-intentioned: ‘Untouchable’ alternates between the personas of a white supremacist and the black character he denigrates. Rubin’s contributions are particularly embarrassing; his re-hash of hits from the Rush/Def Jam days (“Heat,” “Remind Me”) suggest he’s completely out of ideas. Venues for Save Our Stages Fest, Stevie Wonder Releases First New Music in 15 Years, Ice Cube Tries to Explain What in the Hell He Was Thinking, Watch the Osbournes Go Ghost Hunting in ‘Night of Terror’ Trailer, Trump Talks of ‘Leaving the Country’ if He Loses, These 3 Pieces of High-End Fitness Equipment Are Better Than Anything at the Gym, Springfield of Dreams: 150 Best ‘Simpsons’ Episodes, Mötley Crüe on Summer Tour With Def Leppard, Poison: ‘We Missed Being in a Band Together’, Gang Starr’s First Album in 16 Years is a Gift to Old-School Rap Fans. Eminem’s consistent run of mediocrity over the last 15 years has not tempered his album sales, and it’s unlikely to start now—he remains one of the most bankable acts in pop. But with many bland hooks and cringe-worthy punchlines, Revival is another late-career album that does little for his legacy. For the past 15 years, Eminem has been stuck in a feedback loop, revisiting different versions of his former self. admits he agrees with his stance on pussy grabbing (“Why do you think they call it a snatch?”). The brat who once boasted how he “Just Don’t Give a Fuck” now has an abundance of fucks to give. The title of his ninth LP implies a nostalgic return, and its most electric moments do look back, suggesting a confused and conciliatory man taking stock of his own legacy – the kind of honesty that’s always made him one of hip-hop’s most compelling memoirists. However, at 77 minutes, Revival is a heavy listen, going deep on ballads with guests like Ed Sheeran and X Ambassadors. “Framed” and “Offended” return to 2009’s Relapse: self-consciously ultraviolent splatstick with sexual assault jokes on parade and pop culture punchlines updated with Bill Cosby, Ray Rice and Steven Avery. Much of early single “Untouchable” is indeed unlistenable, but how many other rappers are reminding us of KRS-One’s teachings that “there can never be justice on stolen land?” And did the man who once mocked Lady Gaga with the lyric, “She can quit her job at the post office, she’s still a male lady,” really just diss the 45th president’s ban on transgender service members? When that fuel exhaust is coolin’ off It’s not until the album’s final tracks that we see a glimpse of the masterful storytelling he exhibited on early hits like “Guilty Conscience” and “Stan.” “Castle” is structured as three letters to his daughter, who, for better or worse, tends to inspire some of his strongest work. Overall, though, the tellingly titled ‘Revival’ is the most vital record Em has put out since 2004’s ‘The Eminem Show’. A manifestation of Marshall Mathers’ inner turmoil, the persona served as a vehicle for his darkest, most violent thoughts and helped him step out from the shadow of his forebears to channel the darkest parts of himself. But by then, it was already apparent that he’d run out of stories to tell. The majority of Revival is, well, a revival: a collection of labyrinthine raps without much of a narrative arc. It’s goofy, unsophisticated stuff, but it’s better than ‘Framed’, on which he elongates the last word of each line to bizarre effect: “I didn’t murder nobody / I know these words are so naughty / But I’m just here to entertaaaaain.” He’s done that kind of material much better in the past (see 2000’s ‘Who Knew’) and it’s shame to see him retread old ground. Eminem has long been pushed to the edge and all his foes are dead. Nor should he be deified for mackling about the privileges of whiteness and how hard it is to be black in America. Eminem’s mastery of internal rhyme is so tight it suffocates. These are not new topics in hip-hop lyrics, they’re just new for Eminem. On the records that followed—his 2004 Encore, the inevitable Relapse in 2009 into Slim Shady, and his eventual Recovery—Eminem struggled to reconcile with the aftermath of his rapid ascent to stardom. Not all of it works, but his renewed creative vigour is obvious and his sense of duty commendable. Eminem spent the early noughties representing the same white, disenfranchised American working class that voted for Trump in droves, and it’s powerful to see him use his voice to disown the country’s drift towards hate and division. That confessional power also comes out as he revisits another favorite theme: his failings as a dad. And the hunger pangs once you’ve won the race? He can still be the same booger-flicking shock-rocker, just in a dirty old man’s body. Send us a tip using our anonymous form. On his overtly political ninth studio LP, Eminem is fueled by self-doubt. But Revival is ultimately plagued by the same pitfalls as Infinite, which found him shadowboxing against ghosts, unable to land any punches. ’Cause you done already hit ’em with the coup de grâce.