‘Revival’ is a Confused, Disappointing 6/10 Mess
Sorry to start with such a title, but that’s the truth. For me.
Before I get started, be warned, this is a not a structured review and will take form of a rant…
Four years since MMLP2 and with the level of skill he showed on MMLP2 – expectations were very high for this project, though hype was oddly low… we all felt it; could be partly due to the marketing but I also just didn’t feel that excited about hearing new Em – for the first time ever.
I always am. Ultimately. As I think he is a genius; I’m always going to consider him that and check out what he does, but this time out was a real letdown.
The album can be summed up with the motto Em himself expressed during the album rollout, where he said they had tried to make a bit of ‘something for everybody’.
As a sentiment about an album’s purpose, or any art’s purpose… ‘something for everybody’ is just… putrid. It’s usually the opposite of great art or an accomplished piece of work.
Almost all of the best works I can think of in any genre, any category, any medium… (including Em’s own discography) are a result of the artist having a vision; a concept, a sound, an idea and following that through with full conviction. Creating something they personally think is amazing and then people who are likeminded tend to think the same as them.
Since the mixed reaction and backlash of Relapse – Em seems to be stuck in a maddening loop of trying to second-guess his audience(s), second-guess his fans and deliver his music more-so like a service or a product, rather than just organically creating what he thinks is amazing, first.
Revival begins and ends very well. It’s everything in-between which is an issue…
“Believe” is a compelling opener, even though “Walk on Water” is the actual opener, the songs feel like companion piece – the way that ‘stan transition’ at the end of “Walk on Water” perfectly leads into the more aggressive, typical opener we’d expect from Em. These two songs were beautifully made and placed, they work wonders together. Em’s production is top-notch, minimal, perfect; Em’s lyrics and flow are interesting and a new vibe… his hook is dope.
Next we get into “Chloraseptic” – another fairly compelling track. It’s interesting to listen to, it’s fresh, it’s almost Em doing his take on Trap or ‘mumble rapper flows’, which some have had an issue with… I don’t personally, because his lyrics and his flow are dope as fuck. It’s not like he’s got bad rhymes, he’s doing HIS take on it, he’s sharp and it’s exciting listening. Phreser’s hook is also dope to me, reminds me of some late 90s kind of hook, in terms of its content.
“Untouchable”, a personal favourite of mine follows next. I see a lot of people don’t like the first half of this song, which I can understand – personally – I love it. I’ve never had a problem with Em’s kind of… intentionally… annoying sounds though, like, his whining delivery… I just find it interesting; the transition is brilliant and his rapping – delivery, lyricism… everything in the second half is some of his best work in a while. He’s smart, he covers a lot of ground and he’s compelling.
For me, this is where the album begins to fall apart.
“River” is a fairly good song in itself. But its sound is so generic. It sounds similar to every ‘pop Em track’ we’ve heard in the past 7 years. That similar ‘light, airy hook’ vs. ‘aggressive, gruff Em delivery + emotional content’ and because of this… regardless of how good the rhymes or concept is, the whole thing feels familiar, unauthentic, predictable and annoying.
Not only that, but its placement is truly abysmal, like many of the songs after this point. In what world does Ed Sheeran’s hook on “River” sound remotely sane after “Untouchable”? It’s bizarre.
I’m not going to do a track-by-track review, but my issue with when we get to “River” pretty much sums-up everything until we get to “In Your Head”, with some gems in between.
I love “Offended” – truly brilliant rapping and sarcasm from Em, the production is also straight hip-hop, and an actually interesting beat. The whole song sounds like a mad carnival rap.
Then we have “Framed”, which, again, is a great song in itself but doesn’t belong here. This is clearly a song Em made for fans of Relapse, but the very fact he went out of his way to appropriate one of his older styles to try and appeaze people… and it’s ONE track, one random murder fantasy, Relapse-style, out of the whole album? Truly odd. Does not work and ruins the flow of the album.
All of the songs in-between range from OK to just bland or forgettable. Em’s raps on most of the songs are often great, but the production and the hooks are exactly what many of us feared and eye-roll worthy. Alex Da Kid… Can you do us all a favour and FUCK OFF out of Em’s presence forever? And Em… Can you delete Alex Da Kid’s contact details… FOREVER? Jesus. Every one of his annoying productions sounds like a 10 year old made it on FL Studio for a school project.
Most of the features – sound like each other – as in… they’re pointless. I like the Alicia Keys hook on “Like Home” more than I expected to, but it being Alicia Keys is meaningless. It’s purely for her name. Same with the Pink song which is one of the most pointless features on an Em album I have ever seen. A FOURTH Pink song, but not only that… ANOTHER ‘relationship turmoil’ track about a non-existent, vague, tumultuous situation??… Really Em?? What a waste of a track slot.
Revival ends on a strong note: “Castle” and “Arose” play off each other perfectly, like companion tracks, as well as the album opened (if only Em could have this mindset for the whole album); the content is poignant and whilst I am usually tired of Em’s introspective tracks (even though they’re most fans’ favourites) – these two tracks are gold. There’s a certain vitality and emotion in Em’s tone and lyrics which makes the songs feel alive, a new presence to the content.
“Arose” ends particularly powerfully with Em replaying a segment from “Castle” by ‘rewinding the tape’ and extending the writing of it… It’s a beautiful way to end a song and the album. It’s powerful. And, I am extremely glad Em had the gall to end the album on THAT note, as opposed to feeling the need to ‘wink to the camera’, add a skit or a ‘shit talking track’ at the end just to take a little bit of heat off the level of vulnerability he left as the final note.
Unfortunately though, the strong points of this album are few and far between. Even Em’s rapping takes a step back from MMLP2 era, with bizarrely lazy puns throughout this thing and less enticing flows. The biggest issue with Revival, though, is the fact that just like MMLP2 (but, worse) – the album has no identity, no sound, no vibe… no cohesiveness. It’s just a collection of random tracks, all could be for entirely different Eminem albums and it makes for a jarring listen.
Not only is the album not cohesive, but most of these shitty pop features clog up the arteries of this album’s bloodflow. The middle section of this album begins to sound like one giant Skylar Grey chorus, which already all sound the same. It’s a truly depressing run of songs and that shit quality of pop-rack production and hooks truly stain Eminem’s otherwise unique presence.
Revival is a 6/10 album for me and one of Em’s worse, without a doubt.
The album has been out just about 10 days and I don’t even feel like listening to it. Even MMLP2, which I consider a mess as well; I replayed that album with joy for years on end.
Here’s to hoping Eminem finally stops listening to fans or thinking about what he thinks people want, or expect and just puts together an album of cohesive material. Picks a sound; loves it HIMSELF (not thinks “this should chart well” or “they want this”) and just fucking nails it back to front, like he used to do, and like he even did on Relapse. He’s become a customer service rep, trying to please people with solutions for each of their demands… it’s truly sad to see.
PS. Can someone tell Rick Rubin, or Dre, or whoever the FUCK did the placement on this album that in no universe known to man does it make any kind of knowable sense to put fucking “Framed”… a thumping horrorcore track in between “Tragic Endings”, an emo-pop-rap cut and “Nowhere Fast” – a stadium pop-rap song with a flower power hook… Like, seriously… how the fuck could they possibly hear that run of tracks and go ‘Yep. That works’.