Recovery, by Eminem
Suggested by Mike Major
Third time’s a charm…
Recovery is my third Eminem review, after Album 249’s The Marshall Mathers LP and Album 267’s The Slim Shady LP. There, I praised the rapper’s mastery of form and lambasted at the rapper’s trope-laden doubling down. They scored five and six respectively, middling scores for polarising words allowing me to dodge the issues and mount the fence.
Recovery is Eminem’s seventh album, and while I know a song or two, this is the first Randomised album of his that I’ve not previously heard. I know, and like, Love The Way You Lie, despite having no real affinity for Rhianna. As for his other collaborators? I like Pink, I know of Lil Wayne, but Kobe Honeycutt? Okay then.
Going in, I feel I’ve said all I need to say about Eminem. Coming out, that statement is largely intact, although it’d be unfair of me to be wholly dismissive of his attempt at New Ideas and New Flows. There are depressingly familiar themes throughout, misogyny and homophobia cat-called with a straight back and fiery eyes, and while it’s not quite as bludgeoning as earlier releases, it’s still a clubbing left hook to the temple.
The album opens with Cold Wind Blows, the opening refrain of which is a clear call that no, things are unlikely to be much different from the rapper’s usual schtick. Once we’re past this “if they don’t like it, f**k ‘em” call to arms, we’re straight into proclamations that the artist is a pervert that needs his penis sucked, and screw all those people who either won’t suck his penis or don’t want to hear about his desire to have it sucked.
I mean, it’s all so predictable, right? It’s juvenile, and tawdry, and absolutely boring. And it’s laced with tired pop-culture references, some used for colour (like the Hulk to reference Eminem’s rage) and some for cheap laughs (referencing Michael J Fox’s Parkinsons diagnosis). One line in particular – “I’ll kick a bitch in the c**t until it makes a queef” – might have raised a smile when I was fourteen but now just makes me roll my eyes. And this is just the first song.
Instead of concentrating on the negative, I’d accentuate the positive. On Recovery, Eminem has focussed on two distinct things. The first is delivery, as he modulates his flows and updates his lines to capture freshness and innovation. The second is songcraft, as there’s more singing, comparatively, than other releases. Most of the songs tap the Stan mould, with a sung chorus amid rapped verses, be the chorus sung by guest (Rhianna, Pink) or by sample (Ozzy on my standout Going Through Changes) or by Eminem himself.
It’s also fair to say that, amongst the discarded tissues and compromised socks of teen abandon, Eminem does bring some genuine reflection at times. The aforementioned Going Through Changes is perhaps the strongest example, but I’ve a lot of time for You’re Never Over, which comes across as exultant, emotional, and surprisingly sincere.
As for score, this album gets another middling 5/10, but this time I’m not hedging. I’m scoring it low for content, but higher for intent. If I’m honest, I’m sure that’s the best Eminem can hope for from these jaded and closeted ears.