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Revival: A Bad Album in Good Packaging

Revival marks Eminem's ninth studio album. It was released on Dec 15 2017.

Revival marks Eminem's ninth studio album. It was released on Dec 15 2017.

By Matthew Sevilla, Staff Writer

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2017 was a big year for the rap genre. The genre—as with all genres—is experiencing a divide within its’ artists. The old school rappers of the ’90s have been, one-by-one, falling out of the public eye to make way for new branches of rap: “politically-conscious rap” and “pop-rap.” For politically-conscious rap especially, 2017 has delivered some classics.

Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. led in the year by achieving immediate critical and commercial success, Jay-Z’s album 4:44 recharged his career and reaffirmed his influence and clout in the rap game, Tyler, the Creator’s best album to date: Flower Boy —and finally—Revival by the rap legend Eminem which dropped on the dying days of 2017.

Revival has been met with mixed reviews, garnering a 52 on Metacritic and a 5.7 for the user score. Commercially, Revival did well, topping many charts for a week as the biggest album of the year behind Ed Sheeran’s and notably making Eminem the only musical artist to release eight back-to-back chart-topping albums.

Despite the commercial success, all the criticism is completely justified. The issue doesn’t lie with the fact that Eminem is now “politically conscious,” or that he now includes insults against politicians and social practices in his rhymes, but in the way he did it.

Eminem can’t decide if he wants to be the politically-conscious old-school giant or the same impulsive controversy-attracting Slim Shady character, and it shows.

In one song, he’s commenting on white privilege and his gripes with the Trump administration, and in another he’s singing about his love for sex and his lack for empathy for those he’s offended.

Technically though, Eminem’s lyrics and wordplay are as strong as ever—further confirming his place amongst the best poets and wordsmiths of the 21st century. The beats serve their purpose as a blank canvas for Eminem’s writing, but lack a clear overarching theme or mood that ties the songs together into a cohesive album. Feature-wise, most of the guests are pop stars passed the role of chorus as melody-setters and contrasts against the sharp quick verses spat by Eminem.

This system of pop star chorus + Eminem verses dominates half the album, which may be the cause of all the hate from rap critics.

Repetition and choruses in rap are used mainly to provide a break in between the main focus of the song: the verses. This allows the rapper to weave elaborate and detailed stories since they no longer have to worry about overwhelming the listener with lyrics.

Unfortunately, when your choruses are established by huge popstar names like Beyonce and Ed Sheeran, the focus of the song shifts off Eminem and towards the guest. The verses take a backseat to the chorus, and the song feels less like a rap and more like a pop song.

Instead of an Eminem album, Revival feels more like a series of pop songs featuring Eminem, with a noticeable lack of the storytelling that boosted Eminem’s career in the first place (Ignoring the last couple of tracks, “Castle” and “Arose,” which remind me more of the same Eminem that wrote “Stan”). His lyrics and flow are as good as ever, but Eminem’s status has never relied solely on his technical skill.

 

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Revival: A Bad Album in Good Packaging