Eminem’s ninth studio album Revival has become his eighth studio record to top the charts. Released on Dec. 14, the rap-rock and rap-pop album features artists like Beyonce and Kehlani.
Unlike the aggressive, offensive persona in his early albums, this new release exposes the rapper’s softer side, seen in albums like 2010’s Recovery.
On Revival, the ever popular, drug-addicted and violent persona Slim Shady is nowhere to be heard.
Having abandoned the shock value and rough, raw vocal style, the new smooth-voiced Marshall Mathers is almost unidentifiable. The lead single and first track on the album, Walk On Water, is a soft, reflective piano ballad featuring Beyonce. On Believe Eminem adopts current hip hop trends, rapping in a syncopated style over a trap beat.
Similarly, he adopts 2017’s social justice craze throughout the album.
On Untouchable he discusses racial inequality, and calls out band Die Antwoord for their use of racial slurs. Like Home, a radio-ready hit with packaged synths featuring Alicia Keys, is an anti-Trump anthem based on a freestyle performed at the BET Hip Hop Awards.
On the track, he speaks out against Trump’s transgender ban in the military, a far cry from the homophobia and anti-gay slurs rampant in his early lyrics. Likewise, it’s hard to picture the controversial figure behind controversial songs like Bonnie and Clyde ‘97 or Just Lose It rapping alongside the gentler and more thoughtful Ed Sheeran on River.
The album, like most of Mathers releases, also takes influence from classic rock with samples of Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll and The Cranberries’ 90s hit Zombie. In In Your Head, the latter track, Eminem showcases some insecurity when he laments the lack of success of his 2009 album Relapse, threatening to abandon his rap career.
Nowhere Fast, which features Kehlani, is 2017’s answer to Love The Way You Lie.
Castle is an apology to his daughter, Hailie, for addiction and overdoses. The song reflects on Eminem’s life before she was born as he struggled to make it in the music industry. The remorse shown in the song is an emotion not typically heard in Eminem’s music.
The Eminem of Revival has lost the hard edge that made him hated by mothers all over America at the height of his career.
Once an innovative, controversial outsider to the rap game, he now represents the commercialization of hip-hop, one he criticized in his landmark song, The Way I Am.
While containing some strong tracks, Revival ultimately falls flat. If he does indeed want to end his rap career, he left on a low note.