I didn’t have very high hopes for Eminem’s new record Recovery when I heard about it. 2004’s Encore was pretty damn bad and a far cry from his heyday. 2008’s Relapse was alright, but a lot of the songs were uninspired and seemed like Em was trying much too hard. When I heard about Recovery, I shrugged with disinterest. Not Afraid gave me a little bit of hope, but wasn’t terribly impressed with the song. Despite all my reservations, I checked out the record, because, well, it’s Eminem, and he has definitely put out some badass albums in his day.
I can honestly say that Recovery completely threw me for a loop. It’s pretty much the absolute best record I think Em could release at this point in his career. This is Em’s ninth studio album, and its depth is incredible.
One of the best aspects of Recovery is how critical Em is of himself, and especially the last two mediocre albums he released. He prefaces Talkin 2 Myself by thanking everyone for being patient “while I figure this shit out” over the past few years. In the song itself, he states that he’s come to make it up to us, as Them last two albums didn’t count. Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushin’ em out. The song is one of the album’s strongest cuts, with a memorable hook delivered by Kobe (no, not Bryant).
Em addresses critics with On Fire, the next track, which has a juicy beat and some vitriolic lyrics delivered by Em. The entire first verse is a perfect example of Eminem’s fierce wordplay skills, the kind of vocal delivery that in my mind is one of his greatest talents. The first time I heard this song, the chorus didn’t really grab me, and I thought it was pretty lame. Well, Em follows up that chorus with the line I just wrote a bullshit hook in between two long ass verses - if you mistook the for a song, look/This ain’t a song its a warnin to Brooke Hogan and David Cook/That the crook just took over so book/Run as fast as you can, stop writin and kill it/ I’m lightning in a skillet you’re a fuckin flash in a pan. It’s this kind of self-deprecating honesty and creativity within the song that Em uses on Recovery so well.
Won’t Back Down, featuring Pink on chorus duties, is set to a pretty repetitive beat, but it allows Em to deliver some of his most aggressive vocals on the album. It basically sounds like he’s yelling for the entire song…and by the time his final verse comes around and the volume drops on the track while he yells Bitch you listening tryna turn me down??/ Slut I’m talking to you, turn me back up/Are you insane?? Tryna talk over me in the car/ Shut the fuck up while my shits playin I was already sold on this track, too. That’s an inventive trick to throw into a song, and it really caught me off guard.
The majority of Recovery can be called ‘highlights’, really. It’s that good. Going Through Changes is a bit of a slower tune, set to a sampled chorus of Black Sabbath’s Changes. I initially thought that was an odd choice for a sample, but it works for the song, an introspective cut with Em questioning things and wrestling with his demons about things such as balancing his career and Hayley’s upbringing.
I have to mention that I was pretty surprised at the lack of Hayley and/or Kim references on Recovery…in the past, these two topics would take up a good chunk of Eminem’s songs, but he seems to have shed all the pretenses and fake accents and typical lyrical boundaries this time around. Because of that, he really shines on Recovery.
No Love, featuring an unexpected sample of Haddaway’s club jam What is Love?, is blazing, even though Lil’ Wayne takes up the first two minutes of the song. I don’t like Weezy or his lazy annoying delivery, but the fact that he doesn’t ruin the song with his extremely long guest verse is a good thing. Em & his producers picked a random song to use as a sample, but it works well.
Space Bound almost sounds like an Everlast song, with the acoustic guitar strumming in the background and the easy beat, but it takes off during the chorus, with what sounds like a female voice singing I'm a space-bound rocket ship and your heart's the moon/And I'm aimin' right at you/Right at you/250, 000 miles on a clear night in June/And I'm aimin' right at you/Right at you/Right at you. If you thought Beautiful (From Relapse) was a change in direction for Em, check out Space Bound and see what you think.
25 to Life is another female-chorus-driven song with a tender beat, with Em lamenting a tumultuous relationship. The song works like an M. Night Shyamalan movie, taking a drastic change of direction toward the end, as Em reveals that he has NOT been speaking to who you thought he was for the entirety of the song. Just listen to it, you’ll get what I’m hinting at.
Love the Way You Lie, featuring Rihanna, was already #1 on iTunes the day Recovery dropped last week, so it’ll undoubtedly be a smash hit. That’s understandable, as her vocal hook is ripe for radio play. The song as a whole is another gem on the record, demonstrating Em’s ability to balance aggressive lyrics with a poppy chorus.
Don’t think that the songs I’ve mentioned in this review are the only highlights of Recovery – in fact, they’re just the ones that came to mind as I wrote all this down. The album is arguably Em’s most solid collection of songs since the Marshall Mathers LP. The songs work well together, creating a fluidity and cohesion that you don’t really see anymore with his albums.
Eminem really raised the bar for himself with Recovery – I didn’t think this was possible, but the album is easily one of his strongest outings, and restored my faith in him, honestly.
Check this out if you like Eminem, and especially if you were as bored with Encore and Relapse as I was. This is a complete 180 and a return to form for Marshall Mathers.
Guess who’s back?