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Reviewed by Jamey Codding
Aside from a couple duds, this disc is simply remarkable from "Curtains Up" to "Curtains Close," the opening and closing skits for The Eminem Show. The album's tone is set early with track two, "White America," a gloomy, bitter look at the music industry and the racism that's ironically helped propel Em to heights of sustained fame that no white rapper has ever before enjoyed: "Look at my sales / Let's do the math / If I was black I would've sold half." This is the ideal intro for the rest of the album, Eminem's way of letting everybody know that, this time around, things are going to be a little different, a little less comical and a little more determined: "See the problem is I speak to suburban kids / Who otherwise woulda never knew these words existed / Whose moms probably woulda never gave two squirts of piss / Till I created so much motherf*ckin' turbulence." This same jagged criticism carries over into "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" and "Soldier," an aggressive track that brilliantly flashes Em's undeniable Tupac influence. On "Sing for the Moment," sampled from the Aerosmith classic "Dream On" and featuring a guitar solo from Joe Perry, Eminem acknowledges his responsibility as an entertainer to the young fans who look up to him while also asking them to stop taking his lyrics so literally: "They say music can alter moods and talk to you / Well can it load a gun up for you, and cock it too? / Well if it can, then the next time you assault a dude / Just tell the judge it was may fault and I'll get sued." Standing as one of the best cuts on the disc, "Square Dance" tackles some post-9/11 terrorism issues while flowing along a hypnotic rhythm track, and "Say What U Say" with Dr. Dre and "Till I Collapse" featuring Nate Dogg both have an old-school feel with memorable beats and some dynamic lyrics.
Em gets a little personal with "Cleanin' Out My Closet," the hit single that seemingly serves as a form of musical therapy by addressing in more depth the tumultuous relationship he has with his mother, and the surprisingly tender "Hailie's Song," a declaration of love for his daughter, Hailie Jade, complete with the requisite Eminem flair. Of course, not everything is serious here -- songs like "Business," "My Dad's Gone Crazy" (with some lyrics from Hailie) and the album's first single, "Without Me," are all a little brighter in tone and could've been included on either one of his previous two releases.
Most people tend to formulate opinions about the controversial Eminem without ever picking up one of his discs, instead relying on criticism from others to help piece together their own judgments. In the past that may not have been such a bad idea since Em seemed hell bent on offending as many people as he could with each pen stroke, but on this third album the formula has changed and the bar has been raised. His writing was always unexpectedly intelligent and his lyrical talent behind the microphone is unquestioned, but now he sounds like a rapper with a message rather than one with simply a chip on his shoulder and a foul mouth. The Eminem Show is much more ambitious than anything else in his catalogue and, with 20 tracks, there's plenty of material here for you to finally form your own opinion of Eminem and his music.