CD Review of Relapse by Eminem
Eminem: Relapse
Recommended if you like
Method Man, Jay-Z, D12
Label
Aftermath/Interscope
Eminem: Relapse

Reviewed by Jim Washington

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I
guess it’s a good thing for Mr. Marshall Mathers that he has rap as a release for his towering pile of psychological issues. Too bad it’s not better therapy for his listeners.

Believe it or not, it’s been 10 years since the skinny white kid with bleach-blonde hair named after colorful candy dropped the single "My Name Is." That introduced us to Slim Shady, Em’s self-deprecating, mother-hating, wife-killing, celebrity-skewering alter ego. He was hilarious, mined his own troubled past for lyrics, dumped on just about every taboo you could think of and rhymed in a way not many artists could pull off. Then he basically took over the world for a while there, releasing a string of amazing but diminishing albums before dropping out of the game to raise his daughter, fight an addiction to pills and deal with the death of his good friend, rapper Proof.

Now he’s back, and not much has changed.

There’s plenty of cleverness at play on Relapse, the rapper’s first solo album since 2004’s Encore. The man will never, ever be accused of ducking his past or personal issues – the album cover is his face made out of a pile of pills, the track listing is printed on a prescription pad, and the CD itself looks like the top of a pill bottle ("Push down and turn"). He does have a knack for opening albums: this one starts with Em leaving rehab and nervously asking the doctor how to avoid temptation on the outside. "Have a drink," the doc assures him, rattling a bottle of pills. "Take the edge off."

No doubt, the man still has a gift for internal rhymes and writing nerve-wracking lyrics. The problem is that he’s still writing about the same exact things he always has – his mom, the pleasures of serial killing, how much celebrities suck, etc. He even name-drops some of the same people he did five years ago, an eon in celebrity time. Britney and K-Fed, Jessica Simpson, really? The single "We Made You" does feature an almost requisite Sarah Palin reference, but it’s a pretty weak excuse from the guy who used to make these things seem effortless. Also, it sounds a bit like Dawn’s song from the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" musical episode.

Worse than the dated references and weak lyrics is the slow, leaden production that sucks pretty much all the fun from the album. Only a couple of songs, "Déjà Vu" and "Beautiful," seem to contain some honest reflections on addiction and alienation. Maybe this was an album Eminem needed to make, but it’s not what we wanted to hear. The really bad news is that he has another "comeback" album coming out later this year.

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