Recovery is unlike any of Eminem's previous studio albums. Lacking the skits, traditional guests, and goofball lead singles that characterized The Slim Shady LP through Relapse, Recovery is Eminem coming to terms with his own legacy, shedding the tired formulas that marked his previous LPs and attempting to reassert his place in the pantheon of the hip-hop elite.
If you didn't care for Eminem's previous two outings, 2004's Encore and 2009's Relapse, good news: neither did he. "Them last two albums didn't count," he tells us on "Talkin 2 Myself", the second track of Recovery. "Encore, I was on drugs / Relapse, I was flushing them out. / I've come to make it up to you... I've got something to prove to fans since I feel like I let them down."
Eminem's idea of redemption in the eyes of his fans is certainly strange. With a litany of guest production, ranging from Emile's Black Sabbath sample-driven pity-me story ("Going Through Changes") to Boi-1da's generic beats ("Not Afraid" and "Seduction") to DJ Khalil's swampy rock freakouts ("Won't Back Down" (featuring a forgettable Pink hook), the album lacks musical continuity. Longtime ally Dr. Dre is largely absent, co-producing the horn-driven "So Bad" that sounds like a Relapse outtake.
Marshall's never been a particularly good singer, but he insists on singing on around half of the album's choruses- in fact, the album begins with a whine of, "'Cause some things just don't change / It's better when they stay the same." Eminem's sense of humor has always been elusive, which aided to the shock value of The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP, so it's up for debate if the constant falsetto is a joke or not (though the sung introduction to "You're Never Over," a touching tribute to Proof, seems to indicate he's serious). If it is a joke, it isn't a particularly good one.
What validates these bizarre choices and what redeems the album as a whole is the wildly imaginative lyricism that infects even the more tepid numbers. Spitting more puns and punchlines than his previous 5 albums put together, Eminem's trademark polysyllabic rhyme schemes and constantly-shifting flow make otherwise ordinary tracks like "On Fire" memorable. Marvel at how he rhymes "Wizard of Oz" with "lizard in gauze," "scissors and saws," "gizzards and balls," "blizzard with Jaws," and "dessert to us all." Even "Almost Famous," a re-imagining of Eminem's meteoric rise in the rap world, finds Eminem rapping the cumbersome "antidisestablishmentarianism" with impressive results.
As far as content, the majority of the album's lyrics fall neatly into three categories: insults hurled at anonymous rappers of lesser skill, the trials and tribulations of being a multi-millionaire and global superstar, and nonsense rhymes that nonetheless sound spectacular. At well over 70 minutes and with only two tracks under 4 minutes (excluding the bonus track), the album is too long and too self-indulgent, but it is a fascinating statement that rewards repeated listening.Release Date: June 21st, 2010
- "On Fire"
- "No Love" (Feat. Lil Wayne)
- "You're Never Over"
- "Not Afraid"