Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sound Affects: Music reviews and ratings

The most striking aspect of "Recovery" is a sense of self-awareness, an honesty Eminem has never before been comfortable enough to offer his audience. In the past, even when he was supposedly putting it all out there for us to see, he delighted in offering contradictions; he was the violent homophobe who loved his daughter and did duets with Elton John. We were asked to try and discern which parts of what he was saying were true, and which were part of the dark fantasy world he created for himself.

"Not Afraid" is a lead single which is for the first time "not" a gimmick, and even goes so far as to acknowledge the failings of "Relapse": "Let's be honest, that last 'Relapse' CD was "ehhhh" / Perhaps I ran them accents into the ground," he raps, and it's easy to nod your head, impressed by his ability to call himself on his failings in such a plainspoken way.
Now, to say "Recovery" is a complete turnaround would be disingenuous. This is still Eminem, after all, an artist whose stock and trade has always been in shock, who knows what his audience wants and who will strike at just about any target to provide. Too often his subject matter shifts into self-aggrandizement and teardowns, where he covers up his newfound honesty with boasts and hate. It's as if his newfound honesty simply gets to be too much, and he has to retreat back to his shell for a few songs before revealing a little bit more of himself.

For all of his lyrical failings, particularly when it comes to women, however, he has an ace in the hole on "Recovery": Rihanna. Eminem takes the almost cliched misogyny that has become a staple of his work and turns it into serious business on "Love the Way You Lie," a serious song about domestic violence with an almost ghostly hook from Rihanna herself, whose presence in such a song gives it considerable weight.

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