Eminem “Relapse” (2009)


From the May 18, 2009 issue of The Miami Herald (web / print)

As the sound of flatulence emits on “We Made You,” Eminem’s first big single after a four-year hiatus, the rapper born Marshall Mathers says “you think that’s bad, you should hear the rest of my album.” 

Indeed, the playful celebrity-ribbing song, which is rapped in a faux British accent and represents the worst of what Eminem had become before he vanished from the spotlight, is an anomaly on his fifth studio album for Aftermath Records.

Relapse is Slim Shady’s darkest, most demented and sadistic release yet. No subject is taboo, from incest (“Insane”) and cold-blooded murder (“Same Song & Dance”) to abusing and mocking deceased actor Christopher Reeve (“Medicine Ball”).

Eminem’s cohort on his devilish journey is Dr. Dre, who provides keyboard symphonies with pounding piano chords and horror movie strings. The catchy “Crack A Bottle,” which features Dre and 50 Cent, is the best song any of the three have made in years.

Fans of his early work will be pleased by tracks like “3am,” “Stay Wide Awake,” and “Deja Vu,” in which he uses his daft wordplay to paint vivid images of drug-induced stupors.

But Relapse ultimately suffers from repetition. Dre’s beats tend to be continuous loops, and Eminem, although improving from the childish antics of his mediocre 2004 album Encore, has become a caricature of his Slim Shady personality, resorting to shock value in order to outdo all the outrageous (and hopefully fictional) claims he makes.

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