Recovery [review]......by dough

Recovery [review]
by dough

The genius of Eminem’s early major label releases was so potent, it was impossible for a fan not to be disheartened by the abomination of his last two releases.  His winding word play, intricate rhymes and self-conscious cartoon violence showed genuine growth and insight between The Slim Shady LP and The Eminem Show.  This made it all the more dispiriting when they devolved into the sludging labor of Encore and the bizarrely unfettered horror-porn of Relapse.  Luckily for the millions of us who want him back, Eminem is keenly aware of his descent and is trying to do something about it. To that end he has made explicit in both the press and the lyrics in the new album, that Recovery is his apology and step forward into a new and re-solidified future.

Well, maybe not a step forward as much as an about face.  This album is not filled with the rape fantasies and drug fueled vengeance that contributed to Relapse’s sad one-listen status.  It is however, heavy laden with many of the same minor chord, slow-roll beats that made its predecessor feel achingly melancholy and depressing.  Eminem is at his best when he’s high energy and full blast.  His top tracks let the intensity build like when his rocket rhymes crescendo through songs like “Kill You” or slyly wind and slide through tracks like “Brain Damage”.  Unfortunately, the melancholy downer that started with Encore and reached full force in Relapse is still present in Recovery.  This slow tempo ties the hands of a kinetic artist like Eminem, whose power comes from slippery lyrics with intertwining pacing.

That’s not to say that Eminem’s lyrics aren’t in top shape. If one thing stands out in Recovery it’s his solid affirmation that those labyrinthine lyrics are back at dizzying (if not previously unachieved) heights.  The intricacy of his inner rhymes, double entandres and punchlines stand tall as perhaps the best argument for the stupefying effect that drugs can have on an able and agile mind.  Perhaps more poignantly, those lyrics testify to the fact that sobriety can bring such a mind back into sharper and more potent relief.

And yet, the topics of those winding and swooping lyrics have not changed much from his earlier concerns.  I was frustrated by the popular success  of “Lose Yourself” as I could never take a positive irony-free Eminem spitting plaitudinal drivel seriously. It seems as though he’s tried to replicate that formula on every album since 8 Mile.  Recovery is no exception with several tracks falling into this trap including the first single “Not Afraid” as well as “Talkin’ 2 Myself” and “Going Through Changes”.  I get it: “drugs are bad”, “handle your biz”, “time to straighten up”.  These are lovely messages but coming from Eminem it always feels forced and shameless.  There’s probably a lot of honest heartbreak and lessons learned in there, but after you’ve ass raped and murdered your mom on a track it’s hard to hear you preach “be yourself and persevere”.

The other pitfall that Eminem repeats is regurgitating slow jam psuedo-love songs like “Superman.”  I realize that “Superman” was about not being there for someone but this trend of slowing it down for the ladies is not his strong suit.  He re-attempts this with “Seduction” and “Love the way you lie” which I fear may be equally popular to “Superman” and certainly equally painful to me.  Slow jams are great, have a wide audience and serve a useful purpose but I don’t ever need to hear Eminem say “oh girl”.

There are few tracks with hot beats on Recovery but Eminem catches fire on every single one of them.   My favorite, the Untitled hidden track, is a Kanye style bass & soul beat by Havoc (of Mobb Deep fame).  Given his access and resources, you’d expect a number of head boppers but this was one of only a few that actually got my head nodding. Nevertheless, Eminem assaults this track with such abandon that it made me wish the whole album had this sound. Another tight track is the sole Dr. Dre entry, “So Bad”. The beat could have been ripped from Chronic outtakes and it provides a smooth horn heavy loop that Eminem rides like a ‘Lolo.  The least traditional track, “Won’t back down”, uses a solid guitar lick and hook by P!nk.  This combination provides the right bounce for Em to let his lyrics explode and attack the listener with a rawer energy than is found on most of the other songs.

Recovery is by no means Eminem’s strongest release but it serves as an ample separation from his previous missteps and promises a new if unclear direction.  He is no longer the pop party pooper nor is he the druggy drop out.  He’s moved on from both but is still trying to find his way. Eminem’s lyricism, however, is as sharp as ever and when he finds the right track and topic, he makes a powerful case for best in the game.


  1. So since he has done a song about women before (Superman) he should never do one about a ausive relationship (w/ no hyperbole). And since he has joked about gays or raping his mother he cant grow up in 10 yrs and write songs about overcoming addiction and friends death.

    I get that you like lyrics about nothing but rap dexterity (Wont Back Down, Untitled) and I like that stuff too (you must of loved Relapse) but eminem CAN go into other topics as well.

    I mean hes talked about pretty much everything, hes been rapping for almost 12 yrs in the public eye and thus as spoken about quite a bit.

    Anyway I think its absurd that not one reviewer is comparing this album to other music, just eminem 1999-2003. That's it. This is a great cd in hip-hop, this has shown better wordplay and emotion than any cd in hip-hop over the last 5 yrs (prove me wrong) but he didnt sing "Stan part 2" or Kill Me, or "Just dont give a fuck 3"...I mean jesus..can this dude please be noticed for the work he put out that no one in hip hop has come close to in the last 5 yrs.

    Has Nas been killing anything lately w/ Untitled fried chicken songs...I mean hero was his only good song on that album

    Is drake killing anything w/ lyrics that go about as hard as a teddy pair on a picnic. And show as much lyrical dexterity as Snoop Dogg in 2008.

    I mean fn Kayne's Power is being called a "Classic" by some just because there aint shit around. Kayne's shit isnt even close to anything new or even that good.

    Give em the props he deserves before hes gone fool.

  2. "Give em the props he deserves before hes gone fool."

    Well said to the poster above...I couldn't agree more and really don't have much more to add to your comment. But I think Em and his real fans, as well as real fans of hip-hop know he'll never get the acknoledgement he deserves :(

  3. ententdres. goddamn it so much money, spell your borrowed words right. :p also, i feel your pain. not so much here as with all my great metal hopes who flailed in albums 3 and 4.


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