His squizillionth US number one, for what it’s worth…
Al Shipley: Back when everyone else seemed to adore and respect Eminem a lot more than I did, I hoped that he’d quit it with the blond dyejob and the cartoony lead singles, and start collaborating more with popular rappers and producers outside of the Aftermath stable. Be careful what you wish for.
Rodney J. Greene: Thanks for reminding me: When you get down to it, the blame for all this soft-rock/rap crossover schlock doesn’t, as commonly attributed, fall to Jay-Z or Kanye or whomever for messing with Coldplay, the style really started a few years earlier as this guy here ran out of ideas. Thanks, Marshall.
John Seroff: In which Eminem embraces his inner Dr. Phil, squashes the beef in the same verse that he starts it, dismisses his last album as “meh”, flirts with grocery bag lines like “quit playing with the scissors and shit/and cut the crap”, channels his buddy Elton for a self-help chorus that is more absurd than anything South Park could come up with and generally makes me a bit embarrassed for him. But the flow is still there! It’s hard to care with lyrics like this (or, to be fair, with any of Em’s lyrics from the past four years or so) but goddamn: the raw talent is still there. Em makes me so sad; it’s like he has a magic pen and all he can think to do with it is draw cocks on everything.
Martin Skidmore: “Everybody come take my hand / We’ll walk this road together through the storm / Whatever weather, cold or warm” may sound as if it comes from some fatuous charity single recorded by the top 10 in American Idol, even aside from the stupidity of “through the storm / Whatever weather”; but no, it’s the latest single from the man who was once the most exciting lyricist on the planet. To be fair, he does apologise for Relapse here, but there is nothing in this that doesn’t suggest another apology won’t be needed next time. Tired, tepid, nasal, with no ideas in the music and more bad lines than we’d have thought conceivable ten years ago.
Alfred Soto: My first thought: “Why so glum, chum?” My second: “Em’s the last person whose hand I want to hold as we walk through a storm.” The spare backbeat and Slim Shady’s darkened, slightly huskier voice are becoming, but this is as boring as a twelve-step program.
Chuck Eddy: As often happens when he slips into goody-goody sincere mode, I’m touched by his conflictedness, and rooting for him even though there’s no reason I should really care. And even though I still miss Slim Shady, and kicking bad habits usually just makes music worse, and I’m not sure he’s saying anything all that revelatory about what he’s going through, I’d rather Em be cleaning up his act and even feeling sorry for himself about it than phoning in drug-horror bullshit like last year; at least this has potential to take him somewhere he hasn’t been before. Also wonder how Hailie’s doing, now that she’s almost 15.
Ian Mathers: In much the same way that I’d think that Lady Gaga’s existence is good for pop music even if I didn’t like her music, I’m very happy to hear Eminem back to something approximating his old form (in spirit if not necessarily 100% in skill) even though I doubt I’ll be playing “Not Afraid” very much. Pop music is a more interesting place with Em actually working, and not just making novelty tracks.
Jonathan Bogart: I’m definitely pro-Eminem having any kind of comeback. I’m unconvinced that this will actually do it. Compared to “Crack A Bottle,” it’s even kind of lame, self-serious Apollonian dedicatory rap instead of dumb Dionysian party rap. But I grin every time he gets to the “raising the bar” metaphor, and the gospelly chant of the chorus is infectious, even if the sentiment’s kind of exhausted.
Edward Okulicz: The art of giving a speech is simple: tell people what you’re going to say, then say it, then summarise it snappily. “Not Afraid” is based upon the idea that because a rap song is shorter than a speech, you just need to tell us what you’re going to do, you don’t have to go to the bother of actually writing something compelling – really, this is all plan and no execution. All Eminem does is assure us he’s going to face his demons and not go back to Relapse is sufficient when in fact all he does is blather on without charm, spark or wit. To my mind, his only successful demon-facing track is “Guilty Conscience”, which worked even in character. A relapse to Relapse? No, this is getting way down to “Ass Like That” levels of sheer banality, though at least without the silly voices.
Katherine St Asaph: Instead of promising to face your demons, why don’t you do it? Or at least put this shit on your blog, preferably protected.
Michaelangelo Matos: “I shouldn’t have to rhyme these words in a rhythm for you to know it’s a rap.” And I shouldn’t have to type these words for you to read them. Or acquire this food in order to eat it. In other news, this kind of sounds like . . . Bubba Sparxxx’s “Deliverance”! Except, um, not good.