Eminem released his ninth studio album ‘Revival’ on December 15, 2017, and an overwhelming majority could not stomach it. The album sounded different, the themes were different, and there were a lot more mainstream features. Even before the album was released, looking at the tracklist and features, people made up their minds about the album, and mind > matter, all the time.
‘Revival’ is Marshall Mathers in a sense–the actual person behind Eminem and Slim Shady and B Rabbit. Eminem had to get some thoughts out and in a sense, he compromised clever lyricism and cadence in place for the message. When the message overpowers the music, it doesn’t sit well with some people. It pokes Internet trolls.
‘Revival’ album received mixed reactions from music gurus of popular journals. The Daily Telegraph stated that Revival “represents Eminem on top form, which is to say unstoppable, unbeatable yet often indefensible.” The New York Times remarked that while the album is “probably the best of his recent albums.” The consequence of Sound gave the album an “F” rating, calling the album “ugly, arthritic, and pleasureless” and “a disaster”. Pitchfork stated concluding that “Revival is another late-career album that does little for his legacy.” [Source: Wikipedia]
Just the fact that these reviews contrast each other so vastly is evidence that preference of music and styles differ from one to the other. There can never be a definitive or objective review of art. The same applies to ‘Revival.’
If you fell off the wagon at ‘Revival,’ you certainly missed out on the ride of your life in the next years that passed through.
Eminem ‘Revival’ Tracklist”
- Walk on Water (featuring Beyoncé)
- Chloraseptic (featuring Phresher)
- River (featuring Ed Sheeran)
- Remind Me (Intro)
- Remind Me
- Revival (Interlude)
- Like Home (featuring Alicia Keys)
- Bad Husband (featuring X Ambassadors)
- Tragic Endings (featuring Skylar Grey)
- Nowhere Fast (featuring Kehlani)
- Need Me (featuring P!nk)
- In Your Head
Track 01: Walk on Water
The first track on ‘Revival’ is titled “Walk on Water” and features vocals by Beyoncé on the hook. The angelic voice of Queen Bey tells us things that Eminem feels deep down in his bones — that he is human. He can make it look like he is walking on water. But he is actually walking on ice, which can be trodded on, carefully. Too much pressure on it and ice cracks and gives in. The same happens to any human being, coincidentally which Marshall Mathers is.
I walk on water
But only when it freezes
One thing Eminem wants to make clear to all of us is that he, too, is human, just like you and me. Stans and haters, alike, have been so used to the idea of thinking that Eminem is this out-of-the-world being who follows no reality known to Earthlings. He is that, with his pen. But, he is that, like all of us — made of blood and flesh and the same hurtful thing that got you red-hot with rage, does get to Eminem, too. It’s a simple concept to understand.
Yes, Eminem has made it difficult for a lot of us to grasp this concept. Eminem and Slim Shady have been delivering 150% every time, it is hard to imagine him them delivering 100%. Eminem elevated himself to a whole new level in the rap and hip hop game. And we are talking about a hip hop game that is operating at 15% right now — every hip hop ‘legend’ sings about drugs, sex, money, and cars.
Always in search of the verse that I haven’t spit yet
Will this step just be another misstep
To tarnish whatever the legacy, love or respect
I’ve garnered? The rhyme has to be perfect, the delivery flawless
And it always feels like I’m hittin’ the mark
In the lyrics to “Walk on Water,” Eminem raps about the immense pressure he puts on himself to outdo himself every time he puts out a new verse. Why? 1. because he enjoys it, 2. because he wants the listener to enjoy it. Another simple fact that we all need to understand is that Marshall Mathers doesn’t always want to be Slim Shady. Fans love the outrageous content by Slim Shady. The media loves to slam Slim Shady. But when Eminem wants to rap about how all of this affects him, suddenly he has lost it? Kanye puts out ‘JESUS IS KING’ and is praised as the next messenger of God and Eminem singing about his feelings is somehow considered being ‘woke’?
But then again, at the time of writing this article, Eminem had put out his 2020 masterpieces; ‘Music To Be Murdered By’ and ‘Side B’ of the same project with impeccable penmanship. So, nobody lost anything.
Track 02: Believe
Picking up from where he left off on “Walk on Water,” Eminem asks his fans if they still believe in him? We all know he fell back with the drugs and almost lost his life. He had to change up his ways and released the ‘Recovery’ album. Eminem received backlash for the album. Come to think of it, Eminem has received backlash for almost every album. But Eminem was there for his fans. Songs like “Rock Bottom,” “Sing for the Moment,” “Not Afraid,” “Lose Yourself,” “‘Till I Collapse,” “Mockingbird,” “Beautiful,” and more have spoken volumes to many of the fans going through a lot of things in their lives. I have seen countless comments by people about how Eminem’s music has “literally saved” their lives.
I’ll never quit, do you still believe in me?
In this song, Eminem says that he is aware that he might not be the best there is. He is definitely a harder pill to swallow for most. Even still, he has been able to speak to the masses and really influence several generations of people through his music.
I’m that unrealistic prayer answered
And I’ma get you jacked up like you’re tryna fix a flat, uh
Eminem is that wish upon the shooting star come true. Considering how ridiculous Eminem can get, it is hard to imagine his music helping somebody literally save their lives. But, his catalog is so vast and so diverse. Everybody has a pill in Eminem’s book of rhymes.
This is one of the songs where Eminem compromised cadence for the message. If you want to understand the complexity of the rhyme schemes and technicality of his delivery, watch this amazing breakdown by Knox Hill.
Track 03: Chloraseptic
In the third track of the album, Eminem decimates sub-par rappers in the game, which, sadly encapsulates everyone else. For the sake of argument, let’s say the song speaks to mumble rappers, specifically.
With this ink, you haters get rode on like a piece of paper
This rap shit got me travelin’ place to place
You barely leave your house
‘Cause you’re always stuck at your pad, it’s stationary
Just these four lines have more density than entire mumble rap songs. Eminem mixes themes of traveling and writing lyrics and being successful in the rap game into these lyrics. Haters get rode on, as in gets destroyed, while Eminem himself can afford to travel from place to place because of the paper (money) he earns from the rap game. Since these mumble rappers aren’t making any money (which is not entirely true, there is a fanbase for mumble rap for some alien reason), they cannot afford to travel. We can say that they are stationary in one place because they cannot put down more than three words together in their stationery (paper)?!!
I’m at your throat like Chloraseptic, ‘septic
And you got strep, I’m too complex with it, ‘plex with it
Chloraseptic itself is a throat medicine. Strep throat is an infection in the throat. And because these mumble rappers have a throat infection, they sound like they are mumbling!
Track 04: Untouchable
In “Untouchables,” Eminem talks about an ongoing social issue that he has seen and grown around and still experiences to date. He talks about the racial inequalities, especially when it comes to police brutality against African Americans.
Black boy, black boy, we ain’t gonna lie to you
Black boy, black boy, we don’t like the sight of you
Black boy, black boy, we don’t get your culture and
We don’t care what our government’s done to f*ck you over, man
Eminem contrasts the experiences of a Black man and a White man in the streets of America. This has been a topic near and dear to Eminem since his childhood. He grew around Black people and his best friend was DeShaun Dupree Holton AKA Proof, who was shot and killed. Although Proof was not killed by the police, Eminem has witnessed the level of racial abuse Proof and others went through. Also, this is not the first and last song that Eminem has outspoken on this matter. Hence, this is not Eminem chasing clout or trying to be PC. His two other best friends (I assume) in the industry are 50 Cent and Dr. Dre. So, this song does not represent a suddenly ‘woke’ Eminem. This is who he has been all the time.
Track 05: River
On the fifth track on the album, Eminem talks about broken relationships, a topic he is familiar with. This is a song with a story about a girl who has been cheating on her husband with Eminem. However, “one-night stand turned into a two-night stand.” Eventually, her husband learns of her infidelity and leaves her. At the same time, Eminem has been growing tired of her too. She also finds out that she is pregnant.
We can’t bring her in this world, shoulda knew
To use protection ‘fore I bit into your forbidden fruit
The shattered love triangle leaves the girl to have an abortion. This must be happening in thousands around the world every year.
The song has a catchy beat and a hook by Ed Sheeran, a surprise collaboration, which many hip-hop fans didn’t take well. However, being a fan of Ed Sheeran’s talent, and how his vocals fit the hook, we are all for this track.
Track 07: Remind Me
This is a comical track on the album that gives an ode to thicker women. Eminem sings about how he goes bananas at the sight of this girl as she is all the good curves that he wants. Even in this weird song, Eminem cannot stop dropping bars.
So, get on the horn, my saxophone
Grab hold of my instrument, get a grasp, and blow “whee”
‘Horn’ is slang for phone and this connects with ‘saxophone’ which also sounds like ‘sack’s a phone.’ Also, the saxophone is an instrument that you blow into which is slang for oral pleasures.
Now every time I get brain, you screw mine up
I barely can think straight, your head game is a mindf*ck
Getting brain is slang for oral sex and Eminem plays on this phrase by connecting it with getting his head messed up every time he has sex with this girl. If his head is getting messed up, we can call it a ‘mindf…’
There is absolutely no reason to hate this song if you are aware of the Eminem discography.
Track 09: Like Home
Eminem has always been vocal about his political stance. Despite your political stance, Eminem has used his voice and platform to attack the corrupt politicians that ruin the country with unnecessary wars, systematic racism, oppression, and whole works. This song can be seen as constructive criticism towards America, his home. While he points out the flaws of this great nation, he still has hope for his motherland. However, Eminem’s constructive criticism starts with calling then-president Donald Trump a racist and equalling him to Adolf Hitler’s regime.
Eminem wasn’t so kind on his previous tracks such as “Mosh” rallied a war cry against then-president George W. Bush, and his BET freestyle harshly criticized then-president Donald Trump. This song is classic Eminem, as well.
Track 10: Bad Husband
This is yet another song that is personal to Eminem, and this time it’s not so bad. We have continuously heard Eminem’s relationship dynamics with his parents and wife throughout his discography. One of his most famous songs, “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” is a harsh yet true take on Em’s relationship with his mother. Songs such as “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” and “Kim” directly show his estranged relationship with his ex-wife Kim Mathers. In “Bad Husband,” Eminem tries to meet his ex-wife halfway. He talks about their love flair in the beginning that gradually got extinguished. Soon after their marriage, they realized it was only a “one more try” kind of situation.
But I’m sorry, Kim
More than you could ever comprehend
It must have taken a whole lot of courage to write these four words in these lyrics after everything we have heard from Em about Kim. Does this make Eminem woke? Does this make Eminem a hypocrite? On the contrary. One does not have to keep on defending one narrative of a story all his life. This is often a problem in many family dynamics. Once a person assumes a stance, they don’t want to change it no matter what. In this song, Eminem takes a step back. None of this takes away from the fact that Kim was a drug addict and got herself in jail leaving their little girl with Eminem. But, Eminem can admit that he might have played a supporting role for this relationship to go south.
The chorus, performed by X Ambassadors, says it the best;
How come you can be a lord and a loser?…
Why are you a good father?
A great dad, but a bad husband
Eminem was becoming a god in the underground rap scene but he was a loser at home. To learn more about what might have made Eminem a bad husband, listen to “Mockingbird.” So, now you realize this is not the first time Eminem admitted his part in his estranged relationship with his wife.
Track 11: Tragic Endings
This song describes an abusive relationship between two people. What started out as a romance, soon turned into hate and abuse. A relationship relies on both parties supporting each other at their lowest and at their highest. Eminem is no stranger to abusive relationships–no less than from his own mother and rolling forward to his marriage with Kim. Both of these relationships have ended tragically. Em did not receive the love and protection of his father at all. If anyone has the right to sing about broken homes and estranged families, it would be Eminem.
Track 12: Framed
The twelfth track on ‘Revival,’ acts as a sequel to Eminem’s infamous track “3 a.m.,” one of my favorites from the ‘Relapse’ era for its cadence. Lyrically, “Framed” talks about being framed for murder because his lyrics coincide with a murder scene. Ironically enough, the lyrics in this song actually caused Eminem to be visited and investigated by the Secret Service for “death threats” against then-president Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump.
Donald Duck’s on, there’s a Tonka Truck in the yard
But dog, how the f*ck is Ivanka Trump in the trunk of my car?
A song that sings about being framed for his lyrics actually got Eminem framed for death threats! You cannot make these things up!
Track 13: Nowhere Fast
In this track, Eminem talks about taking life by the horns and making what you want from it. He compares the same approach to his attitude towards his presence in the music game.
This world’s screwed, it’s already f*cked
And I’m on top, so everyone’s just—
Em also recalls in disbelief how he came to be in a position to sell out stadiums. He was the guy who was literally handing out his own mixtapes at street corners!
Once you are on the top of the game as Eminem is, life does not need to move fast. Just sit back and enjoy the slow glide.
Track 14: Heat
Track 14 is something extraordinary on the ‘Revival’ album. But for all good measure, Eminem warns us of this going into the song; “Lady, you remind me of my raps on that Relapse sh*t.” ‘Relapse’ being one of Eminem’s most notorious albums, we are pre-warned of what’s to come. And it does come.
Eminem goes into a manic episode about him stalking an extremely attractive female through streets, convenience stores, at her hotel room, and so on. Why? Because he wants to fack — a call out for his infamous song of the same name.
Even in a song that is clearly meant to be enjoyed for its silly content, Eminem cannot help infusing double entendres. Lucky for us, he explains himself.
I could sweat her to some degree
But f*ck it, I’m the male, let her come to me
(Could you repeat that again?)
“Letter” come to me—”mail.” “Sweater”, “heat,” “some degree.” Fail
After Eminem follows this girl to her room, he wakes up not recalling anything that happened since. His hands are bloody. And he starts to get flashbacks to his ‘Relapse’ days. Did he do it again? But he realizes that the blood is from murdering this beat!
Track 15: Offended
Back to the ‘Revival’ theme; Eminem slashes back at his haters — from then-President Donald Trump to media to many political affiliates, and feminist haters. Eminem has received criticism for his songs all his life and he has responded to many of them through his songs. This is one more, but with a twist.
Many names make it into this song which Eminem finds to be offensive; Donald Trump, Tommy Lynn Sells (serial killer), Bill Cosby (sex offender), Senator Mitch McConnell, Melania Trump, Justin Ross Harris (killed his own son), Rachel Dolezal (fake civil rights activist), Ray Rice (NFL player charged with assault of his fiancee), Kellyanne Conway (Trump’s counselor), and R. Kelly (sex tape with a minor). Among all these horrible acts, Eminem’s name gets slammed all over media for his explicit lyrics?!
At the end of the third verse of “Offended,” Eminem beats his own supersonic speed rapping record. He spits 6.71 words per second, breaking the record set in “Rap God,” which was 6.5 words per second.
Track 16: Needed Me
Eminem goes back to his experiences with relationships — which he didn’t have much success with. In this song, the two people have the worse of it. But neither of them has the courage to talk it out and either resolve their issues or go their separate ways.
I’m co-dependent, I’m just now noticin’ it
But somehow it’s like every time I’m about to go to end it
I ain’t got the cojones to do it, nor the heart
So, Eminem stares into the void of her eyes and justifies to himself that maybe she needed him. Maybe that’s why he stayed. Maybe there’s a reason why God paired them up. They just don’t know it yet.
Track 17: In Your Head
Ramping up things for an emotional end to the ‘Revival’ album, Eminem talks about the regrets in his life. But he does so with style. Interpolating the infamous “Zombies” track by The Cranberries. The zombies in your head are the demons that eat your brain and keep you up at night. Eminem has a lot of experience with this, having gone through his own childhood trauma, school bullying, losing best friends, abusive relationships, drug addiction, heavily criticized career, and so on.
And I’m just drivin’ as far as I can get
Away from these problems ’til all of my sorrows I forget
What’s tomorrow like? ‘Cause tonight I’m startin’ life again
In this song, Eminem seems to particularly worry about his alter ego ‘Slim Shady.’ He seems to regret the things he sang as Slim Shady, which is known to be a notorious and out-of-control rap villain. He doesn’t seem to recognize the notorious pen skill Slim Shayd brought to the rap game. Eminem has a serious problem validating his work; “‘Cause when I look at me, I don’t see what they see.”
Track 18: Castle
The last two songs on the album are a pair.
“Castle” is a dedication to Eminem’s daughter Hailie and how Eminem envisioned bringing her up. The three verses on the song relate to three stages in the life and career of Eminem; before Hailie was born, just after Hailie’s birth and Eminem’s struggles in his career, and Eminem’s rise to stardom and the end!
Eminem had the best intentions going into his marriage with Kim Mathers and raising their first child, Hailie. But, he had a different thirst — a craving to make it, move out of the trailer park, and give his children the childhood that he never had. In the process of achieving this, he realizes that he has to let go of more important things such as his family. Halfway into his grind, he realizes that fame is a double-edged sword. It is nearly impossible for artists to be big and controversial as Eminem and also have a happy and private life. Fast-forward to 2022, we see crazy fans commenting on Hailie’s social media posts asking about the next Eminem album!!
In the final verse, Eminem is exhausted of what his life has become. He is in the worst stages of substance abuse, at the zenith of stardom, and has zero family life. Everything he set out to be, has backfired on him. At the end of the song, we hear Eminem popping some pills and falling unconscious on the floor.
Track 19: Arose
The last two songs on the album are a pair.
In 2007 Eminem had a near-fatal drug overdose. His personal struggles were at the height of it and he was derailing. Eminem says he had his fair share of reasons for this behavior, but none of them are really excuses for what he did to himself.
Eminem goes through the reel of his life in his head with the bottle of pills in his hand (remember the ending of “Castle”?). He remembers Hailie being born. He remembers that he equally loves his step-daughter Alaina. It hurts to recall that he missed almost all of their birthdays as he had professional commitments. He misses another Christmas, teary-eyed that he put all family commitments on Kim Mathers. Eminem misses Hailie’s graduation. He knows that he does not get to walk her down the aisle because he was an estranged father — the same thing he set out not to do.
And, Proof, I’m truly sorry if I let you down, but this tore me in two
The thought of no more me and you
The death of his best friend, Proof, has haunted Eminem all his life. His substance abuse got worse when Proof died. But, in hindsight, Eminem feels ashamed that he used Proof’s passing as an excuse to feed his own demons. He can only apologize.
Eminem makes it look as if “Arose” walks down the same path “Castle” did. He asks his daughters to look after their mother and each other. He asks his brother, Nathan, to marry that girl and never give up on her. Eminem wishes that he could have one last heart-to-heart with his mother — after all, she was both his parents. But he can’t do any of this, because he is laying on a hospital bed and the nurses are at war trying to keep his pulses going. This is a throwback to his overdose in 2007.
At the end of “Arose,” unlike “Castle,” we hear the sounds of Eminem emptying the pills into the toilet and flushing them down.
All of these tragic tales and the uplifting ending are laid out in perfect harmony with “The Rose” by Bette Midler; because this song is titled “A-rose.”
Eminem ‘Revival’ Album Review Conclusion
If anyone wants to listen to the messages on ‘Revival,’ it will certainly prove to be a rich experience. Eliminate the biases you have about the features on the album. Forget about listening to ‘radio hits.’ Listen to the messages. Once you really listen to the messages, come back and experience the songs. You will see things differently.
Still, if it doesn’t work for you, it’s not Eminem’s fault. It is as if the critics have a perceived ‘image’ of Eminem in their heads and want Eminem to stick to this mold.
Eminem is likely the most diversely talented rapper out there. Sometimes he is the greatest storyteller rap has ever seen. Sometimes, he is the most vulnerable rapper, bearing his bones to the world so that someone who is going through a hard time can draw some inspiration from him. Most times, Eminem is the most motivating and inspirational rapper out there. A lot of the time, Slim Shady is the most bizarre and disgusting rapper out there. But Slim Shady’s rhyming schemes are out of this world. So, it’s not Eminem who is to blame that he experiments new avenues with his skillset.
In a nutshell, Eminem talked about his music critics in “These Demons” from ‘Music to Be Murdered By’ album;
I want you to change, but don’t change (Yeah)
I want you to grow up, but don’t age
I want the rage, but don’t get too angry
I want the new, but old Shady
I want you to say what they won’t say (Yeah)
Just don’t go too far, but go cray
I want you to almost lose it, man
They keep movin’ the goalpost, don’t they?
There is never a clear victory with these critics. They will have something to say about anything. However, if Eminem made a song like “GOOBA” or “THOT SH*T,” nobody would say anything as there is nothing to say.