Eminem’s back, kids. Back again.
In case you forgot, and with a single like Break A Bottle noone’d blame you, Mathers is back up in yo’ face with Made You. And it feels important to me: Eminem’s been one of those artists who’s interested me since I was young and though he’s does a lot wrong since, stuff like Guilty Conscience and My Name Is? I love them, unreservedly. Where and when he worked, I reckon he was the last interesting rapper, after the Golden Age of Dre turned into …whatever we’re in now. To continue the comics analogy, I guess, the 90s: over-blown masculinity, bad storytelling… and too many pockets.
First, because it’s the first thing I encountered: the video. It tells you everything you need to know about this song: it’s one of those Eminem-in-various-costumes videos. Yup, another one of those. Hilariously enlarged arses, parodies of pop-culture icons, and a friendly helping of big-boobed ladies. It’s shot in the exact same style as My Name Is, Without Me, and Just Lose It. Note the law of diminishing returns there.
This track hurts me. To paraphrase (and sanitise; this is a family friendly blog, kids) Marsellus Wallace’s immortal words: Feel that sting? That’s disappointment fudgin’ wit ya. I was genuinely excited by all the rumours suggesting a return to roots, Dre-heavy album. “Return to roots”? That’s the place you give up, I should know that. That’s Oasis talk.
Crack A Bottle was bad enough, but somehow this is worse- where that was just generic ’00s rap, a little too much hanging with Fiddy, this seems like a cynical cash-in on an Eminem Formula. And, credit where credit’s due, it does that very slickly. There’s so much of it that nearly works. Against my will, I’ve been humming it all day, which proves that the chorus and the hook underneath are good. The bit where the rap first kicks in is exciting. So…
It feels like the biggest crime, lyrically, is the already-dated celebrity references. But Eminem’s always been doing this stuff, and back on, say, The Real Slim Shady it was exciting to hear him dropping names and messing with the pop culture around him. And, yeah, as with the video, a lot of the problem is that he’s done it all before. But its difficult to understand exactly why that was better.
I think because now Eminem is, and has been for a long time, at least as a big an icon as any of the names he drops here. He’s not the outsider anymore, the guy spitting in your onion rings, when he could be anyone. This has even been addressed in Eminem songs. He’s not a rebel, he’s just a guy doing his tired old act the same way everyone he mocks does. The chorus pivots around the phrase “Rock Star” which, obviously, he is not- I’d give the old Eminem benefit of the doubt that it’s satire, of the increasingly stupid trend to sing about being a rockstar when you’re not, but it seems just as likely he’s jumping on that bandwagon.
Which is the problem with everything. For the second time now, the song references Without Me‘s “Guess Who’s Back” opening. That’s two comebacks since the first- which is an important touchstone, I reckon, as it feels like the last time Eminem actually got away with this stuff, just about. It was the first time you could see the Eminem Formula poking through, and every song that’s used it since is clearly worse for it.
There’re even blueprints for a new formula: Mr Mathers’ new thing, apparently, is a shouted announcement with a heavy echo behind it. The thing is, We Made You is probably better than the singles he’s been putting out since the 8 Mile period. Writing this has made me realise I don’t hate it as much as I thought. But after years of the same, it’s just so obviously nothing special.
Relapse, it seems, is a stunningly self-prophetic title.
(Obligatory confession: Two whole weeks since I wrote this (I’d better get my act together- this is supposed to be a twice-weekly thing, life/exams be damned!) and everytime I hear this song, I admit, my ears prick up. I’m interested in it, if only in a distanced way; and I’m beginning to think I hate the video much more than I hate the song.)