Friday, November 12, 2004


I think very deeply

Eminem's new album, Encore, was leaked onto the internet in ealy November so record label Interscope decided to officially release the CD five days ahead of schedule. As it turns out, they needn't have fretted. As Em's large fan base will soon discover, Encore, like the title suggests, is more of what you've already heard before from Slim Shady.

This isn't an inherently bad thing. Whatever one might think of Em's behavior on or off record, he has never failed to surprise or provoke the listener through his now four albums. Encore is especially striking, not the least of which is due to "Mosh," the politically motivated song that finds Em gathering street mobs and turning them into voting blocs. He is unexpectedly more mature and reflective on Encore; "Yellow Brick Road," finds him apologizing for racist comments he once recorded in anger at an ex-girlfriend. He comments on his battles with Benzino and others on "Little Toy Soldoers" but instead of firing off another salvo, he reflects on how dangerous and meaningless these beefs are.

Lest you think Em has gone all elder statesmen, his very next song is "Puke," a dedication to his ex-wife Kim so overflowing with venom it makes Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear (his fuck-you, divorce settlement album to ex Anna Gordy) sound affectionate. There's also the typical toilet humor of "Big Weenie" and "Just Lose It" plus an assortment of odds and ends like the paen to derriers "Ass Like That" and posse cut "Spend Some Time" (with Obie Trice, Stat Quo and 50 Cent).

Placed alongside any of his other alnums, Encore fits right in, perhaps too well. The biggest problem with Em's last album and this one is that the music is exceedingly formulaic and monotonous - this applies to the songs both Dr. Dre and Eminem produce. It's as if the two discovered a minor key chord progression they liked and then decided to make every other song using that same sound. While it can create a solid stomp for Em to flow to, the slow rhythm and recycled elements can be unbearably plodding. It's a dead horse both Dre and Em can't seem to stop flogging.

It's a pity too because Eminem is just starting to get more interesting as an artist. Few have ever questioned his lyrical competency, but he's expanding his subject matter beyond biting broadsides and tongue-in-cheek party tunes to spill deeper insights about himself and what's around him.

I've slowly come around as a fan of his material - I still found some of his earlier songs unforgivably misogynisitic and homophobic but he's growing out of that phase. However, if he keeps putting out music that sounds like it's only repeating itself, Interscope may not have to worry about internet leaks in the future: no one's going to care.


Pop Life readers are coming up with all kinds of interesting links:

1) Kalefa on Eminem in the NY Times

2) This LA Times story on rap in China is interesting but from what I know of the scene, it's perhaps a little inaccurate and of course, only skims the surface.

3) Not Eminem-related but awesome otherwise, even if it's too late to really make an electoral difference: Bush campaign doctored photos of soldiers for TV ad.
(credit: Wayne & Wax)

4) Again, this comes too late but is still a pretty impressive blend of animation and politics: What Barry Says.