Aftermath/Interscope/Shady, 2010

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


It’s only August, but I’m calling the verdict that this is my top album of the year. I’ve engaged in several arguments about this disc as of late: Recovery as compared to the rest of Eminem’s oeuvre; how it compares to other such statements of artistic maturity, such as Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 (2009). But while Jay-Z has been on top of his game for basically the entirety of his career, Eminem has had some lapses. His previous two albums, Relapse and Encore, were lacking in some essential spark – or, as Em himself says on “Talkin’ 2 Myself,” one of the album’s many incisively honest tracks: “Encore I was on drugs / Relapse I was flushing ‘em out…I’ve got something to prove to fans / I feel like I let ‘em down.”  

Recovery is definitely not another Marshall Mathers LP or The Eminem Show; it won’t incite riots, and it spends far less time going after celebrities for shock factor. Instead, this album highlights a far different Eminem, one who’s penitent, conflicted, still a little messed-up, and all the more fascinating and relatable for it. Fans may balk at what seems like a tamer Marshall Mathers – he’s threatening to murder far less people than previous albums – but there’s absolutely still defiance broiling in these cuts.

Even in single-friendly fare such as “Love The Way You Lie” (feat. Rihanna), there’s no shortage of high-stakes wordplay and brutal rhythms as he chronicles an abusive relationship, and the contrast between Eminem’s rough, rapid-fire delivery and Rihanna’s smoothly seductive chorus is intoxicating. Meanwhile, “Won’t Back Down” features a similar assist from Pink on the hook, adding some feminine energy to the pounding drum beats and howling organ. nbtc__dv_250

But it’s the one-two punch of “Not Afraid” and “No Love” that cement the excellence of this album for me, only interrupted by “Seduction,” which technically comes between those two tracks but ends up diverting the flow. “Not Afraid” is a killer anthem for anyone who counted Eminem out when he faltered these past couple of years, earnest in a way that’s totally endearing (sample line of greatness: “So I solemnly swear to treat this roof like my daughter and raise it”). But “No Love” is absolutely the gem on Recovery, and not just because I’ve always had a deep, abiding love of Haddaway’s “What Is Love,” which is sampled to awesome effect here. The combination of Lil Wayne’s slow Southern drawl on the first verse, churning beats, Haddaway’s delightfully cheesy synths turned ominous, and Eminem’s incredible delivery is too potent to resist. This cut is blasting with energy and fury, and the incomparably quick pace of Eminem’s verses is jaw-dropping.

And there’s still some fun stuff here to keep it from being too heavy: “W.T.P.” (which stands for White Trash Party) is vintage Eminem in its lighthearted, wisecracking tone, while “Going Through Changes” features a tasty hook borrowed from Black Sabbath.

What draws me in so much with this album is the fact that Em’s not afraid at all to be vulnerable, to reckon with his own shortcomings and mistakes. On “Talkin 2 Myself,” he even says that he almost cut tracks calling out Lil Wayne and Kanye West (“It’s like I was jealous of him ‘cause of the attention he was gettin’ / I felt horrible about myself / He was spittin’ and I wasn’t”) but realized that at that point, in a haze of pain pills and writer’s block, he couldn’t have countered their success. It takes a mature, self-assured artist to deliver those lines, to come to terms with his own past megalomania and lay his soul out for the listeners that have stuck with him. “25 To Life” is one of the best examples of this, in which Eminem likens his career in rap to a drawn-out, addictive, insatiable marriage. At first listen, it seems like it’s about his ex-wife Kim, frequent source of his vitriol, but the fact that it’s about his conflicted outlook towards his career in the music world makes it all the more resonant.

Recovery is meaningful as an artistic statement, wholly enjoyable as an album, and an excellent example of Eminem’s personal and musical growth over the years. This is not the pissed-off, bleach-blond guy calling out Moby and boy bands in the early 2000’s; this is a real man, a real artist, and one of the best releases of his career and of 2010.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2010 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Aftermath/Interscope/Shady, and is used for informational purposes only.