After selling over 15 million copies of his last album, it’s safe to say Eminem has had a lot of pressure in making the follow-up. Unfortunately, the pressure shows. While his subject matter and delivery hasn’t changed much, something has definitely been lost.
Though Eminem had spent a fair amount of time discussing his problems before, they never took the front-stage the way they do now. Gone is the humor that made him so appealing before, replaced by a tension and a feeling of self-importance that pervades every song. On the first song, “White America,” he delivers a vague attack on censorship and claims to be the spokesman for the nation’s white youth. The last song, “My Dad’s Gone Crazy,” begins on a promising note, but then Eminem chooses to make us cry and laugh with the same line: he’s “a genius at work.” Whatever, Em.
Song after song, Eminem doesn’t let up telling us who he doesn’t like, going from the Cheney and Gore families to Moby to his mother. Even his duet with Dr. Dre, “Say What You Say,” doesn’t offer any relief: the two go back and forth talking about Canibus and Jermaine Dupri. The only two songs that seem to break this pattern are “Superman,” in which he talks about the single life, and “Hailie’s Song” in which he actually sings to his daughter.
Though this album is no doubt quite personal and anti-pop, it lacks the cleverness of his earlier releases. One would hope that this album was something he needed to get out of his system before going back to what he does best.