Eminem Album Review
Between genuine, heartfelt apologies and poop jokes, Eminem’s latest album release, “Music To Be Murdered By: Side B” leaves much to be explained. I have been a fan of Eminem for a time soon after the release of “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” in the mid-2010s. So when I heard that he might be releasing a new album in this past month, I was filled with a mix of excitement and dread that can only be attributed to a post-”Revival” drop. For those who have not followed Eminem so closely, he has had a number of ups and downs over his storied career, but in my opinion there has been no “down” that could quite match that of “Revival,” his 2017 record. That album touts the lowest Metacritic score of his entire discography, tied only with a compilation album for his record label. While Eminem’s follow-up releases, the surprise “Kamikaze” and “Music To Be Murdered By,” have both been notable improvements, that worry was still there.
This of course brings us to this Dec. 2020 release, “Music To Be Murdered By: Side B.” As the name would imply, it is a spiritual successor to “Music To Be Murdered By,” which was released only eleven months prior in January 2020. Like the January release, “Side B” features heavy Alfred Hitchcock-inspired imagery and musical sampling. As with every album since “MMLP 2,” there is the obligatory Skylar Grey feature, which was alright, but this record also happens to be blessed with a feature by the one and only Dr. Dre. Dre, 55, recently made headlines after suffering and recovering from a brain aneurysm earlier this month. However, even a Dre sample though, in my opinion, cannot exactly save this album. Let’s go through it.
Going from worst to best on the tracklist, we begin with the sole skit on the album: “Key.” I can only describe this as an “Encore”-era fever-dream, or to put it differently, how a bad drug trip might be expressed lyrically. It features Eminem mostly yelling over some subtle piano accompaniment reminiscent of the intro to the Obie Trice song “Cheers” from his 2003 album of the same title. This is certainly not the first zany skit we have seen over the last twenty-something years from him, but I would argue it’s the least welcome.
Other entries on the album are not quite as jarring, but are arguably just okay as songs. Tracks like “Tone Deaf” are just fine production-wise, but when you start a song with “I have an ear infucktion,” on top of various other expletives I would rather not name, I don’t really want to listen to the album anymore. Unfortunately for me, that line was only three songs in, so I had a feeling I would be in for a long night. Other notable lines on the song include “just like your funeral, I’m at your service” and “you heard of Kris Kristofferson? Well, I am Piss Pissedofferson,” which I can only describe as cringe worthy. That isn’t to say that all punchline rap is bad or cringey, but it feels like this album as a whole can’t decide how seriously it wants to take itself.
That said, not every track on this album is as much of a total flop as the ones I’ve mentioned so far. Songs like “Favorite Bitch” are high quality both lyrically and musically, and the Ty Dolla $ign feature is, in my view, a continuation of a positive trend of hip hop features on Eminem albums. This trend is especially encouraging considering Eminem’s disdain for “newer” rappers as evidenced by albums like “Kamikaze,” which saw him throwing shots at artists like Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler the Creator. The actual storyline on this track isn’t really a new one, though. Eminem has previously likened rap to a woman on tracks like “25 to Life” on “Recovery.”
“Gnat” was the first of two songs off this project to receive a music video. Like the “Godzilla” video off “MTBMB,” this one was produced by Cole Bennett of Lyrical Lemonade. The video features Eminem in a hazmat suit rapping about COVID-19, his ongoing beef with rapper-turned-pop-punk-artist Machine Gun Kelly and former Vice President Mike Pence. The track’s chorus is a bit repetitive but the quick lyricism at the end of the second verse rivals that of “Rap God” and the previously mentioned “Godzilla” without sounding excessive. The other music video from the album, “Higher,” is… weirder. The song had been used to promote UFC 257 and the video reflected this, with cameos from the UFC’s Dana White and ESPN’s Michael Eaves. There was some novelty to the video, though, featuring videos sent in by fans on social media rapping along.
At this point, however, I have a bit of an awkward confession. I would argue that the best song on this project is “Discombobulated,” a song which screams “Relapse,” accents and all.
“Relapse,” which is arguably Eminem’s second worst album (after the aforementioned “Revival”), was best known for its horrorcore themes and crazy accents, which were so heavily utilized that Em actually acknowledged it on his next project, “Recovery,” in the song “Not Afraid.” Those antics come back in full force on “Discombobulated,” though, and honestly feel like a palate cleanser after the preceding fifteen songs and skits. When I originally listened to the album, I expressed my frustration about the song to a friend, saying “I hate that this song unironically is pretty good because it’s inspired by one of his worst albums and is better than almost every song on that album and better than every song on this one.” I stand by that view now. Do not get me wrong, this song is no masterpiece like “MMLP”’s “Stan,” but it is fun to listen to song which leaves me scratching my head as to why the rest of the album was not this decent.
Overall, this album was… well… an album, and I do not have much more praise for it than that. I walked into the record worried and walked out with justification for that worry. I really wish that it did not come to this, as the original “Music To Be Murdered By” had really given me high hopes, but I suppose it is what it is. While I would not go so far as to advise readers to not listen to the album, I do want to set clear expectations. This is not “The Marshall Mathers LP” and while I would not say it is worse than “Revival,” it has definitely given “Relapse” a run for its money in the “coveted” second place spot. Here’s hoping his next project is a good one.