Album review: Eminem’s ‘Recovery’
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Ever since Kanye West looped Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” the hip-hop zeitgeist has tilted toward techno. Skinny-jeaned stars Wiz Khalifa and Kid Cudi have rapped over Alice Deejay and Robert Miles, while Power 106 keeps house DJ David Guetta in heavy rotation.
Admirably, Eminem has always ignored evanescent trends. Despite an over-reliance on gross-out gags and tired pop culture riffs, his last album, “Relapse,” further plumbed the weird depths of his psyche. Yet on his sixth album, “Recovery,” he ushers in the “Night at the Roxbury” era, sampling Haddaway’s “What Is Love,” the Eurodance ballad mocked in the “Saturday Night Live” skits and spinoff movie. The song (“No Love”) isn’t as awful as it is illustrative of the pitfalls facing Marshall Mathers. In its quest for six-digit download numbers, the industry has reduced Eminem, Lil Wayne and highly gifted producer Just Blaze to plundering grooves for the silk-shirt and silver-suited set.
“Recovery” is thwarted by similarly ill-fitting decisions. Beats from his longtime collaborators the Bass Brothers and Dr. Dre are largely nonexistent save for the latter’s co-production on “So Bad.” In their stead are anthemic, hackneyed hooks and big-budget producers du jour (Boi-1Da, Jim Jonsin, DJ Khalil) at their most monochromatic and monotonous. Cameos from Pink (“Won’t Back Down”) and Rihanna (“Love the Way You Lie”) further exacerbate the disconnect from the qualities that made Eminem a star: wariness of cultural cliché, knack for storytelling and conflict, and a caustic wit. Thematically, Eminem eschews the offbeat for the inspirational, with the 12-step single “Not Afraid” serving as a manifesto for his newfound sobriety. The central salvation is Mather’s enduring virtuosity. Throughout “Recovery,” he weaves dazzling internal patterns and clever word play.
But ultimately, until Eminem is able to restore the memory of what got him to the top in the first place, full recovery is impossible.
-- Jeff Weiss
Two and a half stars (Out of four)
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