After Eminem’s return to rap in the form of last year’s Relapse, many fans were left wanting more. While Relapse was a passable effort from the venerable Detroit emcee, it wasn’t the triumphant return to form that fans were expecting from him after 2004’s disappointing Encore. When Relapse was released, Eminem revealed that he had also completed another album, tentatively entitled Relapse 2, which was set to be released at the end of 2009.
Recovery was born after Relapse 2 was pushed into 2010 and Eminem apparently went back to the drawing board to retool the album before release, to ensure that it would be the comeback album that he needed and his fans were thirsting for. With that said, does this album have what it takes to impress fans and critics alike? Read on to find out.
Eminem constantly and vehemently asserts that this is his official comeback album and that he is back in top form once again, starting early on the album with Talkin’ to Myself, a profoundly honest confessional track. On this track, he demonstrates impressive depth and complexity as he tells the tale of his downward spiral into addiction and his eventual climb out of it.
While there are many tracks on which Eminem sounds genuinely apologetic (dare I say…endearing?) for letting his fans down, there are many where he seems to be back to his old shtick. On Going Through Changes, he’s rapping about how he’s maturing and his struggles with his recent drug addiction, the death of his best friend (the late rapper and D12 alum Proof) and rehabilitation and on the next, he’s rapping about a “white trash party” on W.T.P. This brings to light another problem with the album and that is its inconsistency. Recovery doesn’t have a singular focus and there’s no sense of cohesiveness when going from Talkin’ To Myself to W.T.P. and it results in an unfocused and somewhat jarring listen.
As much as I’ve criticized this album, there’s a lot that Eminem has done right here. Eminem’s signature blistering lyricism is on display in great form here, demonstrated very well on the angst-ridden 25 to Life and proves that he can sling metaphors with the best of them on the punchline-heavy Won’t Back Down. Heck, on the Haddaway sampling No Love, I was even satisfied with a verse by Lil’ Wayne. That alone is something special.
I may sound like I’m being a bit harsh on Eminem but, given the quality of his pre-Encore efforts, I’ve grown expect more of him. Allow me to reiterate. I don’t think this album is bad by any means. If anything, Eminem is just a victim of his own success. Most other rappers could probably release this album and have it met with high praise. Eminem, on the other hand, has raised his personal bar so high for so many that missing that bar results in serious disappointment.
Recovery is an enjoyable, if unfocused addition to Eminem’s catalog. Perhaps it’s not as good as I was hoping it would be but as a whole, this is a good album. This is an album I can safely say that will be in my regular rotation for longer than Relapse and Encore were before it and that, in and of itself is a comforting thought. Eminem is on the right path, he just needs to reevaluate what he wants to accomplish with his rhymes. In some ways, it seems that he can’t let go of the Slim Shady persona that was so dominant on the Slim Shady LP and Marshal Mathers LP and evolve his lyrical style beyond the madcap craziness of his previous albums and that is what seems to be holding him back here.
Most of the tracks on Recovery prove that Eminem still has the lyrical chops to elevate himself above the majority of today’s mainstream Hip-Hop genre. Here’s hoping he reacquires his focus for his next album and delivers the cohesive world-beater that he’s capable of.
Editor’s Note: I originally attributed a score of 3 out of 5 stars to this article but I have decided that I will not be giving this album a score at all and instead will allow the review text to speak for itself.