Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Relapse is the sixth studio album by American rapper Eminem, released May 15, 2009, on Interscope Records. It is his first album of original material since Encore (2004), following a five-year hiatus from recording due to his addiction to sleeping pills and issues with writer's block. Recording sessions for the album took place during 2007 to 2009 at several recording studios, and production was handled primarily by Dr. Dre, Mark Batson, and Eminem. Conceptually, Relapse concerns the ending of his drug rehabilitation, rapping after a fictional relapse, and the return of his Slim Shady alter-ego.
One of the most anticipated album releases of 2009, Relapse debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 608,000 copies in its first week. It produced three singles that attained chart success and has been certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The album received generally mixed reviews from most music critics, who were mostly divided in their responses towards Eminem's lyrics. It earned him two Grammy Awards and has sold over two million copies in the United States. Worldwide the album has sold 4.5 million copies.
"Since 2004's Encore it's been a difficult five years for Eminem. The rapper's painkiller addiction and reclusive behaviour which followed best friend Proof's murder threatened to end Marshall Mathers' career for good. Given this bleak period and Em's penchant for violent imagery and misanthropic themes, fans may imagine Relapse to be a tough listening experience.
On first song 3AM Dr Dre's slasher-movie score synths mirror Em's tale of murder and amnesia. Lyrically, it's brutally evocative with a Silence Of the Lambs reference and lines like, ''Wake up naked at McDonald's covered in blood again'' and, ''Put the key in my door/bodies laying all over the floor''.
On My Mom the MC who first complained about said parent on 1999 hit My Name Is correctly states ''I know you're tired about hearing about my Mom''. But he continues, ''What kind of Mom wants her son to grow up as an underf******achiever?'' If that profanity seems shoehorned in there's no shortage of it throughout Relapse. It's an angry work.
Insane suggests Mom may have turned a blind eye to abuse from a step-father with the pitch-black couplet: ''One night he walked in and said ''I want my **** sucked in the shed/ can't I play Teddy Ruxpin instead?''.
Medicine Ball sees Slim Shady mimic paralysed Superman actor Christopher Reeves to say ''Let's breakdance'' amid the sleekest production on the record.
Incongruous single We Made You is the album's only real commercial moment and a hilarious dissection of fame, all Bugsy Malone piano loops, references to Amy Winehouse's marital troubles and sung chorus.
Two rare frivolous tracks, Old Times' Sake and Must Be The Ganja, are serviceable smoking anthems, with the former seeing Dr Dre rap ''If at first you don't succeed, won't hurt to smoke some weed''.
This sixth album from Detroit's superstar is typically uncompromising and full of characteristically spiky humour. Relapse is as honest, funny, assured and well-produced as anyone would expect from Eminem and Dr Dre. The only real fault is evident when comparisons are made. It's a great album but on a musical and emotional level Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak is undeniably fresher." - BBC
"Dignity isn't the first word that springs to mind when thinking of Eminem, but there was definitely something impressively graceful about the way he brought his career to an apparent conclusion in 2006. A smart man, he had evidently realised he was fast running out of things to say. There was something deeply enervating about his 2004 album Encore - the sound of a man whose provocations had once incurred the wrath of both the White House and the CIA reduced to making farting noises. And so, with 75m albums sold, he quietly slipped away into domesticity. It made you wish more pop stars took stock, realised they were running on fumes, then went home and stopped bothering everybody.
Except, on the evidence of Relapse, it wasn't quite like that. Eminem's retirement was precipitated not by ruthless self-examination but a catastrophic addiction to prescription drugs. The album's lyrics frequently read like a spam email from a dubious online pharmacy: Ambien, Valium, Seroquel, Xanax, Lunesta, Percodan, Vicodin. According to Relapse, he spent the intervening three years in such a daze that rousing himself enough to masturbate counted as a major achievement in his personal development. Dignity, it seems fair to say, was not much on the agenda.
At least his addictions provided him with a source of new material. Now clean, a man who sounded exhausted on Encore sounds utterly re-energised on Insane, a genuinely terrifying depiction of childhood abuse at the hands of his stepfather. It's a rare moment of finger-pointing: what's particularly striking about Déjà Vu and Hello's brilliant depictions of ennui and overindulgence is the absence of self-pity. A track called My Mom returns to an old target - "I know you're probably tired of hearing about my mom," he admits - only to conclude that, for all the frenzied accusations of bad parenting he throws her way, he's ended up exactly the same: "That's why I'm on what I'm on/ 'Cos I'm my mom." He even resists the temptation to pay mawkish tribute to D12's Proof, merely mentioning his friend's death in passing as among the excuses he used to indulge his habit. You could argue that's probably because it's hard to turn a man shot after murdering someone in a row over a pool table into the noble hero of a moist-eyed eulogy, but that's never stopped umpteen other rappers; it's one of hip-hop's most keenly observed rules that when your homie is killed after moronically provoking a pointless fight, you should start carrying on as if he'd selflessly laid down his life rescuing babies from an orphanage consumed by fire.
Eminem slips up only on Beautiful, which lets fly with all the self-pity held back elsewhere, and furthermore sets it to a horrible sample from Reaching Out by Rock Therapy, a mid-90s charity single featuring Brian May and Lulu that no one seems to remember. Elsewhere, the music tends towards the functional rather than the fantastic: the idea is clearly to focus attention on the star rather than the beats, which seems fair enough, given the moments on Relapse when you're dazzled anew by Eminen, by the acuteness of his imagery - he summarises his aimless, futile, juvenile delinquency as "stealing gum from under the seat" - and the relentlessness of his panic-stricken flow. Equally, however, there are problems, not least his baffling decision to keep dropping into a cod-West Indian accent, something that it's just never a good idea to do, either in music or, indeed, in life generally.
More troubling is the sense of going through the motions - something that comes with the album's attempts to scandalise, and which seems to have seeped through into the song titles: Old Time's Sake, Stay Wide Awake, Same Song and Dance. There's more than a hint of the old Onion story about Marilyn Manson going door-to-door trying to shock people in Same Song and Dance's fantasy of murdering Lindsay Lohan, or in Crack a Bottle, which features 50 Cent sounding as ever like a man suffering from a potentially fatal lack of gorm. On the closing track, Underground, a suitably OTT backing can't drown out the sound of boxes being dutifully ticked: sex with the disabled, homophobia. It's depressing partly because it now has all the shock value of Status Quo launching into a 12-bar riff. But mostly it's because Eminem doesn't need to do that stuff any more. He might think he has to, but as Relapse's highlights prove, it's when he talks about himself that he really grabs your attention." -Guardian
Rolling Stone (p.68) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "The power of RELAPSE comes from Em aiming his beatdowns at his truest target, himself....RELAPSE is reason to be glad he's still around."
Billboard - "[T]he disc is packed with satisfying hooks and Eminem's ridiculously fabulous flow....He doesn't surf the beat so much as box with it, with both brutality and no small degree of grace."
Personnel: Elizabeth Keener (vocals); Jeff Bass, Mike Elizondo (guitar, keyboards); Sean Cruse (guitar); Trevor Lawrence (keyboards, scratches); Dawaun Parker, Luis Resto, Mark Batson (keyboards); Eric Danchick (sampler).
Audio Mixers: Dr. Dre; Eminem.
Recording information: 54 Sound, Detroit, MI; Effigy Studios; KDS Music Studios, Orlando, FL; Record One Studios, Sherman Oaks, CA; Studio At The Palms, Las Vegas, NV.
Photographers: Karin Catt; Julian Alexander.
Eminem's RELAPSE, a double album released after five years of recorded silence, a record featuring Dr. Dre behind the boards for the first time since 2000, faced no shortage of the relentless pressure of expectations. A narrative of survival after facing down his demons in rehab unfurled with Eminem's usual twisted Swift-ian wit, RELAPSE should disappoint few fans (or critics for that matter) with its patented mix of hilariously spit venom and delirious self-loathing.
Like Darren Aronofsky's adaptation of REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, 2009's RELAPSE finds the full horror element in drug addiction. Eminem's raps, for all their over-the-top humor, have always conjured up images fit for Fangoria, but as he comes out of rehab, seeking solace from his demons, Mr. Mathers amps up the gore on RELAPSE. Dre's beats lurk dark-thumping sinister while Em unleashes nightmare dreamscapes of murder, mayhem, and Britney-Spearsacide. One target who gets off surprisingly lightly this time around is his mother (a topic even Em admits in his introduction of which the world is probably sick); "My Mom" boasts softer, bouncier beats and a final line few hip-hop fans would ever expect to hear coming out of his mouth.