Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Eminem has sold over 65 million albums worldwide to date. Curtain Call - The Hits is a collection of Eminem's greatest hits like 'My Name Is', 'The Way I Am', 'Lose Yourself' and 'Stan' along with two all new studio tracks. Curtain Call is a CD that takes you from 1999 - 2005 and gives you a glimpse of what is to come in the future from Eminem! Interscope. 2005.
"Frankly, I don't want to hear these songs anymore. Nothing personal, but are there people who think "Without Me" has resonance? Eminem has even worn himself out. It shows in interviews, and as he watches hard-won respect slip through his fingers whenever he shits out another scatological invective like "Just Lose It". He's been swindling his audience for some time now, milking stardom for all its goopy dairy: D12, the 2Pac album, the outrageously overrated 8 Mile, a cartoon, radio station, DVDs, and books. His most recent LP, Encore, was a shell, full of flow-fuckery and canny hooks, signifying nothing. Eminem's rise, in all its Great White Hope glory, paralleled the rise of modern hip-hop as America's dominant musical form. But it also happened mostly in conjunction with Em dipping into the pop well. It's a sad state of affairs now for someone who could have been the premier musical artist of the last decade.
For all intents and purposes, Eminem's position as globo-mega-star and intriguing personality began to wane after the release of his second album, The Marshall Mathers LP, a record regarded by most as his masterpiece. But his 1999 debut The Slim Shady LP marked his creative zenith. Only two songs from that album are included here: the hits. "My Name Is" remains blissful and more complex than the novelty it was written off as-- it's funny and bizarre, and each punchline could have been a chorus. "Guilty Conscience", the role-playing jaunt between Eminem and mentor Dr. Dre, also holds up, especially when Em puts his producer on blast as "somebody who slapped Dee Barnes." Eminem's strengths-- verbal elasticity, the ability to write thunderous hooks, chameleon-ism, being white-- have hamstrung him psychologically, but in these early days, before fame, 65 million albums sold, and media persecution, his joy for rapping shone hard.
From the moment Dre and Interscope CEO Jimmy Iovine forced Eminem back into the booth to record "The Real Slim Shady", the cake icing on his colossally important second album, his fate was sealed. The songs Curtain Call culls from that album are fine, but had little to do with the outrage he caught from parents, GLAAD, and the conservative right. "The Real Slim Shady" made him profitable; songs like "Kim" and "Kill You" made him interesting. "Stan", however, still stands out as an exception. Overplayed as it may sound today, it remains a cultural milestone-- throngs of people, fans and not, flipped upon first hearing it, essentially forcing the label to release it as a single. All didn't end well, though: Dido has a career now.
Third album The Eminem Show is repped here by two songs: "Without Me", and the underrated "Cleanin' Out My Closet", which contributed as much to the confusing Freudian glints in Em's persona as anything else he's done. Which leaves the compilation's four new throw-ins: the Nate Dogg collaboration "Shake That", the ridiculously inane "FACK", and new single "When I'm Gone" are all desolate placeholders-- lesser versions of Eminem songs that already piss me off. "Gone" is the worst offender, yet another love letter from Em to daughter Hailie, it, like Encore's "Mockingbird", is heavy-handed and saccharine. The final new track is the live version of "Stan", performed with Elton John at the 2001 Grammys. Its inclusion is pointless.
Eminem has always had a self-loathing streak. He still comes across as uncomfortable with both stardom and his standing as a white rapper, and in a recent MTV interview seemed unhappy with this compilation's tracklist. This isn't his art-- it's his commerce. That's partly alleviated by Curtain Call's seven-track bonus CD, which contains five of the 10 best songs he's recorded. Included are two incredible album cuts from his debut, "Role Model" and "Just Don't Give a Fuck", one of his earliest, funniest thrillers. "Kill You", from his second LP, is psychotic mania but it's also hilarious and paramount to his dichotomy. Also featured are tracks he recorded with two giants: The first, "Renagade", comes from Jay-Z's The Blueprint, and finds each MC handling two liquid verses apiece. It's also a rare occasion in which Eminem's funeral dirge production doesn't sound overwrought. The other, Notorious B.I.G.'s posthumous "Dead Wrong", is about as vicious and beguiling a thing as I've ever heard, featuring both men pulling the razors out from under their tongues. The fact that Em stands toe-to-toe in the face of two potent Biggie verses was a sort of unofficial "okay, we can all fuck with this dude" moment for hardcore fans.
Eminem was a battle rapper first, then a backpacker, then a hook-slinger, now a tortured artiste-- the last bastion of the overexposed. He's still a star, but he no longer seems nearly as fascinating as we've been made to think. And Curtain Call, an inevitable and adequate document of his hitmaking, allows him the opportunity to remain in the spotlight while also receding from it. And with that, he's back into hiding for the forseeable future, building mystique: His next album is unscheduled, and, promo for this collection aside, his profile never seems to rise above churning out goth-rap backing tracks for lesser artists. Which, of course, is all probably intended to get me wishing the guy who once pleaded, "Some people only see that I'm white, ignoring skill," would come back around once in a while." - PitchFork
"Is it really time to reflect on the career of Eminem? Certainly that's among a greatest hits compilation's primary functions, but is that really what Marshall Mathers III would want?
Because as his album sales increased and his star rose to transcend all of pop culture, Eminem's music has noticeably gone the opposite route. The mechanical flow that locks into the track so tight he gets lost within it, the practical joke that was Encore, the post-apocalyptic death march productions that sound simultaneously minimalist and grandiose, but nevertheless unfuckingbearable. "Lose Yourself" remains the sole exception.
So with this schizophrenic compilation Curtain Call: The Hits comes the realization that, for all his creative evolution, Eminem never topped the juvenile brilliance of The Slim Shady LP. That isn't even a matter of preference: just listen to "Brain Damage" (ugh, not included) where he not only rhymed the unrhymable "orange" but did it 4 times, "Guilty Conscience" where he antagonized his benefactor ("Mr. AK comin' straight outta Compton y'all better make way?), and "As the World Turns" where he couldn't help himself from beating the shit out of a fat chick at the neighborhood swimming pool and throwing her off the highest diving board. Splash!
Contrary to popular belief he only came close on The Marshall Mathers LP, but strangely enough these two albums get the shaft on representation, with only his brilliant-but-borderline-novelty debut single "My Name Is," "Guilty Conscience," and the singles from MMLP able to eek out some space from Encore (gasp! 4 songs) and The Eminem Show (3 + "Lose Yourself"). Curious, but not really.
History has shown "Eminem vs. Triumph" wasn't just a ridiculous footnote, it was the turning point. It was the moment when Eminem stopped being in on his own joke, a not-so-fleeting moment where he took himself too seriously and revealed himself as the artist we see today; humorless, charmless, embarrassingly intense. It doesn't matter how often he (over)compensates by hanging out with the Crank Yankers. It finished what "The Way I Am" started: Slim Shady is dead.
Case in point: the compilation's requisite new songs: The "Hailie's Song"/"Mockingbird" retread "When I'm Gone," club-track (never Em's strength) "Shake That," and the inexcusable "Fack," predictably formulaic and antagonizing for the sake of it, the ghost of Slim Shady spitting unreasonably, to see how dumb we are if we actually like it.
This is the same guy who absolutey ripped "Forgot About Dre" to shreds, outshined Big on "Dead Wrong," and murdered Jay on his own shit with "Renegade," (the latter two included on the album's bonus disc along with "Criminal," thank God) spitting "Go to war with the Mormons / Take a bath with the Catholics in holy water / No wonder they tried to hold me under longer." I got chills just typing that. There was a pay-off and he earned it, that slow crescendo of intensity in his voice until it released in the chorus. It's the same reason "Lose Yourself" is brilliant and "Sing for the Moment," "Fight Music," "Mosh," and "White America" aren't. I always got the sense Eminem may have been overextending himself with his music, revealing too much. And it's true: his greatest hits reveal his misses as well.
Which makes the appearance of the live version of "Stan" featuring Elton John all the more bizarre, given that its inclusion unintentionally calls to light how that performance was the last time Eminem was even remotely controversial. The man whose entire career seemingly thrived on being universally despised suddenly found after that night that everyone liked Eminem (including notable flamboyant homosexuals), that everyone suddenly recognized his genius, and those two middle fingers he threw up at the end of the performance were suddenly kinda cute.
So if you're wondering why Eminem thinks it's time to hang it up, doesn't know where his career is going, why after only six years we've got a career-summarizing greatest hits compilation, there's your answer. But it wasn't supposed to be this way. " -StylusMagazine
Curtain Call: The Hits is a 2005 greatest hits compilation album by American rapper Eminem. It collects Eminem's most popular songs, as well as four new tracks; a live version of "Stan" featuring Elton John, plus new songs "Fack", "When I'm Gone" and "Shake That" featuring Nate Dogg, the latter two of which were released as singles and would become top ten hits. It was released on December 6, 2005, under Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment. The album was certified double-platinum in the US, triple-platinum in Australia and the UK, and quadruple-platinum in New Zealand. It reached no. 1 on several charts, including the UK and the US. A special edition was also released which included a second CD, named Stan's Mixtape, which included a selection of seven songs not included on the main album.
Entertainment Weekly (p.81) - "This hits package captures the half-decade moment when the tortured Detroit MC ruled the zeitgeist with whip-smart gross-out humor and jolting family confessions." -- Grade: A-
Uncut (p.86) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "CURTAIN CALL sizzles with profane pop genius..."
Personnel: Eminem (drum programming); Jeff Bass, Mike Elizondo (guitar, keyboards); Steven King (guitar); Luis Resto (keyboards, programming); Mark Batson, Tom Coster, Jr. (keyboards); DJ Head (drum programming).
Audio Mixers: Dr. Dre; Eminem; Steven King.
Recording information: 54 Sound Studio, Detroit, MI; Marshall's House, Detroit, MI; TransContinental Studios, Orlando, FL.
Photographers: Karin Catt; Anthony Mandler; Jonathan Mannion; Nitin Vadukul.
It's hard to believe, given his gargantuan impact on popular culture, that Eminem had only released four full-length albums by 2004. That year's ENCORE showed the rapper's artistic vitality fading just a bit, but 2005's CURTAIN CALL, an overdue greatest-hits collection, helps remind audiences that Eminem produced a stunning string of singles in a short span of time. Naturally, CURTAIN CALL eschews the artist's most controversial material ("'97 Bonnie and Clyde," for example, from THE SLIM SHADY LP), focusing instead on his highest charters, like 8 MILE's "Lose Yourself" and introspective confessionals like "Cleanin' Out My Closet" (a rant against his mother) and "Mockingbird" (a tribute to his daughter).
But even at his most sentimental and dramatic, Eminem displays a level of artistry that surpasses nearly anyone in hip-hop, if not pop music in general. Satirical, vicious, funny, and energizing, Eminem's material is never less than absorbing. CURTAIN CALL is packed wall-to-wall with winners (except maybe "Sing For the Moment," which reworks Aerosmith's "Dream On" in tiresome fashion), and at its most brilliant (like the self-reflexive romps "The Real Slim Shady" and "Stan") it's as era-defining as anything by N.W.A, Public Enemy, or even Bob Dylan. Though his individual albums are all pretty essential, CURTAIN CALL provides a valuable overview of an artist whose skills are unassailable, and whose role as a social gadfly remains as complex as ever.
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