One of the most-anticipated albums of the year, Eminem’s Relapse, drops Tuesday. After a nearly five-year absence, can Em still win over the critics? The reviews are in.
Entertainment Weekly: Though a smattering of other celebrity goofs (Kim Kardashian, Sarah Palin) feel both dated and beneath him, Relapse’s real resonance comes from the fragile, harrowing genius that lies behind that painted-on grin. A-
Rolling Stone: By letting Dr. Dre take over the low-end-funk production, and rhyming about things he actually cares about, he comes up with a more painful, honest, and vital record than anyone could have expected at this late date, up there with The Eminem Show or maybe even better. 4 out of 5
Chicago Tribune: Has the pathological smart-aleck finally become a self-parody? He admits as much in “Same Song and Dance.” But the funniest and most honest moment arrives just as the album fades. It depicts Eminem (as the character Ken Kaniff) at another rehab meeting, trying out an X-rated soft-shoe routine on another audience, which quickly abandons him. 1 out of 5
Chicago Sun-Times: Mostly crafted by his old mentor and producer, Dr. Dre, the music is just as stale and predictable, full of Dre’s overrated bubblegum hooks and cheesy gothic ambience. The one exception is the Middle Eastern flavor of “Bagpipes from Baghdad,” but Eminem blows the opportunity to offer a sequel/update to the track that remains his finest moment with more throw-away lines about Mariah Carey. 1 out of 4
SPIN: Relapse is really just another overlong summer blockbuster. We sit through it, then go look at pictures of kittens on the Internet, and wait until our souls snap back into place. Eminem has made the world that crushed him a little less fun for us too. 2 out of 5
Los Angeles Times: While Relapse deserves kudos for its formal beauty, the admirable turns of phrase and gymnastic musical moments, it won’t shatter anyone’s world.
USA Today: Eminem is as twisted as ever. His tales of a befogged killing spree and childhood molestation are more disturbing than any star skewering. Dr. Dre’s brooding funk underpins intense rantings and heightens the creepiness of Em’s perverse musings. 3.5 out of 4
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Beautiful,” “Old Time’s Sake,” “Bagpipes From Baghdad,” “My Mom”