Does the World Still Want Eminem?
Guess who's back? Back again? Shady's back, as you can probably tell from the onslaught of media ever since those two surprise commercials aired during last Sunday's Video Music Awards. Eminem is preparing a sequel to his Marshall Mathers LP,MMLP2, and it's going to be overseen by Dr. Dre and the new doctor they tell you to see when your album isn't doing too good, Rick Rubin. You would think Eminem doing a Rubin-produced Beastie Boys tribute in 2013 would be a slam dunk, but its poor reception by all but the most devoted of Stans begs the question: if "Shady" is back, who are we really getting and is it really worth it?
See also: Why We're Still Excited When Eminem Makes Music
The stick-and-move promotional tactics for Marshal Mathers LP 2, like each and every Eminem release since 2009's Relapse, has been marketed as if it were his "comeback" album. While Relapse made sense, as it truly was his first release in about five years, Em's subsequent outings have insinuated that he's somehow coming back from his own comebacks, as if to say the Eminem we all want back is somewhere buried beneath the bizarre accents and sweeping R&B choruses. So why do we keep coming back?
Perhaps it's because, considering his initial run, Em was incredibly consistent. When considering major label releases, 1999's Slim Shady LP, 2000's Marshall Mathers LP and 2002's The Eminem Show are three of the strongest consecutive statements in the genre. 2004's Encore wasn't on their level, but in-between its bright spots, fans convinced themselves its shortcomings could be explained by Eminem purposefully trying to make a bad album (how else can you explain the utterly atrocious "Just Lose It") or divert from the Em Agenda to have his say on that year's tumultuous political climate (the puzzling gesture that was "Mosh") as some sort of dis to his record label and/or own celebrity status. Either way, it's Eminem crossing the finish line with a legacy intact of three very strong outings, an easy to collect legacy just made for new listeners of any age to familiarize themselves enough with and celebrate, allowing Em's five year absence to transform him into one of rap's first true catalog artists.
But now that everyone from seventh-graders to soccer moms know about his prowess, the single which leads off his latest album is largely inconsequential. Like any aging living legend in music, his new titles are going to sell off the strength off his old titles alone. As a result, each new release has seemed like an event, signaling not just a return of Eminem, but of Eminem hysteria. By now, the comeback card's been played in four of the past five years. To put it in perspective, Relapse came out so long ago that it was on Virgin Megastore shelves. Relapse was also Eminem's first release in a post-Twitter, post-Youtube world where his once cherished jabs at celebrity misconduct had suddenly turned into what instantly dated him.