Eminem: The Eminem Show

Eminem: The Eminem Show

Before Ozzy Osbourne turned his own life into endlessly hyped entertainment, Eminem had already transformed the sordid details of his personal hell into a multimillion-dollar industry. His story serves as fodder for his forthcoming semi-autobiographical starring debut, 8 Mile, but by this point, just about everybody should be familiar with the backstory and cast of the running soap opera that makes up the rapper's life. Eminem's greatest gift has always been his ability to make the specific hardships and complications of one world-famous millionaire sound like the frustrations of an entire generation. Consequently, each Eminem album feels like a foul-mouthed State Of The Union address, with the rapper hipping terrified suburban white Americans to how their angry, sullen children feel and think. As is generally the case with his records, The Eminem Show freely intermingles comedy and tragedy, and his much-publicized travails provide nearly all of its pathos and humor. But where The Marshall Mathers LP sounded like a primal howl of rage, The Eminem Show showcases an artist trying to make sense out of the chaos and turmoil in his personal and professional life. Sure, Eminem still tosses lyrical Molotov cocktails at pop stars and enemies, real or imagined, and "fag" may never leave his vocabulary. But he's also a shrewd businessman who's savvy enough to offer smartly recycled variations on his past hits. The Total Request Live-friendly "Without Me" is infused with the irreverent glee of past singles like "Real Slim Shady," while the emotionally wrenching "Sing For The Moment" recaptures both the poignancy and blatant sampling of "Stan," with Aerosmith's Steven Tyler filling in for Dido. While The Eminem Show seems unlikely to turn off Eminem's hardcore fans, it finds the rapper addressing his pain and confusion more directly and soberly than ever. "Sing For The Moment" and "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" showcase Eminem's newfound maturity, but far and away the most surprising and welcome track here is "Hailie's Song," a half-sung, half-rapped tribute to his daughter. It's not exactly "Cat's In The Cradle," but it illustrates Eminem's apparently sincere desire to get beyond facile shock, a move crucial to his career longevity. Ever since he dropped The Slim Shady LP in 1999, the Eminem Show has been hip-hop's most riveting and popular psychodrama. As long as he keeps putting out albums this strong, America is unlikely to stop tuning in any time soon.

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