Album: Eminem

The Eminem Show, Interscope
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The Independent Culture

Eminem's third album was always liable to be something of a disappointment, but after the cartoon horror of The Slim Shady LP and the mordant self-analysis of The Marshall Mathers LP, the very title The Eminem Show serves warning of the more superficial ground being covered this time. More than that of any other contemporary performer, Eminem's art is torn from his troubled personal situation, and this album reflects the way that the rapper's private life has become a show played out for the entertainment of faceless millions.

Eminem's third album was always liable to be something of a disappointment, but after the cartoon horror of The Slim Shady LP and the mordant self-analysis of The Marshall Mathers LP, the very title The Eminem Show serves warning of the more superficial ground being covered this time. More than that of any other contemporary performer, Eminem's art is torn from his troubled personal situation, and this album reflects the way that the rapper's private life has become a show played out for the entertainment of faceless millions.

Accordingly, much of the album sounds past its sell-by date, dealing with old news about his mum, his wife and his daughter and with his reactions to his expanding notoriety. "I must have struck a chord with someone," he notes on the opening "White America", gloating over his effect on suburban children. "It's like these kids hang on every statement we make," he adds later, in "Sing for the Moment", marvelling at hip hop's transformation from street-corner to stadium. But he has little idea of how to use the power he wields, other than to scare the pants off Middle-American parents.

His own parents are given an even rougher ride. "All I know is that I don't want to follow in the footsteps of my dad, 'cos I hate him so bad," he avers in "Say Goodbye to Holiwood", while, in "Cleaning out My Closet", his mother's attempts to sue her son for emotional distress are curtly condemned. "How dare you try and take what you didn't make?" he barks.

Unsurprisingly, Eminem is determined not to let a similar rift develop between himself and his daughter, Hailie, who has one song named after her and appears on another, cheerfully chirping out the chorus to the album's finale and best track, "My Dad's Gone Crazy". Opening with a skit of Eminem snorting coke while watching a TV show about parent–child relationships, it includes the funniest moment on the album, when an impression of his mother advising, "If you can't say nothing good then don't say anything," is followed by a perfectly timed one-bar gap of silence, as if her son were vainly searching for a decent sentiment.

It's a rare moment of levity on an album that lapses readily into the misogyny and mythologising of gun culture that less-talented rappers rely on. There's something tired and worn, too, about his paranoia and his rude dismissal of rivals such as Moby. But the biggest mistake Eminem makes on The Eminem Show is that, confounding his own advice, he forgets about Dre. The architect of most of his greatest successes produces only three of the 20 tracks (including "My Dad's Gone Crazy"), and it shows, particularly in the lack of rhythmic variety and funk momentum. Not that that should harm its sales much: as Eminem notes at the album's end, "That's pretty much the gist of it/ Kids love it, but parents get pissed at it."

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