THE CRITICS: RECORDS

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NICHOLAS BARBER

Eminem: The Slim Shady LP (Interscope)

What's in a name? Slim Shady is the depraved alter ego of Eminem, and Eminem is the nom de microphone of Marshall Mathers, a 24-year-old white MC from Detroit. What this means is that if you're offended by Mathers's/Eminem's/ Shady's lyrics, then you're missing the postmodernist point. It's quite harmless to rap about murder and fatal drug overdoses as long as it's done in character. Convinced? Half of America isn't, and has denounced Eminem as an exploitative brat. The other half - adolescent males, mostly - has bought his album. You can't really blame them. Eminem's juvenile fantasies can be clever, sharply satirical and reasonably funny. In a decade he'll probably be a respected musical innovator and Buddhist. For now, potential buyers should beware of something much more troubling than the political incorrectness: once you've heard all the punchlines, you'll never bother listening to the album again.

Classical

MICHAEL WHITE

Andreas Scholl: Heroes (Decca)

When Opera magazine recently called Andreas Scholl "the best-equipped countertenor of today" it was a commendation, one assumes, of his voice rather than his manhood. But in truth, Scholl is in every sense the crowning glory of the past few decades' drive to reinstate the high-pitched male as a dramatic presence on the stage. Eighteenth- century audiences were, by and large, comfortable with the idea of heroic leads sung at alto or even soprano pitch. It didn't undermine their expectations of virility or strength. Gradually our 20th-century ears have reached a similar acceptance, as countertenors have improved. Scholl is undoubtedly the current star, and in this disc he lays out his wares in high-altitude accounts of Handel, Hasse, Gluck and early Mozart. You might wish there was more bite in the attack, but he is an accomplished singer. Roger Norrington and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompany, deferentially but beautifully.

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