THE (MUSIC) YEARBOOK: 2002
For my first album of 2002, I’ll be covering one of the biggest albums from one of rap’s most polarizing superstars. Guess who’s back, back again, it’s…
The Eminem Show – Eminem
Marshall Mathers is an angry man. He’s angry at himself, his mother, the rap community, the United States Congress, and the world in general. More so than most, though, the rapper otherwise known as Eminem has been able to harness this anger and direct it into his music, cultivating one of the most successful and controversial careers in rap history.
The Eminem Show is perhaps the purest distillation of the artist’s aesthetic. It’s seventy-plus minutes of fully embraced, transgressive anger, and while he describes “so much anger aimed/in no particular direction” on the album’s first track, “White America”, there are a few common targets (see above).
Eminem is, first and foremost, a showman, and this comes through often on this album. Even when, for example, he’s rapping about his strained relationship with his family, he’s showing off, trying to top himself in terms of how shocking and faux-vulnerable he can be. While there are a number of lyrically emotional moments on The Eminem Show, the fact that they’re sandwiched around a number of grossly offensive skits and sex boasts like “Superman” and “Drips” definitely cheapens the feeling to a degree.
As for the gross songs, I understand that Eminem’s shtick has always been, to some level, the controversy that he invites with his lyrics. The thing is, though, it’s a style that gets really tiresome when spread over the length of a full album. You can only push the envelope so far before it stops becoming interesting.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t highlights on this album. “Say Goodbye Hollywood” is a highly personal track about the struggles of fame. “Sing For The Moment” makes excellent use of an Aerosmith sample and is one of the more genuine tracks on the album, and “Till I Collapse” is an arena-sized track reminiscent of “Lose Yourself” that borrows the stomp-stomp-clap from “We Will Rock You” to great effect.
There’s no question that Eminem is a talented rapper. His flow and rhyme schemes have always been among the more creative in the game, and his wordplay is solid. The problem, though, is his repetitiveness (not to mention the rampant misogyny and homophobia present in a number of these tracks). Eminem is at his best when he’s genuine and emotional, and this doesn’t happen nearly often enough on The Eminem Show.
Score, Adjusted for 2017 Ratings Inflation: 5.4/10
For my second album, I dipped back into the seemingly endless well of early-2000s alt-metal to find one of the biggest albums in the history of the genre…
Believe – Disturbed
In the interest of transparency, I was expecting very little coming into this review. I had always seen Disturbed as one of the many interchangeably mediocre hard-rock/metal bands (Drowning Pool, Papa Roach, etc.) to come out of the beginning of the decade.
Imagine my surprise, then, when this album opened with “Prayer,” a guitar-driven powerhouse of a track that showcases perhaps the best thing Disturbed has going for them: a lead singer in David Draiman who actually has a legitimately good voice (see the band’s more recent cover of “The Sound of Silence” for more proof). He’s not just growling or yelling here – there’s actual melody to the vocals, which automatically elevates Disturbed above a solid chunk of the nu-metal crowd.
The title track is another clear highlight. Draiman’s voice here almost seems like it was custom-made for Disturbed’s musical style, and the lyricism leans into religious themes that appear consistently throughout the album. There’s also some unexpected rhythmic experimentation here, showing a level of musical competence that a lot of the group’s peers had a hard time reaching.
A good deal of the middle of this record is rather forgettable, although none of the songs are particularly bad; rather, they’re more or less inoffensively average and have a tendency to blend into one another. The final track, however, is another story.
“Darkness” is easily David Draiman’s best performance on this record. Here, the band is stripped down to a piano, a cello and some percussion, and Draiman’s vocals cut through easily. A weaker singer could have turned this track into a muddled mess, but it’s handled excellently and functions as a very strong sendoff to Believe.
The guitar work on this record, while somewhat repetitive, is really solid and anchors most of its 47-minute run time admirably. There are a few melodic twists that keep things interesting, and the percussion, while not particularly noticeable in the mix, is consistently good. Overall, Believe is the sound of a band at the top of their genre delivering work that, while not fantastic, is better than almost anything their contemporaries could offer up.
Score, Adjusted for 2017 Ratings Inflation: 7.8/10