Look up! Something’s brewing in the sky. Hear that? The trees are rustling. The birds are fleeing. Your dad is stocking up on milk and bottled water. It’s not another natural disaster—this is a man-made calamity that could have been avoided if the right market forces, cultural consciousness, and demographic trends had begun to take hold in, say, 1997 instead of 2017.
Eminem has a new album coming out on December 15, and there’s nothing we can do about it. He’s calling it Revival, a title that’s probably meant to evoke the other two entries in his grab bag Re- series: 2009's Relapse and 2010's Recovery. He shared the tracklist today, which includes some surprising guests. Pink and Alicia Keys are here. Kehlani seems primed to seize Rihanna’s responsibility of owning a hook that’s way too good for its parent song. X Ambassadors, the band that brought you the Jeep Renegade, is also on hand. And in a heartwarming gesture, Em’s also giving a young British MC who you might recognize from Game of Thrones and Taylor Swift’s “End Game” some work.
The personnel aside, we have little reason to believe this will be a good record. Besides the Beyoncé-featuring lead single “Walk on Water,” which found Eminem Mackling a little more than usual, we’ve only heard his searing, anti-Trump freestyle from the BET Hip-Hop Awards. While a bold and well-intentioned act in theory—for an artist to potentially alienate a large segment of their fanbase—it’s simply one of the most confusing musical moments of 2017. Eminem, who was mostly silent down the stretch of last year’s election, threatens to drop an awfully hot coffee pot on Trump, smash him against The Wall until his flesh becomes imbued onto the bricks, and rhymes “Bannon” with “klansman.” It’s a frantic, overwrought exercise that loses much of its impact seconds after remembering when Eminem rapped with the same intensity about his own mother.
For the sake of full transparency, I don’t necessarily buy that any era of Eminem is essential listening—he’s always struck me as rap’s answer to Dragonforce, but angrier. Given how diametrically opposed the two contributions from Marshall Mathers this year are, it’s unlikely that Revivial’s going to change any minds. Especially mine?