Various Artists – ‘Shady XV’

Eminem releases four tired new offerings on a compilation celebrating 15 years of his label

In its 15-year existence, Eminem’s Shady Records has enjoyed some monstrous successes (50 Cent), missed some golden opportunities (Detroit talent Obie Trice quit the label in 2008) and housed its share of dross (D12’s ‘Bane’ functions here as an unwelcome reminder of their existence). This double-disc compilation – which features four new Eminem solo cuts – celebrates the label’s past and sketches out its future, but the one constant is Eminem. As artist, collaborator, A&R and CEO, the 42-year-old looms large. But his powers are undoubtedly waning.

No-one’s questioning his technical prowess. As a reminder of Eminem’s vocal showboating, ‘ShadyXV’ is impressive. The problem – and it’s a persistent one – is that where once his anger was energetic, now it simply betrays lethargy. ‘Die Alone’ pairs clumsy ire with a cheesy chorus, and the single ‘Guts Over Fear’ (featuring Sia) screams tiredness: “There’s no more emotion for me to pull from/Just a bunch of playful songs that I make for fun/So to the break of dawn, here I go recycling the same old songs”. As road-to-Damascus moments go, it might have had more impact if, two tracks earlier on ‘Vegas’, he hadn’t warned Iggy Azalea that “you don’t wanna blow that rape whistle on me” – but hey, why miss an opportunity to manufacture controversy?

The rest is a mixed bag: ‘Lose Yourself’ notwithstanding, the three Obie Trice cuts are the highlights of the best-of disc, and Eminem’s ‘Detroit Vs Everybody’ (featuring Danny Brown), Slaughterhouse’s ‘Y’all Ready Know’ and Yelawolf’s southern-fried ‘Down’ are the picks of the new stuff, consigning the other fresh Mathers songs (‘Fine Line’ is turgid, as is ‘Right For Me’) to the shade. Ultimately, t’s all about the boss man, and it’s hard not to wonder how that fire in his belly became a mound of smouldering coals.

Details

Director: Various
Record label: Shady
Release date: 24 Nov, 2014