One thing Eminem has always been, be he churning out radio hits or causing outrage with volatility and violence, is unpredictable. ‘Revival’, his first album in four years, carries on that streak, with surprises woven into its 19-strong tracklist. Here’s the seven moments that will make you do the biggest double takes.
It samples The Cranberries
As ‘Revival’ enters its final few tracks, Dolores O’Riordan’s voice comes crackling into earshot, as if you’re hearing her on a car radio. The Cranberries’ ‘Zombie’ forms the angsty foundations for ‘In Your Head’, with even the track name lifted from the ’90s hit.
There’s a Simon Cowell reference
Cowell might be world famous as the evil overlord of talent show TV, but his relevance is increasingly dwindling as The X Factor ratings slump and pop music moves on from being dominated by arguably his biggest success story, One Direction. So it’s odd that Eminem chooses to reference him on ‘Chloraseptic’, when he proclaims himself the “Simon Cowell of rhyming foul“.
Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly feature
Back in 1998, Wahlberg and Reilly starred in Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film about a Californian teenager who gets discovered by a porn director. In one song, high on cocaine, Wahlberg’s rising star and Reilly’s Reed Rothchild are in a recording studio workshopping some songs when they come up with ‘Feel My Heat’. That track pops up in the Rick Rubin-produced ‘Heat’, the actors’ attempts at a chorus stuttering through the song.
One of the album’s biggest pop moments is its hardest hitting
Eminem isn’t known for being reserved with his opinions – especially in his songs – so the lyrical content of ‘Like Home’ isn’t a surprise at all. What is slightly less expected is just how hard he goes on a track that’s so vehemently commercial – the Alicia Keys-featuring cut could easily be a huge radio hit. Whether it will or not remains to be seen – the furious comparisons between Trump and Hitler, and unfiltered attack on the President’s discriminations (“This man just praised a statue of General Lee/Cos he generally hates the black people, degrades hispanics“) might put paid to that.
’70s stoners Cheech & Chong get a nod too
If you were going to draw up a list of names who could be sampled on ‘Revival’, it’s very unlikely you would have put Cheech & Chong, the North American duo with a predilection for weed, on there. And yet! Here they are, riffing away on ‘Untouchable’, via a sample of their track ‘Earache My Eye’. The pair apparently are very chuffed with the feature, too, with Tommy Chong saying in a recent interview they’re sending the rapper “a big thank you and hug and kiss”. Nice.
Eminem revisits his Joan Jett sample
‘I Love Rock & Roll’ is, of course, an absolute banger, so why would you want to limit yourself to only ever sampling it once in your career? Eminem obviously agrees – he first lifted part of the classic that Joan Jett made famous on his 2013 single ‘Berzerk’, and now he’s at it again on ‘Remind Me’. It’s rare that musicians revisit samples, but when has Em ever done what everyone else does?
He shows support for transgender soldiers
Marshall Mathers’ lyrics have long been known for their controversy, and he’s often been headline-grabbing in the wrong way. He’s had accusations of homophobia levelled at him for years thanks to lines like ‘Rap God”s “I’ll still be able to break a motherfucking table over the back of a couple of faggots, and crack it in half“. But on ‘Like Home’, the Detroit rapper hints that he may have moved beyond such offensive lyrics by implying he supports transgender soldiers in a rant against Trump (“Why you think he banned transgenders from the military with a tweet?“). Progress.