However you want to label him, Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers or Eminem, this rap artist has certainly been one of the most important influences on popular culture in our generation. So it is sad that he’s been reduced to the cheap marketing ploy of releasing a greatest hits album conveniently close to Christmas. Worse still, many have presumed Curtain Call to be the last full length album by Eminem.
The 16 tracks presented are a reminder as to exactly why, should he retire, a great hole would be left in urban music. While Fack, one of three unreleased offerings, is hardly a prime example of this it does showcase Em’s comic side and his willingness to push all boundaries. It’s all about fornication with a tinge of sexual uncertainty and has a Goldie Lookin’ Chain like ending with howls of “Shove a gerbil in your ass through a tube”.
The hard-hitting and unsettling potency of Eminem’s lyrics are exemplified in both Stan and The Way I am, the latter of which was a response to Middle America’s finger-pointing in the light of events like the Columbine shootings. The former is arguably Eminem’s most successful work with the tale of a homicidal and suicidal obsessed fan working amazingly with the Dido sample Dr Dre famously passed on to Marshall. The live version featuring Sir Elton John isn’t bad either.
Lose Yourself, the Academy Award winning song from Eminem’s movie debut 8 Mile slips in powerfully before the second new track, Shake That lowers the tone once more. While it’s a grower – a slick upbeat number playing to Nate Dogg‘s bass full vocals – it isn’t worthy of a place on a best of collection. Standard service is resumed with Sing for the Moment and its Aerosmith sample.
Although as far as Eminem hits go standard service is not necessarily a good thing, with his trademark first singles being included, but it is difficult to argue that someone with the influence that Eminem has could be the same artist responsible for My Name Is, Without Me and The Real Slim Shady. Yet without the airplay and massive response these tracks generated it is doubtful whether Eminem would be half as successful as he is today.
There’s even time for a dig at his mother with Cleanin’ Out My Closet describing exactly what kind of person Debbie Mathers may or may not be. Daughter Hailie is addressed on single Mockingbird and future release When I’m Gone. The final instalment of new material on Curtain Call is worth the wait with its powerful description of the problems that caused Eminem to pull out of the European leg of last summer’s Anger Management tour.
For real fanatics this is worth owning, however there is very little point in greatest hits albums in the MP3 age as people will just make their own compilations. Curtain Call also completely ignores some of the collaborations Em has done with the likes of Xzibit, Jay-Z and posthumous remixes with Tupac and Biggie. Ultimately, it won’t matter, as this is guaranteed to sell in its millions.