A year after kicking a 20-pill-per-day drug habit, Eminem has bounced back. The foul-mouthed Detroit rapper's new album, Recovery, has stunned experts with first week sales of 741,000 copies — more than any LP since AC/DC's 2008 release Black Ice. The album represents a new direction, telling the story of Eminem's struggle to weather addiction and depression without recourse to the the violent, shocking lyrics that characterize his past work. The album may be topping the charts, but what do the critics think? (Watch the video for Eminem's new hit song, "Not Afraid")
A rapper reborn: "It's not easy being yourself," says Sean Fennessey in the Washington Post. Especially "when you're not yourself anymore." Which is precisely the source of Eminem's angst in Recovery. Here, Eminem manages to harness the "exhilarating candor" that made his earlier work so "fascinating" and "terrifying," but transcends the "unhinged trailer-trash bon vivant" persona of his past. It's this kind of reflective honesty that makes Eminem still "competitive." Count this one a win.
"Album review: Eminem 'Recovery'"
Will the real Slim Shady please stand up? "At his best," says Jayson Greene in Pitchfork, Eminem "always made a fascinating scramble of his internal turmoil." Unfortunately, "the guy rapping on Recovery just sounds devoid of any noticeable joy, personality, or wit." Throughout the album, "Em almost passes out" trying to prove that he's still "the best rapper alive." For the "first time in his career," however, he just "sounds clumsy." That's not going to cut it.
"Album reviews: Eminem"
Growing pains: Recovery makes clear that the new Eminem is "unsure of who he wants to be, both as an MC and as a man," says Benjamin Meadows-Ingram in Spin. But ambiguities aside, Eminem finally "addresses his personal and professional failings head-on, rather than hiding behind a joke or inside a nightmare" — a "necessary first step in moving on." So "is Recovery a classic album? No. But is it an essential one in shaping Eminem’s future? Absolutely."