MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Finally this hour, the controversial rapper, Eminem, is back. He has a new album, his first since 2004. It's called "Relapse." We should say some of you might consider ideas expressed in the music to be inappropriate for younger listeners. Here's our review from critic Robert Christgau.
ROBERT CHRISTGAU: I think Eminem is a major artist, amazingly adept at channeling adolescent anger and exuberance into songs that are psychologically complex and wicked funny. Others consider him some kind of musical sociopath. But the most maniacal Eminem-hater wouldn't deny that he can rhyme. He's famously deft with words, their sound and their meaning.
(Soundbite of song, "3 a.m.")
Mr. EMINEM (Rapper): You're walking down a horror corridor. It's almost four in the morning and you're in a nightmare, it's horrible. Right there's the coroner waiting for ya to turn the corner so he can corner ya. You're a goner he's onto ya. Out the corner of his cornea he just saw ya run.
CHRISTGAU: You're walking down a horror corridor. Remember that first line while I explain that I don't just enjoy Eminem aesthetically, I defend him morally. I believe that the much maligned track from his "Marshall Mathers LP," "Kim," which imagines Eminem's murder of his ex-wife, is intended as and functions as a scathing, indelibly disturbing expose of male jealousy and rage.
But I also believe that when Eminem kicks off "Relapse" with the phrase horror corridor, he's telling us that his comeback is a horrorcore album and that this was a really stupid idea. If you've never heard of horrorcore, it's a minor hip hop subgenre specializing in musical horror stories.
Here, Eminem offers Lindsay Lohan a ride to rehab in one called "Same Song & Dance."
(Soundbite of song, "Same Song & Dance")
Mr. EMINEM: (Rapping): See what I meant was we should have a little intervention. Come with me to Brighton, let me relieve your tension. You little wench ya, murder wasn't my intention. If I wanted to kill you, it would've already been done. Slowly she gets in, and I begin to lecture with 66 inches of extension cord. Yeah, baby, do that dance…
CHRISTGAU: Horrorcore songs are so outrageous they're impossible to mistake for acts of advocacy. No one will think Eminem plans to lynch Lindsay Lohan with 66 inches of extension cord, but please, all those inch sounds don't make this witless fantasy as interesting, never mind laugh worthy, as any of Eminem's songs on his four previous albums.
On "Relapse," rape, murder, drugs and unspeakable combinations of the three abound. You don't have to believe he's advocating anything to find the casual, almost ingrained misogyny here, hurtful, distasteful and dangerous, the way his deeply felt private obsessions never were.
Listen to this serial killer boast on a track called "Must Be the Ganja."
(Soundbite of song, "Must Be the Ganja")
Mr. EMINEM: (Rapping) How many people you know can name every serial killer who ever existed in a row, put 'em in chronological order beginning with Jack the Ripper, name the time and place from the bodies the bag the zipper, location of the woods where the body was dragged and then dumped, the trunk that they were stuffed in, the model the make the plate...
CHRISTGAU: Eminem leaves himself an out on "Relapse." Three-quarters through comes a skit where medics save Eminem from an OD, followed by "Deja Vu," which describes the multiple addictions from which the biographical Eminem, Marshall Mathers, reports he's been free since April 2008.
Listening, you realize that in addition to all the ultra violence, there's loads of dope on this album and that maybe, possibly, Eminem is implying that the dope caused the violence.
If I liked horror movies more myself, perhaps I could content myself with that rationalization. But I prefer my cartoons funnier, and I prefer my inspirational anthems smarter than the one Eminem calls "Beautiful."
(Soundbite of song, "Beautiful")
Mr. EMINEM: (Rapping) To feel your pain, you feel mine go inside each other's minds just to see what we'd find look at shit to each other's eyes. It don't matter saying you ain't beautiful.
BLOCK: The new album from Eminem is called "Relapse." Our reviewer Robert Christgau writes "The Consumer Guide to CDs" at msn.com.
(Soundbite of song, "Beautiful")
Mr. EMINEM: (Rapping) Don't matter saying you ain't beautiful.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.