Curtain Call: The Hits


Interscope, 2005

REVIEW BY: Shane M. Liebler


Eminem only shocked us once. He really nailed us when he killed his wife, advocated date-raping a 15-year-old and wished various deaths to anyone who stood in his way from grade school through 8 Mile.

Now, in Slim Shady's alleged retirement, I'm just tired. By his sophomore record, he was already bitching about the censors and perils of fame that plagued his career.

In 1999, you were severely uncool if you hadn't heard "My Name Is," didn't play it on repeat in the vehicle you shared with your parents, or couldn't sing along at underage drinking parties. But since then his once-incendiary rants have gradually evolved into more introspective background noise that is less applicable to middle American vice.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"The Way I Am," from his defining Marshall Mathers LP and "My Name Is," from his debut appropriately lead up to "Stan," perhaps his songwriting pinnacle. "Lose Yourself," which follows, stands on its own as a Rocky theme for the iPod generation.

Things putter out with token greatest hits add-ons like "Shake That," a stereotypical Nelly-like jam that would have never made it onto an Em full-length. Ditto on the pointless and disgusting (even for him) "FACK." While it sports an amusing "Stick a gerbil in your ass / Do the tube," chorus, it feels phony behind more pointed shock music like "Cleanin Out My Closet."

On that note, it is in the "you just don't understand" tunes that Em's trademark flow and vitriolic tirades tend to sparkle. The new "When I'm Gone," a story-style portrait of a star who just wants more time with his daughter and estranged wife, caps off a string of memorable reflection pieces like the "Dream On"-reviving "Sing For the Moment," lecturing "Like Toy Soldiers," and lullaby-worthy "Mockingbird."

The for-radio hits like "Without Me," "The Real Slim Shady," and "Just Lose It," are stupid, but expose Em's rather sharp sense of humor -- toilet and otherwise. Unfortunately, the album lacks the pitch-black humor and grit that made the Slim Shady LP such a remarkable debut. Only "My Name Is" and "Guilty Conscience" are available here, which makes the inclusion of two new throwaways all the more frustrating.

Em has enjoyed high points both as vessel of social ills and critic of that suburban culture. No greatest hits collection shows such a division in an artist's career, save Elton John and Stevie Wonder, as this one.

There's an advantage in listening to both chapters and deciding for yourself on Curtain Call, but the Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers LPs are much better introductions to Eminem. For those of us who lost interest in his later years, Curtain Call does include some of those label-, censor- and self-woe highlights from one of this generation's most provocative artists.

Rating: B-

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© 2006 Shane M. Liebler and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Interscope, and is used for informational purposes only.