It wasn’t like Eminem didn’t know how to do sober, empowering records. “Lose Yourself’s” climax — “Success is my only motherfuckin’ option/ failure’s not” — is as self-serious and urgent as a quotable can get. That type of magic is hard to re-capture, but there’s something especially disappointing about just how far off Eminem was from it on Recovery.
His second comeback album in a row was the first one without that pop culture ethering lead single. Instead we got “Not Afraid,” an I-shall-overcome number that’s, by design, meant to fill stadiums. It seemed like it would accomplish just that; this was one of the G.O.A.T. standing with his balls in his hands saying it’s time to buck up. And that Boi-1da synth made sure it at least looked like Eminem was really going for it.
As time went by and the hype wore off, you start to realize the glaring clumsiness in lines like, “I'm way too up to back down/But I think I'm still trying to figure this crap out.” It’s realizations like these that make it apparent that Recovery is Eminem’s moment, although it’s not one everyone can share in.
Instead of sharing in his catharsis, fans are treated to Eminem rap-yelling himself into cacophony, and it becomes more of an endurance test for the listener than a musical experience. The haphazard, radio rip-off production helped transform Eminem from a shot of energy to the preacher (except a rapping one) on the train speaking to a chorus of sighs.