I think the majority of us have seen Rocky 3, where it’s a tale of a champion who loses his way and gets downright shellacked in order for the fire inside to be restored. There seems to be a staunch conundrum with Eminem fans in that some cannot admit that there are any errors within his catalog. I myself am a big Eminem fan and it’s why I was taken aback by his fifth album, Encore. The discography of Eminem has been governed by his three aliases: Slim Shady, Eminem and Marshall Mathers. The Slim Shady alias brought us to the dance, but almost took Eminem out of it as he was going through chronicled problems.
Starting from the end, particularly with “Final Thought” and “Curtains Down”, we get the imagery of Eminem ending himself and others around him. I remember I was confused at first listening to this. Where these tracks a metaphor that he wanted to end his career while he was on top? Mathers was going through many drug problems at the time of recording Encore which would explain the motif that permeated throughout the album that indicates the end. The Slim Shady clown prince is rampant throughout the mid-section, which started the unfocused vision of the album.
“Ass Like That”, “Rain Man”, and “Just Lose It” – wait, what? These tracks might be some of the worst in Eminem’s catalog. We have always known him for his satirical take on pop culture, but mimicking and dissing Triumph the Comic Dog? This man started his career predicated on battling the best, but this was a low considering Triumph isn’t even real. Even with the playful songs, there was always a point of reference to the people Eminem had in his cross hairs. “Just Lose It” just seemed like it was…lazy. Matter of fact, the “Em Calls Paul” skit may have been the funniest part of the album and it only clocked in at over a minute.”Evil Deeds” and “Puke” seem like off-Broadway versions of previous songs where the subjects of his disdain were his mother and daughter in particular. I don’t know if Eminem just got sick of rap at this point, but I was not used to an album of his containing a lot of “filler” tracks.
There were some songs that brought a glimmer of light, “Mosh” and “Like Toy Soldiers” in particular. “Mosh” gave me a least a little bit of hope that the hungry Eminem was alive as he provided social commentary about then-president George W. Bush over a brooding track. “Like Toy Soldiers” is almost eerie because it speaks on the need of Eminem squashing the rap issues he was having at this time with Ja Rule and Benzino. In the video, it showed his best friend Proof dying in a very art-imitates-life style which would play out in real life. This track is hard to listen to now because that instance of Proof dying almost killed Eminem figuratively.
“Mockingbird” speaks to a king coming back home to his castle and it being empty due to the many battles of time. Eminem speaks to his daughter, recalling past instances almost in regret that she didn’t have a normal childhood or grow up in a conventional family unit. At the core of everything and especially throughout Eminem’s first collection of albums, his daughter was the glue that held everything together.
Perhaps we needed this rock bottom moment to get to the aggressive, lyrical Eminem that we have now. A lot of these musical missteps claim our favorite artists to a point where they cannot reconnect with their audience. Now, we had to go through another album of Eminem finding his footing (no, I don’t want to talk about Relapse), but Encore showed that everybody has an Achilles heel. I’m just happy Eminem recovered in time to see his talents through.