Eminem – Curtain Call 2

Or; what came after…

Historically, a ‘Greatest Hits’ package is often seen as a full-stop. Usually, they’re released as a break-point in an artist’s career, sometimes at its finish. Think ‘ABBA Gold’ or Queen’s ‘Greatest Hits’ – it’s a survey of what came before. The original Eminem ‘Curtain Call’ came in 2005, essentially bookmarking an era dominated by incredible global fame, tabloid intrusion, continual legal battles, and personal trauma. Collecting generation-defining hits, the compilation pushed his white hot, lava-like approach to chart-busting rap into one place.

‘Curtain Call 2’ is a follow-up, of sorts, and it looks at what came after. A whopping 35 track affair – an old-fashioned jewel-case double CD, in other words – there’s enough here to suggest that fans who have disregarded Eminem’s modern way have been mistaken, that some fires do burn. There’s also a lot of chaff, however, and a slew of brand management – if Eminem in 2002 felt molten, in perpetual evolution, then Eminem in 2022 is more monolithic, marbled. 

Perhaps inevitably for a modern rap compilation, feature culture looms large. Opening with the Juice WRLD aided ‘Godzilla’, Eminem’s explosive flow is in full effect. If you’ve tuned out from Em’s trickery, then the impact is immediate – he remains the Usain Bolt of the mic, the fastest man in the booth. The novelty, though, can’t be sustained, particularly when evidence of his sometimes wayward quality control seeps through. ‘Walk On Water’ with Beyonce or ‘Love The Way You Lie’ with Rihanna remain faultless, but Bruno Mars team up ‘Lighters’ is fluff, inessential pop-rap.

Evidence of Eminem’s tastes and persuasions litter the project. Kehlani team up ‘Nowhere Fast’ still feels slightly jarring, her incredible vocal never truly aligning with Eminem’s bars. Indeed, ‘Curtain Call 2’ is at its most engaging when the Detroit figure simply cuts back on the Billboard tie-ins, and reminds us all why he became such a revered rapper in the first place. 50 Cent appears on old school bumper ‘Is This Love’ while the Dr. Dre production on ‘Crack A Bottle’ returns Eminem to his cartoonish best. Partnering Snoop Dogg on ‘From The D 2 The LBC’ results in gold, a low-slung West Coast breezer with some added Michigan grit.

Eminem – Curtain Call 2

As a project, however, ‘Curtain Call 2’ is weighed down by its flaws. There’s no ignoring the wayward path Eminem has taken over the past two decades, and the tracklisting reflects this. Do you remember his Yelawolf team up, ‘Best Friend’? Us neither. Indeed, for a proposed ‘Greatest Hits Part 2’ compilation, much of the music here misses the mark. Ed Sheeran partnership ‘River’ is methodical in its by-rote studio work, while Southern-flavoured CeeLo Green team up ‘The King And I’ never quite reaches lift off. 

Ending with – what else? – a remix, ‘Curtain Call 2’ is bold in its intention, an attempt to broaden the scope of Eminem’s career, and shuffle away from the fixation on his tabloid-baiting peak. Placed side by side, however, and there’s simply no comparison.

5/10

Words: Robin Murray

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