Eminem’s ‘Houdini’ Is Goofy But Fun

His cartoon instincts come to the fore on a dose of fan service…

Apple Music’s much-criticised Top 100 albums list may have prompted much negative discussion, but it’s also helped to reignite our passion for some old favourites. Take ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ – we rinsed it in our teens, but have rarely returned to it since. Perhaps there was no need: we know virtually every bar.

Returning to Eminem’s sombre, autobiographical beast, it became easy to fall for his magnetism all over again. In terms of timing, then, new single ‘Houdini’ is a perfectly timed dose of cartoonish fan service, a colourful, occasionally shocking (and occasionally boring) dose of ultra-colourful chart rap.

Re-claiming the Slim Shady character, ‘Houdini’ is aimed at the kids who never quite grew up, the adults still sharing South Park memes from 2004. Lifting a sample from Steve Miller Band’s karaoke staple ‘Abracadabra’, the opening lines – “guess who’s back?” – are a deliberate re-tread of former glories.

As ever, there’s a fine line here between pastiche, and simply being offensive. The use of gay as a slur – even if ‘in character’ – still rankles, and the verse about Shady’s “trangender cat” (“identified as Black, but acts Chinese”) is corny as hell.

That said, there’s still a lot here that entertains. Eminem’s skippy, a-dozen-words-per-second flow is impeccable, and his knack for a hilarious double entendre remains unrivalled.

Really, ‘Houdini’ is a time capsule, the work of someone who has long since sealed himself off from society. After all, why would Eminem release a single called ‘Houdini’ in the same year as Dua Lipa, unless he was impervious to the developing reach of pop culture?

‘Houdini’ is a time capsule, a dose of nostalgic thrills that doesn’t escape the lingering stench of the era it embodies. The Noughties: a nice place to visit, but – in truth – we wouldn’t want to live there.

5/10

Words: Robin Murray

Related: 12 Things You Never Knew About Eminem

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