It’s a mystery to me why so many artists keep releasing their worst songs from their albums to the public. In fact it’s a completely weird thing that we still release singles at all. Considering no-one cares about what used to be called “The Hit parade” anyway, it seems downright old-fashioned that we bother marketing albums that way at all.
Some would argue that it’s a neat way of getting a taster of the album out to the public before the whole thing drops. A few factors scupper that point – for one, a release date is now nothing more than a wishful thinking fiction. Every album in the last 3 years (and most movies) leak anywhere from a few days early to a whole month (think of Origins: Wolverine, which made it to our screens more than a month ahead of time in the form of a perfect quality Workprint, albeit with unfinished special effects…not to mention the perfect quality final releases that make it weeks ahead of time courtely of some little pirate (or collection of pirates) called Axxo) – and while we’re talking marketing, wouldn’t it be cleverer to use interfaces like iTunes, that allow individual song purchases, to market individual tracks from upcoming releases instead? You could allow users to pick which song they want to have ahead of time. It’s not going to adversely affect piracy, which is GIVING away ALL the tracks ahead of time.
The other problem is that, as stated at the beginning, the best songs don’t seem to be the ones that are slated for singledom – now, that’s obviously subjective, but many people will agree, and most likely it’s not the band’s fault – Labelheads tell them to make one Radio Friendly garbage bag so they can get “the name out there” at the expense of the band’s real musical identity.
Days of The New released what was squarely the worst track on the Orange album, Touch, Peel and Stand (What does that even mean?) and THAT track made them a household name. Nickelback went one further and not only release garbage singles all the time but an entire back-catalogue of twattery usually worse than the singles themselves. Here, have a rock in the face, Chad. But hey, at least their singles match their albums in consistence, you have to hand them that (preferably handed to them wrapped in a dog-shit covered pipe-bomb whilst actually saying the word “LOL.”)
So on to Eminem‘s Relapse, an album I’ve been waiting for for over 2 years (ever since everyone thought it was going to be called King Mathers.) First off, the album is easily his best release since The Marshall Mathers LP. It’s also one of only a few interesting rap/hip-hop releases in the last 5 years (the others for me being Saul Williams’ Niggy Tardust, Talib Kweli’s Eardrum, El-P’s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead and Just Plain Ant’s Dig Deep (the most unknown of the pack, and the most low-key too.)
Problem is, the four singles (Yes there’s FOUR of them – 3am, We Made You, Crack a Bottle, Old Times Sake) are so fucking weak. The production value behind the beats and loops sound like they’re around $8.46 including VAT – and although the flows on 3am and Old Times Sake are up to scratch, all four feature Eminem’s new heavily annoying “half-Arabic-half-Reggae” rap style – and given that it’s so pervasive in every single, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the whole album is sung in comical spaz style. But it’s not.
There are more than a handful of songs on the album that singlehandedly justify buying the whole thing. They are My Mom (more stories about his “neglectful” parent), Insane (more stories of abuse and incest”, Hello (a dark track about rehab and psychosis), Same Song and Dance (an ode to a girl Em’s Psychopath is about to kill), Medicine Ball (A song to the world at large, labelling it his therapeutic playground), Beautiful (the same register as Toy Soldiers but instead focussing on his troubled artist life) and the most explosive track of all, Underground – a twisted 6 minute11 second anger explosion filled with orchestral strikes and counter-rhythmic guitar pluck loops – basically it’s fucking incredible. And it’s all topped off with the first funny Ken Kaniff skit since The Marshall Mathers LP – it even features tap dancing whilst singing a pastiche of We Made You with the chorus line “I Don’t have to Rape You“.
So that’s at 7 untouchable songs plus the decently passable 3am (backed by a very good video) and Bagpipes from Baghdad (despite the “Arapic”, although it’s in context here). Given that 5 more Relapse tracks are skits (and very good ones at that), that’s more than half an 80+ minute album that’s completely fantastic. So to pick the 3 hands-down worst tracks plus 3am is pretty shitty odds considering the wealth of quality on offer for promotion.
In short, don’t let the outmoded marketing of singles, or poor song choices thereof, put you off – this album is very very strong indeed. I can’t wait to see what Relapse 2 has to offer.