Oh my God, what’s the point?
It’s no secret, really, that Eminem has slowly shifted from the realm of intentional self-parody into the unintentional. Either Eminem is in the process of coasting, releasing music for the sake of keeping his name in the public consciousness while not giving half a thought to the quality of what he’s releasing, or he’s pulling an Andy Kaufman on all of us—that is, he’s reached the point of being so awful, that it’s impossible to tell whether what he’s releasing is that bad as a joke, or whether he’s actually, honestly become that much worse. The Slim Shady LP was naïve but promising, The Marshall Mathers LP was largely brilliant (if severely homophobic and misogynist) but easily became dated, and The Eminem Show, despite a few blemishes, was the most complete, cohesive statement he ever released. As if to acknowledge that The Eminem Show was a reflection of the maxing out of Em’s talent, Encore dropped like a ton of bricks; that is, he surprised us once more, by releasing an album that fucking sucks.
It’s been suggested that Em’s brilliance is deceiving us into thinking that Encore is the falling off of a once respected artist, where he’s actually either intentionally satirizing his own work, or setting himself up to blow up again by releasing a bomb (which he can then follow with a masterpiece to cement his “comeback”).
Frankly, I don’t think he’s that smart.
The Anger Management Tour DVD gives us nothing to go on in the hunt for the remains of Marshall Mathers’ career. The majority of the DVD is simply one of Eminem’s sets from the tour, predictably from his hometown of Detroit, a fact neglected in the liner notes of the DVD but made obvious by Em’s many ad-libs (in some songs, he uses the word “Detroit” the way the Smurfs used the word “smurf”). The Detroit connection is further driven home by the presence of requisite posse D-12 on four tracks, though they may have been around for the rest of the tour as well for all I know. So despite giving the DVD the name of the tour itself, it is completely Eminem-centered, with not a single acknowledgement of other performers on the tour, performers like Papa Roach and Xzibit, whose presence might have provided a bit of much-needed variety to the proceedings.
Still, all would be forgiven if the performance Eminem delivered on that fateful night in Detroit was a solid one, worthy of saving for posterity on DVD media. Unfortunately, we don’t get that, either. Again, perhaps it’s a perfect reflection of the kind of show Eminem put on throughout the tour, but if it is, I can’t believe there weren’t more people demanding their money back. Most every song Eminem performs sounds as though he’s simply rapping along with his CD, old vocals included. That’s right, we hear Em’s voice doubled throughout the show, with the only real variance coming from his effective, exuberant hype man. Eminem himself seems content to talk along to his songs, toss in the occasional “DETROIT!”, and hike up his pants whenever appropriate. There’s no charisma, there’s no stage presence, just a fake Moby and a scantily clad woman yelling “save me Superman!” before, naturally, “Superman”.
Occasionally, the camera pans to an on-stage DJ. What is he doing there? Is he the one flipping the tracks on the CDs Em is performing with? Or, more importantly, how valid are Eminem’s constant charges that “pop” performers are fakes, when he’s got a backing track like this? We don’t even get full songs in most cases—it’s more a matter of doing a couple of verses and moving on to the next one. The show is obsolete, now three years old, too old to include any songs from Encore. The backstage footage is completely stupid, affording us one more look at Eminem’s backside, a bunch of interviews with teenage fangirls, and some of the worst “freestyling” (I couldn’t even give it enough credit to keep it out of quotes) ever recorded.
Should I go on? The whole production is shameless, a half-assed attempt at self-promotion that says nothing new, and says it badly.
There are two good things about The Anger Management Tour DVD. One, it’s cheap. Utter disappointment only runs just over 10 bucks in most places these days, actually less than most CDs. Two, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, D-12 just about saves the day with their appearance. There’s a four song stretch that starts with “When the Music Stops” and finishes with “Purple Pills”, and despite the questionable lyricism that the members put into their songs, it’s their performance that pulls the live show out of the waste pit. These guys still come onto the stage like it’s going to be their last time performing, spitting lyrics with fire and intensity, at least looking like they believe in what they’re saying. Or, at least, they did in 2002. Eminem, by contrast, usually looks like he’s trying really hard to remember the words. The purpose of this DVD was supposed to be the hyping of the newest incarnation of the Anger Management Tour; what it does instead is expose the deficiencies of that tour’s biggest star.