Eminem's "Berzerk" Is A Mediocre Retreat, Not A Reinvention
Remember Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill? Yeah, so does Eminem. If you doubt it, take one listen to the absolutely inessential "Berzerk" single from the forthcoming Marshall Mathers LP II, where he makes the emphatic case that we ought to "take it back to straight hip-hop."
It's not terrible advice, I suppose, but Em, a dude in dire need of reinvention and reinvigoration, is perhaps not the best rapper to make the case.
Though his fun tracks are, okay, fun, Eminem has always been at his most exciting when he's unguarded, reflective, and dark: The Eminem Show standout "Cleanin' Out My Closet," or even the plodding, addictive "Mosh" from 2004's uneven Encore. "Berzerk" has no such darkness or political bent; it's a naked grab at being an unrepentant party track, ala Andrew WK. But here's the problem: who's spinning shit that sounds like "Berzerk" at parties anymore?
And if you are looking for a Licensed to Ill throwback, aren't you more likely to just, you know, play Licensed to Ill?
It's unfair, I know: if some rapper no one has ever heard of came out of the gate with the throwback style that Em's aping on "Berzerk," you'd likely have gone dizzy already from a bunch of critics tripping over themselves to praise it. But coming from Eminem, the track just feels like a retreat, an older dude trying to sound like a younger one. (Em's 40; the Beastie Boys were just about drinking age when Licensed came out.)
This might all be forgiven if there was something--anything--redeeming in the track, but there's precious little to love here. It's loud and irritating and nearly unmelodic, and the electric guitar isn't exciting or edgy, like in the also-Rick-Rubin-produced "99 Problems"; it's just obtrusive and silly.