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Special Bonus Post: Eminem’s Bonus Tracks

May 29, 2009

Eminem relapse 2009 faceThose of you who follow my Super Tuesdays blog have already heard my review of Eminem’s new album, Relapse. Apparently my verdict was incompletely informed, however, since I hadn’t yet heard the two bonus tracks available with the Super Ultra Deluxe Premium version of the album. I called Relapse “pretty good;” will these two songs knock off the “pretty”?

Well, “Careful What You Wish For” won’t. It’s not a terrible track, but it doesn’t have anything new to add to the old “being-famous-sucks” stuff Em’s been doing since “The Way I Am.” Probably the most notable thing about it is the assertion that Encore will, in time, be regarded as another Illmatic. I really, really hope Eminem doesn’t actually believe that.

However, the second track, “My Darling,” is actually pretty intriguing. The synth-y beat is effective despite its familiarity, but the lyrics are what make the song stand out. The deceptive first verse hints at aimless other-rappers-better-not-fuck-with-me rambling, but the second and third verses consist entirely of a back-and-forth conversation between Eminem and the demonically deep-voiced Slim Shady, with a little Dr. Dre sprinkled in for good measure. I had thought that Relapse‘s introductory skit was a clear reference to the opening skit of the pre-fame Slim Shady EP, but “My Darling” basically takes that track and transmutes it into a darkly catchy song. In case you’re unfamiliar with the EP, here’s its intro:

This track, which dates from 1997, shows that the conflict between Eminem and his darker Slim Shady persona has always been a crucial theme in Eminem’s music. “My Darling” literalizes that conflict into a Jekyll-and-Hyde scenario that is both cartoonish and affecting, and in doing so ranks as one of the best songs on Relapse.

But then again, is “My Darling” part of Relapse? Do bonus tracks belong to their corresponding albums, or does their optional nature mean that they stand alone, like old vinyl 45s? Music critics are going to have to consider that question, given that attaching bonus tracks to higher-priced “deluxe” editions has become the norm for high-profile releases. Personally, I find this practice be crassly destructive, since it violates the first rule of artistic composition: Include everything that is necessary, and nothing that isn’t. Theoretically, an album is on some level a unified artistic statement. If a certain song is essential to that statement, then leaving that song off of any version of the album weakens the work as a whole. On the other hand, if a certain song isn’t essential to that statement, then it’s superfluous and doesn’t need to be released in any capacity.

Albums aren’t the only place where changes in format are screwing with composition. The emergence of widescreen televisions caused some TV shows to be shot in 16:9 widescreen and then cropped for airing on standard 4:3 screens. By “cropped,” I mean that the periphery on both sides of the image was simply removed, as this picture demonstrates:

widescreen

This is, in layman’s terms, stupid. Since viewers with 4:3 screens won’t have access to the “extra picture area,” it can’t be allowed to include anything that’s important to the story being told. And if it can’t include anything important, then it’s just dead weight on the screen, serving no purpose other than making people feel better about their new flat-screens.

The Relapse bonus tracks illustrate similar compositional pitfalls. “My Darling” doesn’t stand alone; it clearly belongs in the album’s loose storyline, and the deep voice in the second two verses appears briefly in the intro skit, as well as in “Deja Vu” and other songs. The inclusion of “My Darling” expands on that voice’s role and therefore makes the album more coherent as a whole. “Careful What You Wish For,” on the other hand, adds almost nothing to the album and therefore just adds dead weight to the tracklist (and isn’t worth shelling out extra money for).

Some of these problems are inevitable, I suppose. Rapid changes in media technology are bound to produce confusion in terms of how information is presented, and some of that confusion will dissipate over time. For now, consumers should understand that when they hear the word “bonus,” they are probably somehow getting ripped off.

P.S. Don’t be shy about leaving comments! We love comments!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2009 4:04 am

    emm.. luv it 🙂

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