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Track Review

Eminem sold more albums in the 2000s than any other artist, topping the album chart a whopping 10 times. But the mantle of superstardom isn't one that the Detroit rapper born Marshall Mathers has worn easily.

No, accolades and riches haven't brought this incendiary, controversial rapper contentment or joy, if we're to believe what he tells us on his confessional new single, "Walk on Water." If anything, it might be just the opposite: Success has only created more pressure, more insecurity, more desperation to prove that Eminem—more than a decade removed from the apogee of his glory days—has still "got it."

Rap's Miracle Worker?

Eminem's joined on "Walk on Water" by none other Beyoncé, who launches the song with a reference to one of Jesus' most famous miracles: "I walk on water/But I ain't no Jesus," she sings. "I walk on water/But only when it freezes."

The first time she sings this chorus, Eminem can be heard tearing paper up in the background, spitting the f-word as he does so. What follows is a song that sounds as if it could have been a verbatim recording from an Eminem therapy session as he spits bitter complaints about the burden and pressure of being a rap legend.

"Why are expectations so high?" he wonders angrily. "Is it the bar I set?/My arms, I stretch, but I can't reach." He seems fixated on the possibility—or perhaps the probability—of artistic failure: "I know the mark's high, butterflies rip apart my stomach/Knowin' that no matter what bars I come with/You're gonna harp, gripe, and/That's a hard Vicodin to swallow, so I scrap these." (The reference to that prescription painkiller represents an obvious nod to Eminem's well-known addiction to painkillers.)

Another chorus from Queen Bey, another harsh profanity at the end (an s-word) as Eminem again tears up sheets of paper with (presumably) lyrics that aren't working.

Living Up to His Own Legacy

The second verse unpacks more of the same, with Eminem fixating on whether or not his current work will live up to the albums that put him on the map in the early 2000s. "Always in search of the verse I haven't spit yet," he raps. "Will this stop just be another misstep/To tarnish the legacy, love or respect/I've garnered?"

Insecurity and doubt claw at him as he curses his creative output: "I go sit in the car, listen and pick it apart," he says, profanely comparing his work to excrement. Surprisingly, he then raps about his perception of how God relates to his artistic calling, saying, "God's given me all this, still I feel no different regardless." He contrasts the tension between feeling his fans practically worship him ("Kids look to me as a god") and being forever aware of the frailty beneath the veneer of fame ("If only they knew, it's a façade, and it's exhaustive").

Eminem even confesses that sometimes critics' harsh assessments get to him: "And I try not to listen to the nonsense/But if you b--ches are tryin' to strip me of my confidence/Mission accomplished."

As the song's final verses wind down, Eminem namechecks a long list of deceased rappers whom he believes are worthy of the praise heaped upon them—and it's clear he doesn't consider himself their equal. He reflects vulnerably about how painful it is to inexorably move from being a hip-hop hero to a hip-hop has-been: "The crowds are gone/And it's time to wash out the blonde/Sales decline, the curtain's drawn/They're closing the set, I'm still poking my head out from behind/ … 'Cause how do I ever let this mic go without a fight?"

Everyone Peaks

Someone once said, "Everyone peaks." After that, it's a downhill journey. Eminem delivers his version of that melancholy message here—a message he struggles to come to grips with himself.

Ironically, this song is not as catchy as many of Eminem's earlier hits—just as he's feared. The fact that mainstream critics have picked it apart (while suggesting that Beyoncé's beautiful chorus is the best element) practically proves Marshall Mathers' point: Fixating on failure may be yielding exactly that.

Mathers gives us a song that's wincingly painful to listen to—even apart from Eminem's bitterness and profanity.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Top 20 Spotify single.

Record Label

Aftermath, Shady, Interscope

Platform

Publisher

Released

November 10, 2017

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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