The unexpectedly downbeat song — which features Eminem accompanied by Beyonce, a simple piano track, synthesizer, a haunting string section and muted percussion — is surprisingly rough-hewn, with the sound of the rapper scribbling and swearing to himself in the background in between verses. Despite its arrogant-sounding title, the song — which was produced by Rick Rubin and co-written with Beyonce and Skylar Grey, who co-wrote Eminem’s hit “Love the Way You Lie” — is a depressive meditation on trying and failing to meet up to expectations.
“Why are expectations so high?” he begins. “Is it the bar I set, my arms outstretched, but I can’t reach? … I lose my grip like the flying trapeze, Into the dark I plummet …
“Always in search of the verse I haven’t spit yet, will this step just be another misstep?/To tarnish whatever the legacy or love or respect I’ve garnered/The ryhme has to be perfect, the delivery flawless/And it always feels like I’m hitting the markTill I go sit in the car, listen and pick it apartLike ‘This sh– is garbage”
Beyonce’s oft-repeated hook includes the lines:
“I walk on water, but I ain’t no Jesus/ I walk on water but only when it freezes,” and later cascades into the verses:
“‘Cause I’m only human, just like you/Making my mistakes, oh if you only knew/I don’t think you should believe in me the way that you do/Because I’m terrified to let you down.”
Later in the song, Em references Big Sean:
“It’s true, I’m a Rubics, a beautiful mess, at times juvenile, yes… a flawed human, I guess/
But I’m doing my best not to ruin your expectations/And meet ’em/But first the speeding verse/Now Big Sean, is he going too fast/Is he gonna shout or curse out his mom?…There was a time whem I had the world by the balls eating out of my palm/Now I’m getting clowned and frowned upon.”
The rapper is set to appear on “Saturday Night Live” Nov. 18 as the musical guest — the show is hosted by Chance the Rapper. It will be interesting to see whether he performs this song — and if Beyonce joins him for it.
The song’s title was written on a prescription note with a logo for “Revival,” which is presumably the name of his forthcoming album, which has no official release date but is expected to drop at any time between now and the end of the year. The album’s title, which was at the center of an elaborate fake advertising campaign teased by Eminem’s manager Paul Rosenberg earlier in the month, could complete Eminem’s sequence of albums referencing his admitted struggles with prescription drugs, 2009’s “Relapse” and 2010’s “Recovery.” His most recent album was 2013’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.”
Last month during the BET Hip-Hop Awards, the rapper delivered a ferocious freestyle takedown of President Trump called “Storm.”