Eminem is gearing up for the release of his second greatest hits compilation, Curtain Call 2, which will feature 34 tracks from the past 13 years of his career. It’s a follow-up to the original Curtain Call, released in 2005, which covered the first 13 years of his career (not including his pre-Aftermath/Interscope work, which included underground collaborations with Rawkus Records and his independently-released album Infinite). Does anyone sense a pattern developing here?
But as with any project touting all of an artist’s greatest hits, Curtain Call 2‘s impending release begs the question: What exactly constitutes their “greatest” hits, anyway? In this case, we see entries such as “Berzerk,” “Godzilla,” “Lucky You,” “The Monster,” “Venom,” — and even “Walk On Water,” which is a pretty iffy selection considering its initial reception on release. Since we already know which songs Eminem considers to be his “greatest” hits — at least according to the album’s tracklist — let’s break them down by album and see which ones actually deserve that title.
2009 — Relapse
Hits: “3 a.m.,” “Beautiful,” and “Crack A Bottle” featuring 50 Cent and Dr. Dre. According to Billboard, “Crack A Bottle” is the real winner here. As the lead single from Eminem’s first “comeback” album, it broke the first-week digital sales record with 418,000 downloads, topping the Hot 100 chart. It was only his second single to do so after “Lose Yourself.”
2010 — Recovery
Hits: “Cinderella Man,” “Love The Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna, “No Love” featuring Lil Wayne. “Not Afraid,” “Space Bound,” “Won’t Back Down” feat. Pink, and “You’re Never Over.” This one’s obvious. While Recovery produced the most hits in Em’s recent catalog, “Love The Way You Lie” is objectively one of Eminem’s most popular songs ever thanks to the emotive chorus penned by Skylar Grey and sung by Rihanna. It’s Em’s best-selling single, moving over 12 million copies in the US alone. It was a massive smash and led to Eminem attempting to recapture the magic with “Won’t Back Down” from this album (nah) and “The Monster” from his next album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2.
2013 — The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Hits: “Berzerk,” “Headlights” featuring Nate Reuss, “The Monster” featuring Rihanna, “Rap God,” and “Survival.” Speaking of, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 was Eminem’s attempt to go back to basics after the critically well-received Recovery alienated some fans of his earlier work (leading to his current string of reactive records that tries to course-correct on the critical reception of its predecessors). Nevertheless, despite “Rap God” meeting those fans’ expectations, the best-received song from the album was still the Rihanna redux “The Monster,” which again peaked at No. 1 on the Hot 100.
2017 — Revival
Hits: “Nowhere Fast,” featuring Kehlani, “River” featuring Ed Sheeran, and “Walk On Water” featuring Beyonce. As one of Eminem’s worst-received albums, it’s no surprise that this one only owns three of the records that appear on Curtain Call 2. They’re also Em’s weakest singles, dipping into the pop-ballad well that worked so well with Rihanna one too many times, with too many artists who were just bad fits in retrospect. “River” was technically the most fruitful of them, rising to No. 11 on the Hot 100 and sparking a creative partnership between the two artists that continues to produce to this day.
2018 — Kamikaze
Hits: “Fall,” “Lucky You” featuring Joyner Lucas, and “Venom.” Em’s rampaging follow-up to Revival was better received — at least by his fans — but still only produced three singles. While they were all technically “hits” on the strength of their streaming, “Lucky You” turned out to be most popular, climbing to No. 6 on the Hot 100 and launching Massachusetts rapper Joyner Lucas to a new plateau of stardom. Still, the meme-ready “Venom” is probably the single with the most lasting impact, appearing in the Sony film of the same name and becoming a go-to sound on TikTok four years later.
2020 — Music To Be Murdered By
Hits: “Darkness,” “Farewell,” “Gnat,” “Godzilla” featuring Juice WRLD, and “Higher.” As Em’s latest album, this one probably benefits from recency bias. It’s got five entries on Curtain Call 2 but in its defense, they were some of Em’s better recent singles. “Godzilla”‘s the clear standout; aside from charting the highest at No. 6 on the Hot 100, it has the benefit of a viral challenge without the drawback of a distasteful reenactment of a national tragedy. It also boosted the visibility of the late Juice WRLD, making it a bit more likable.
Curtain Call 2 is due 8/5 on Aftermath/Interscope/Shady Records.