Marshall Mathers III – better known as Eminem – is no stranger to shocking audiences with his music. With Walk on Water, the first single from his forthcoming ninth studio album Revival, the shock isn’t due to aggressive beats and in-your-face lyrics, but rather the complete opposite.
Setting aside the involvement of Queen Bey for a moment, Walk on Water is striking for its melancholic piano, subtle – if clichéd – strings, and plaintive and introspective lyrics. Beyoncé’s soulful vocals open the song on the chorus, and her voice counterpoints Mathers’ tonality nicely, especially as his early verses showcase a deeper, rawer timbre to his voice.
As the song progresses, and Mathers’ explores perfectionism, the pressures of being a public figure, drug addiction, self-doubt, and defiance, anger builds in his delivery but fails to crest until the songs coda. While the early vocals feel direct and authentic, free of studio polish and artifice as if the man is sitting there in person before the listener, the delivery begins to take on an “in character” quality as the track approaches its conclusion, so don’t be surprised if this song opens Revival.
Walk on Water owes much to the song-writing and production of Skylar Grey, and even without the drawcard of Beyoncé’s singing, it seems likely that the song would remain a cross-over hit. It doesn’t seem likely that Revival will be an album of Walk on Waters, but if the mentality and vision that informed the song flows through the album then it should make for a worthwhile listen.