“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Do it now.” —Paulo Coelho
Every song has a story. Even in this sea of musical saturation, each creation is embedded with untold secrets hidden beneath what is publicly heard. We listen unbeknownst to what took place before the song reaches our ears.
Eminem’s “Revival (Interlude),” featured on his new album, Revival, is 51 seconds in length. From start to finish, there are no raps performed. In fact, Em is completely absent on the song. Instead, listeners are greeted by tender keys and the sound of whistling―bare production stripped down enough to work at King of Diamonds. A woman’s voice comes next, uncredited and unknown. There’s beauty in her soft tone and how it glides over the gentle keys, tranquil as the whooshing sea heard within a seashell. Just as the song begins to crescendo, it ends.
The meaning of “Revival (Interlude)” and how it ties into Revival the album is up for speculation. Eminem has yet to share his vision for the record and its diminutive length. But the song is close to the hearts of Frequency and Aalias—the production duo behind Eminem and Rihanna's GRAMMY Award-winning hit "The Monster"—who now collaborate under pseudonym Whole Doubts. Together, the pair worked with Alice and the Glass Lake, the stage name of Alicia Lemke, the late musician, singer, and songwriter whose voice brings enchanting serenity to “Revival (Interlude).” In 2015, two years before the release of Revival, Alicia passed away due to complications from leukemia.
Death arrived at her doorstep before she knew her voice would find a home on the album.
In spring 2013, six months before the release of The Marshall Mathews LP 2 and "The Monster," Frequency and Aalias were on a mission: score two placements on Em’s eighth studio album. Inspired by Regina Spektor’s “Human of the Year,” Frequency, Aalias, and Alice entered the studio together to write a song sampling the melody but with entirely new lyrics. “They already had 'The Monster' on hold so I [thought], 'If he likes "The Monster" then this [song] will fit in with what he’s doing,'” Frequency recalled, walking me through the initial mindset that led them to send Eminem a record entitled “Revival.”
"The track itself is an interpolation of a Regina Spektor song. I was watching this HBO show called 'Enlightenment,' which has since been canceled, but the Regina Spektor song was on the TV show. I remember hearing the melody of it, and thinking, 'This is really, really fucking cool.' I feel like it would be a perfect kind of Eminem thing." —Frequency
Frequency’s intuition was precise. A return email from Paul Rosenberg, Eminem's manager, was positive, and he requested that they hold the record and not pass along the beat, which was close to the version that can be heard on Revival but formatted for someone to rap over at that point. Frequency says this is perfectly normal protocol, nothing out of the ordinary.
Fast forward to late October 2013, "The Monster" is released as a single. One week later, MMLP2 comes out, but there is no sign of "Revival." One year later, Shady Records drops Shady XV, a double-disc compilation album featuring 12 new songs—again no placement. Nearly eight months later, Shady Records releases the official motion picture soundtrack for Southpaw, with four appearances by Eminem—still no placement. This entire time, Rosenberg remained in touch.
"Every time a new project came out, they would tell us, 'It won’t be on this one, but don’t send it to anybody else.' They never said, ‘No we don’t want it.’ Maybe two years after 'Marshall Mathers LP 2' came out, Paul had hit me up saying that Em was really interested in this, but he was wondering if you could update it a little bit, production-wise. To keep the chorus the same but change some of the drum sounds, maybe the pattern." —Frequency
During this extended period of waiting, Whole Doubts continued working on new music. Together, they crafted songs for Bebe Rexha and Melanie Martinez. Frequency’s solo productions evolved from his roots in hip-hop to pop/rock projects—producing the debut album for Misterwives, working with American Authors, Adam Lambert and more—while Aalias turned his attention to alt-R&B and electronic music, producing “Middle” with DJ Snake, as well as records for Robin Schulz, Ro James and others. Indeed, one beat placement doesn’t stop the show. Tragically, during this time, Alicia is diagnosed with leukemia. Treatment halted the creation of her debut album, and though she worked with Frequency less, she stayed in touch and continued to inquire about their potential placement with Eminem. After her passing, Alicia’s family worked together to complete and release her 2016 posthumous debut, Chimaera.
Six months before the release of Revival (the album) and four years after the song’s initial conception, Frequency is asked to send over the stems for the beat. Everything is secretive. Several months go by without any confirmation, but as Revival ads begin to surface, the pair can't contain their excitement knowing their record is also titled “Revival.”
“We were like, 'Okay, this is pretty interesting.'” Frequency says. “We just kinda assumed at that point it was definitely going to be on the album and maybe even play a larger part of what the album was about. Maybe the first single.”
A week or two before the album is released, Frequency and Aalias are informed that "Revival" made the cut—as an interlude. They hear that Eminem may have written verses for the song but isn't pleased with the final result. Rumors circulate that he may release a full version at a later date.
With their heads held high, Frequency and Aalias remain positive, finding honor in their interlude as a respectful homage to Alicia. Em knew of her passing, kept her vocals untouched, and gave them a home on the album. He gave her voice a chance to stand alone, shining without him. She may have passed away before the release, but in its own way, the song revives her, if only for 51 seconds.
"Working with her, I feel like she was one of the most deeply unique musical people that I got a chance to work with. A really unique, melodic, and lyrical perspective. It was really interesting working with her and the special session that came from 'Revival.'" —Aalias
Aalias is a man of few words but spoke proudly when talking about his friend and collaborator. Frequency agreed, adding: “Alicia was a real person and a really special person. She kind of had this spiritual energy about her. I think that’s the best way to describe it. We did the song with her, we were close friends with her, and all of that is wrapped up in that song.”
The patience exuded by the main players in this story isn’t new. In fact, it's required. Waiting to see the destiny of a song fulfilled, without control over the final product, is a common circumstance in the music industry. Eminem is a creator, he moves to the beat of his own drum and has a vision for his albums. The story behind "Revival (Interlude")" is just another example of the dynamic and often confusing intersection between rapper and producer. As Frequency reiterated, “It happens all the time where people ask you to hold things. I guess it really depends on how real you think the hold is and how much you care to hold it for a person.”
Frequency and Aalias are understanding participants in an unpredictable business. Their story shows the spirit of perseverance and following through on a promise until the very end. They always believed in the song's potential and still believe that a version featuring Em rapping would be special. Fans on Twitter and Reddit have expressed a yearning for a full edition; if their desires reach Shady who knows what could happen.
For anyone pursuing a career in any field of entertainment, the word "fair" is nonexistent. Fairness will not be encountered. While some may say that Frequency and Aalias deserved more for the patience they exhibited, they consider the opportunity to work with Eminem as life-changing. Sometimes you’ll be the hit single, other times you’ll appear only as an interlude. Both are just moments leading to the next creation. In the end, they are grateful that “Revival” saw the light of day and that the world was able to hear the song they created with Alice and the Glass Lake five years ago—even if it’s just 51 seconds of it.
Frequency and Aalias continue to crank out new records. Their debut single as Whole Doubts—“Leave” featuring Kevin Garrett—premiered in November, and a new collaboration with singer/songwriter DYLN is scheduled for a February release. And they're certain that, if she was here, Alicia would be in the studio with them, chasing inspiration with a new vision of what could be.
By Yoh, aka Whole Yohnuts, aka @Yoh31