Thursday, October 01, 2009

Album Review: Mariah Carey - Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (4/5)

The winning old school R&B and modern retro pop combination that made up the most part of Mariah Carey's stunning comeback album, The Emancipation of Mimi and follow up, E=MC2 sure did work wonders for her but from the opening notes of the bitter mid-tempo opener "Betcha Gon' Know" it's blatant to see Carey's 11th album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, has taken a switch up in the formula.

"Bectha Gon' Know" is very up close and personal as Carey lashes out more rawley than ever. It's a disheartening story about an unfaithful companion as Carey addresses in the choleric lyrics: ("Somewhere down the line you'll get what you deserve, you fucking jerk") and also addresses the 'realness' of the situation as she brings the names of Oprah and Barbra Walters in the songs mid section. Fixed with lenient piano keys and a skittering bassline--it's probably Carey's most darkening hard-faced start to an album ever. The bitterness continues on the albums lead single "Obsessed" a Tricky and The-Dream produced number, hovering with consistent hand-claps and a hovering, light R&B stomp. Whether the song is indeed about rapper, Eminem will still remain a mystery as Carey continues to deny the accusations but dodgy back story aside, I've been enjoying this song for awhile now and now it's become one of my favorites on here.

After two fairly solid tracks, the album beings to slow down the pace--for the next 9 tracks to be specific, which I've noticed people who have listened to the album already haven't drawn too; accusing the next couple tracks of blandness and feeling samey, which I disagree with majorly. First up of the 9 is "H.A.T.E.U." a melodic mellowing number, finding Carey cooing softly behind an intricately produced slow jam composition. It reminds me a lot of some of her past work, notably "Bliss" from 1999s, Rainbow, with a bit more structure and solidarity--I think it also draws similarities from "Fourth of July" from 1997s, Butterfly--the album of comparison and the sparkling "Yours" from 2002s, Charmbracelet.

Following swiftly is the subdued "Candy Bling" which samples rapper, Ahmed's 1994 top 40 hit "Back in the Day." It's backed sweetly with recurring clicks, whimsical harps and Carey's softening vocal--admittedly the song doesn't amount to much as it remains remains rather flat throughout (although that didn't stop "Shake it Off" from becoming a hit). "Ribbon" is the albums first modern R&B moment, although is somewhat constrained due to Carey's habit of singing through her nose when it's not needed (that's exactly what brought down both, Rainbow and Charmbracelet).

Lenient piano keys and a pretty bassline fuel the glassy "Inseparable," "It's A Wrap" and the contemporary "Standing O" which don't really sound the album but I'll admit sound like they've been cut from the same vein. As a reviewer there should be criticisms for having three consistent tracks that sound like they've given birth to each other--but I really like these tracks a lot, "It's A Wrap" in particular, for its witty and angry lyrics: ("I know you see me calling and calling, I should crack you right in your forehead.") "Up Out My Face" is a favorite, strutting with perky piano keys and a skittering beat--sounds like it would make a great single. The song leads into "Up Out My Face (The Reprise)" which includes a band of clanging trumpets, drums and whistles and chanting of the lyric: ("Up out my face boy").

The only tracks I don't like on here are "More Than Just Friends" which just sounds like wasteful R&B and the banausic "The Impossible." The last couple tracks are great. "Angels Cry" a warming mid-90s reminiscent slow jam, finding Carey pursuing the best of her range. The interlude "Languishing" should've been made into a full song, it's really good. A stripped down vocal, clicks and piano venture. It reminds me of "Twister" from the, Glitter soundtrack and the personal, "Petals" from Rainbow.

The album closes with her cover of Foreigners "I Want to Know What Love Is," in which she incorporates the power of the choir, starting off pretty subdued as she ascends to higher heights and soars at the end where she belts and uses her whistle register, it works really nicely. I initially thought (upon the previews) Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, would be as good as, Butterfly--It's not quite as good but it's still decent and the only reason I would say I prefer it to last years E=MC2 would be because it's more my type of music.

Best: H.A.T.E.U., Obsessed, Bectcha Gon' Know, Up Out My Face, I Want to Know What Love Is, Candy Bling, Angels Cry, It's A Wrap


ww_adh said...

I'm glad you said you liked it better than E=MC2. Don't let critics' reviews (or mine) influence you--stick to your guns.

Paul said...

WEll - yeah. What ADH said :) He's a smart fella! Anyway, i've sort of made peace with the fact that I'm probably never going to love Mariah (or Whitney for that matter) as much as I did in the 90s. I approach each Mariah album with the hope that I will but once again it hasn't quite worked out :/ Still along with I Want To Know... I am REALLY enjoying Angels Cry and H.A.T.E.U. more than any Mariah singles for a while. I guess now there are always singles that I like from each album, but the albums are a bit hit and miss. For me anyway.

Anonymous said...