Album review: Mariah Carey - Memoirs of an imperfect angel

Mariah Carey - Memoirs of an imperfect angel | Random J Pop

When it comes to Mariah's albums, it's difficult to be surprised. Because as excited as you get as a fan and a music lover, you know what you're going to be getting with every release. And whilst Memoirs of an imperfect angel bucks the trend of featuring three Mariah's on the cover (to show different sides of her, which all look exactly the same), being produced entirely by the much in demand production and song writing duo: Tricky Stewart and The Dream, and being touted as "very personal" - it's honestly just Mariah doin' Mariah how Mariah always do. Which contrary to popular belief, isn't that much of a bad thing.

Mariah is that chick (see what I did there!) that loves her a bit of hip-hop and a beat that can knock. So it's no surprise Memoirs features quite a few up-tempo's. Many of them rolling out from the start. We've all heard "Obsessed". The song was fine for what it was when it was a single. But on the album, it's 100% forgettable. It is not a song you'll ever play. It's "Migrate" with more auto-tune, no T-Pain, less fanga snaps, a beat that doesn't go anywhere and a set of lyrics that get old real quick. "Ribbon" is a really cool song once it actually starts and The Dream stops yelling his "Radio killa! Eat it up like Gorilla!" nonsense. I'm just going to assume he's the radio killa as well as the Gorilla. (N***a certainly looks like one). "Ribbon" isn't a song that'll have you goin' crazy. Mariah doesn't stand out all that much on it. The production smothers her like a pillow, and the pitched down vocals on the chorus are pretty dominant. But it has that hard knocking, yet laid back feel that'd have it do well on radio if it ever were to be released - particularly in the summer. It's a nice song. Plain and simple. "Standing O" was a song I didn't think much of at first. It doesn't have a great deal to rope you in initially, but it is a grower. Could have done with a rapper though. As with "More than just friends", "Standing O" is one of them growers that also could have done with a rapper. The lyrics are funny, but pretty stupid. Hearing a 40 year old woman brag to her man how she knows he wants to "hit it like the lotto" and that she feens for her man like McDonald's fries is enough to make you cringe. But then again, this is Mariah: the woman who is eternally 12. With songs featuring lyrics like this one, who would argue!? Although Mariah may want to have words with her 12 year old self about conjuring up lines about getting hit like the lotto. That's a can of worms that should be welded shut. Along with her legs by the sound of things. "Up out my face" is all killer, no filler. Think "Shake it off" taken to the next level. The song knocks HARD and has Mariah delivering some genuinely funny and quirky one liners. The deal about two lego blocks in the hall of Harvard university and the graduating class of 2010 is definitely memorable. The whole song is essentially just Mariah having a good old laugh.

Every release since The emancipation of Mimi has opted for mellow numbers in place of what would have been ballads on earlier albums. But for the first time since Charmbracelet, Mariah brings some R&B slow jams to the mix. Memoirs' slow jams are all hot from a production point of view, but a couple of them are severely flawed by Mariah herself. "Candy bling" and "The impossible" have beats that could not knock any more correctly and are near perfection. But the songs as wholes aren't as sexy as they could be, or are trying to be. Mariah's eternally 12 year old self emerges for "Candy bling". The song name alone is a mess. Made more of a mess when you listen to the song and wonder why she didn't call the song "I still remember" or "Back in the day". The song is nice and the "Back in the day we were in love, we're not in love anymore. But some days, I sit and wish we were allowed to go..." hook is incredibly catchy. But some of the lyrics do make you wonder. "The impossible" is a complete throwback to the music of groups such as Jodeci and Blackstreet. Knocking bass lines, guitars, talk box vocals and a bucket full of sex. The beat is throwback R&B at it's finest. But again, 12 year old Mimi emerges to scribble her nonsense again. Here we have Mariah sing how she loves a dude like a freeze pop and a milkshake. What is it with this woman and her damn food!? The lyrics don't make me wanna get down 'n sexy as much as it does make me wanna go to McDonald's and order large fries, a McFlurry and a strawberry milkshake. Another issue I have to take up with Mariah on these slow jams are her vocals. She really does not sound sexy. Her speaking voice is really sexy (I love the husk), but her singing voice isn't. So hearing Mariah's not-that-sexy voice singing un-sexy, juvenile lyrics over beats which are full on sex creates a wierd juxtaposition. It also doesn't help that she does that whisper-mumbling bullshit that not only grates after a while, but makes many lines of the songs difficult to make out. Especially when her mumbles are layered, reverbed and filtered on top of one another. The songs are still hot. But I just wish more went into them vocally and lyrically. "Inseparable" is crack. Not much to say on the song other than everything is spot-on. The lyrics are your typical 'Oh shit, we just broke up and I can't forget about you'. The song lyrics are pretty much "We belong together" part 2. But I won't knock the song for it, because I love "Inseparable" and the song is too good to hate on. The albums opening track "Bet'cha gon' know" is an rather candid song which has Mariah sounding like she's actually seething and wants a n***a X'd out! Not my favourite song on the album. But it is one of the very few moments on the album where Mariah drops the facade and you get that personal shit she was on about when she plugged the album. Those who liked her E=MC² cut "Side effects" will probably like this song. But only on the albums' defining cut "H.A.T.E.U" does Mariah come with some lyrical substance on a slow jam that actually draws you in and strikes a chord. It's a brilliant song, and an album highlight which would do well as a single. It's already a unanimous album fave for many, and on a first listen it is easy to understand why. It's almost perfect. A little too much so.

Mariah took the huge risk of working exclusively with Tricky Stewart and The Dream. I was worried when I heard this was the case. But funnily enough, it pays off. Tricky Stewart is a complete Chameleon when it comes to his production style. He has an amazing knack for making songs fit an artist and not imposing a particular style onto them. Every song on the album sounds very much like a Mariah song, with Tricky twists - which is a testament to how good a producer he is. The Dream's song writing is a hit and miss affair. There are many lines and songs on the album that channel The Dream a little too strongly; to the point where Mariah's almost like his puppet. "More than just friends" is The Dream through and through. He does a great job of allowing Mariah to show less restraint and play with her words a little. You can definitely tell they had a blast writing together. But sometimes The Dream gets too much reign on songs, and overall the lyrics on the album aren't pushed enough, and are your typical Radio killa tripe as a result. The most telling and candid song on the album is probably "Obsessed". Yes. Honestly! Even more so than "H.A.T.E.U".

Memoirs of an imperfect angel runs through nicely. The album has a distinct mellow vibe to it which is more in line with Charmbracelet than Butterfly (the album this is supposed to be an ode to). The track order is perfect. Every song flows nicely into the next. Not just in terms of sound, but also song subject. We go from heartbreak, to reminiscing about a love, a love going to shit, to falling in love again at the very end. The album really does flow nicely, and is something you're immediately aware of when you play the album right the way through. Mariah brings back the interludes and reprises, which pads the album out unnecessarily and have you hating on Mariah. Why the hate? Because the interludes and reprises feature music so good that they should have been made into full length songs and replaced some of the full tracks. "Languishing (Interlude)" is beautiful - sounding like a fusion of the "Rainbow (Interlude)" and the song "Petals" from the Rainbow album. The "Angels (Prelude)" features a backdrop much better than than of it's full song counterpart "Angels cry". And "The impossible (Reprise)" drops a beat that should have been fleshed out into a full song.

Mariah's vocals aren't what they used to be. You can hear the effort she has to put into really pushing the big notes. But she's still got it. There is a greater emphasis on vocal layering and effects on this album - much more so than E=MC². Whilst the auto-tune spreads no further than "Obsessed", the vocal trickery is just as much evident on every other track on the album. Songs such as "Up out my face" and "H.A.T.E.U" have Mariah's vocal super layered, filtered, delayed and reverbed to the max. It makes for really tight, textured and nicely rounded songs. It certainly is nice to hear Mariah's post vocal production stepped up a notch. But sometimes it does feel overdone. Mariah also tends to follow that age old template she's followed for years, which is: 3 minutes of regular singing / whispering, and then belts, big notes on the final run of a chorus before the song fades. It was old four albums ago and it's still old now. There is no gradual build to the belts. We all know Mariah can pull out big notes, so we don't need proof of it on every song. It's okay to just sing on a song and not belt. Especially when the belts aren't that amazing anyway, and on the occasions she does pull something amazing out of the bag: the song's already fading! (I'm looking at'choo "I wanna know what love is"!)

Memoirs of an imperfect angel is a good album. It's one you don't really appreciate until you listen to it all the way through. The production is tight and varied. Mariah sounds good. The sound is consistent. Whilst this album won't garner Mariah any new fans or break records, it is a worthy addition to her discography - and an album which will probabaly get more spins out of fans than E=MC². Memoirs of an imperfect angel is a solid body of work. Just not the kind that will blow you away.


Album highlights:
■ Bet'cha gon' know (Prologue)
■ H.A.T.E.U
■ Candy bling ★ J's fave
■ Inseparable
■ It's a wrap
■ Up out my face
■ Up out my face (Reprise)
■ The impossible
■ Languishing (Interlude)

2 comments:

  1. Interesting! Now I want to hear "Memoirs of an imperfect Angel" album myself. Not a big Mariah fan but enjoyed her emancipation of Mimi album. I enjoyed reading the review, very funny.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks! :D

    This album is good. Actually, it's really good. It's one of most consistent albums. It's just not that big, amazing album that I think many wanted from her right now.

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