Review: Mariah Carey’s ‘Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel’

09.28.09 8 years ago

AP Photo/Charles Sykes

On “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel,”  Mariah Carey takes love and examines  it through various prisms–obsession, desire, fulfillment, bliss, heartbreak and regret.

Hear it here.

While it’s not a concept album, so to speak,  love’s exaltations and its ruins provide slow jam after slow jam.

Preferring to work with only two producers —  Tricky Stewart and The-Dream-here instead of her usual coterie has provided Carey with a cohesiveness on “Memoirs” that sometimes borders on a musical sameness but otherwise provides a nice sense of continuity in our increasingly singles-driven world.  Most songs, other than the remake of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” and first single “Obsessed”  fall squarely into R&B mid-tempo rhythms.  

Opening “Betcha Gon Know (the prologue)” sets up the album’s overall feel of duplicity and disillusionment and its insinuating, low-key rhythm delivers a hypnotic groove that eases into the rest of the project.

Even a song with the title “H.A.T.E. U.” is hardly the rant the name would lead one to believe it might be. Instead of some vitriolic tirade, it’s a bittersweet ballad about how Carey can’t wait to get to the point where the pain and love transitions to hate so she can breathe again.  

An old school feel seeps through many of the tracks, especially on “It’s a Wrap,”  on which recalls Candi Staton. Carey sounds contemporary, but unlike  on “E=MC2,” “Memoirs” has no feeling of being forced to sound hip or salacious just for salaciousness’s sake like on “E’s” “Touch My Body.”  She’s 39-and while she told USA Today that she no longer has birthdays, she has “anniversaries”-she sounds refreshingly like an adult and not someone who wishes she were 22 again. There’s a confidence here that, mixed with the vocal vulnerability expressed on some of the tracks, is very appealing.

A few of the songs also feature a fine-tuned sense of humor-which is not a trait most would attribute to Carey. On “Standing O,” she sarcastically sings about a former lover being “the man of the hour/I have to send you some flowers” for making her believe he loved her when he did not.

Love for the newlywed-she and Nick Cannon have been married for just over a year now– does have its high points, such as on “Ribbon,” one of the song’s unabashedly positive love songs, and on “Inseparable,” which boasts Carey’s strongest vocal on the album. It is also the one where she most recalls one of her musical heroes, the late Minnie Ripperton. The layered, finger-snapping duet “My Love” is an inside look at a couple’s sweet secret passion.

But that feeling is fleeting. On “It’s a Wrap,”  love has already forsaken her.

To Carey’s credit, even though she may be blissfully happy now, she sells heartache like it’s going out of style on many of these tracks.  Plus, she keeps the histrionics at bay. Oh, she can still trot out that five-octave range when she wants to, but she’s more selective which makes it all the more effective when she does reach for the rafters.

There is also a bonus disc that includes some remixes and videos, plus a 34-page booklet that features some advertising. As record companies strive to find ways to monetize recordings, we can expect more of the same. Or as Brad Paisley sings, “Welcome to the future.”

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