Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel | Mariah Carey
For fans of: Whitney Houston, Leona Lewis, Alica Keys
Tracks to download: ‘H.A.T.E. U.’, ‘Standing O’, ‘Angel’s Cry’
Catering to a society that has been criticized as having a collective attention span matching that of a boll weevil, the entertainment industry—particularly its branch of music—has produced a number of artists who are constantly seeking to reinvent themselves. This has been a hugely successful tactic commercially, allowing mainstays like Madonna to go from “Ray of Light” to “American Living to Confessions on a Dance Floor.”
Then there’s Mariah Carey, the best-selling female in the world. Her album sales in the ’90s trumped those of any other artist from that decade, as her five-octave range and her Mary Poppins demeanor catapulted her to the record books and into the hearts of countless fans and critics worldwide. Then came her oft-publicized divorce from her domineering husband/boss, Tommy Mottola, whereupon she took more control over her image—both musically and physically. As her sound grew more hip-hop and her skirts got shorter, her fanbase shifted a tad, but the Hot 100 number ones (of which she now has more than any other artist except The Beatles) kept pouring in. She was on top, never to be stopped, it seemed, by anything less than a meteoric event. Which is what “Glitter” was. The movie tanked, the companion album failed and she lost her mind. Hospitalized for “exhaustion,” she slowly faded from the spotlight and into obscurity. Although she returned with the biggest sales of 2005 with “The Emancipation of Mimi,” her use of guest rappers, pop and hip-hop producers and increased sexuality since 1997’s “Butterfly” has left critics, Lambs (diehard MC fans like myself) and the general public a little nostalgic for the glory days.
“Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel,” in stores Tuesday, is that return to form. The album’s 17 tracks delve into the New York diva’s psyche more like her 20th-century efforts. No more touching her body; introspection adorns this new album. Carey rehashes the themes she’s been using constantly since her 1990 debut, but they still aren’t old because of her deeply felt songwriting and expressive vocals. The song has club bangers such as the hit “Obsessed” and the marching band anthem “Up Out My Face,” but unlike some of her previous discs’ bass heaviness, these two are as fast as Carey gets. The rest of the album’s makeup is reminiscent of the “Vision of Love” and “Always Be My Baby” days. Especially poignant: “H.A.T.E. U” (Having A Typical Emotional Upset), with its choruses capped off by signature high notes; “Standing O,” with The-Dream’s ubiquitous repetitive hook; and the regretful ballad “Angels Cry.” By the closing track (and second single), a triumphantly executed cover of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” it’s apparent that a certain someone has been heeding the advice to go back to her old style while maintaining relevance, something every artist wishes they had the ability to do as easily and successfully as Mariah Carey.