Release Date: May 27, 2014
Record label: Def Jam
Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Pop/Rock, Adult Contemporary R&B, Contemporary R&B
Mariah Carey became a star thanks to power ballads showcasing her five-octave range. But over the past 15 years, her best material has been high-end R&B bursting with multi-tracked vocal work that used her playful runs and ad libs as tripped-out textures. That approach, combined with a breezy mix of gospel balladry (Cry), grimy beats (Meteoite, Dedicated), 70s funk and disco (Make It Look Good, You Don't Know What To Do) and bassy R&B (Thirsty, Faded), makes the pop diva's 14th release a fun and consistently surprising record.
Mariah got the memo. For her first pop album in five years — housed under the diva-like title "Me. I Am Mariah....The Elusive Chanteuse" — the star needed to heed the warning of her disastrous last work. And she has.. That disc, 2009's "Memoir of an Imperfect Angel," became the worst selling ….
Every pop star must, at some point, confront career mortality. For some, the end comes suddenly and without warning, while others experience a slow, bewildering decline into mediocrity. After two decades of nearly uninterrupted chart dominance, one figures that Mariah Carey has spent some of the last year dwelling on the end of her reign. Her 13th album, Me.
Mariah Carey's first proper album since 2009 is a couple covers away from being as nostalgic as the Glitter soundtrack. Its title -- well, the part that precedes the ellipses -- is taken from a self-portrait, reproduced on the back, drawn at the age of three and a half. "I'll just sit right here and sing that good old school shit to ya," she sings on "Dedicated," a song seasoned with a Wu-Tang sample, a Nas throwback verse, and reminiscent chatter.
So. Here it is: Mariah’s New Album. (I’m pretty sure you’ll get what I just did there.) I never have high hopes for a Mariah album. That’s not because she can’t sing or because she can’t do a great album. It’s because there is always a point in every single Mariah album post-2000 ….
On Mariah Carey's 14th studio album, stylistic cohesion is as elusive as the chanteuse herself. Here, R&B is less a static genre than a way to combine the best bits of hip-hop, disco and gospel. Highlights like the Wale-assisted dance jam "You Don't Know What to Do" and "Make It Look Good," where Carey glides over a warm beat reminiscent of Kanye West's soul-looping Chicago days, often raid two of three.
The more Mariah Carey promises to serve the truth straight up, the more crazy she reveals. And the more crazy she promises, the more unnervingly straightforward she becomes. Both phenomena were illustrated in her two most recent albums, Merry Christmas II You and Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. Her holiday set aimed to slot comfortably alongside its MOR Christmas predecessor, but in doing so exposed Carey's intrepidly regressive nature.
"Best thing to happen to your ass was me," sings Mariah Carey on the track Thirsty, inviting you to applaud her heroic self-belief. That quality permeates her 13th studio album, from the fabulously solipsistic title to her confidence as she outdazzles guests Nas, Miguel and even Stevie Wonder. Sure, Wonder can play a joyous harmonica – which he does on Make It Look Good – but can he trill and soar with Carey's offhand elegance? The indifferent commercial performance of her last album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, has left her grandiosity undented – as ever, Carey is often wildly overblown (see, in particular, Cry), but there's a magnificence to the way her voice nearly bursts its banks, then reins itself back to quiet-storm mode.
Five years since Mariah Carey released an LP, the diva returns with her 13th studio album. The familiar vocal theatrics are present, as is a breathtakingly egotistical album title. But there’s something that isn’t sitting right with this album. It seems confused. Even in its inception Me. I Am ….
The music on Mariah Carey's new album "Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse" would be hard pressed to follow the inscrutable splendor of its title. But take her word for it — this record really is enjoyably elusive. No one doubts Carey's ability as a belter, but now she's cut a perfectly modest, sonically contemporary album without any need to show off her glass-shattering range.
On her first new album in six years, Mariah Carey may be slightly confused about the definition of “elusive” — she wasn’t exactly in hiding on “American Idol” — but she has a good grasp on crafting songs that should appeal to different factions of her fanbase. Under the guiding hand of old buddy, producer Jermaine Dupri and help from a cavalcade of friends — including rappers Nas and Wale, soul crooner Miguel, and Stevie Wonder pitching in on harmonica — “Me. I Am Mariah.
Having watched the evolution of Mariah Carey’s 14th studio album over the course of a painstaking three years – during which the cover art, title, release dates and numerous collaboration rumours have been leaked, confirmed and retracted – it’s difficult to know what the chanteuse’s fans might have expected from the record itself. Finally listening to Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse in its entirety, it’s tough to tell exactly what Carey expected to achieve with it, too.
opinion bySAMUEL TOLZMANN < @scatlint > Everything about this album’s title is ridiculous, including the fact that it has so many parts to it that the phrase “everything about” is actually warranted. Where does it slide into absurdity? The first period or the ellipsis? The statement of the obvious? Mimi’s definitely done herself in before she misguidedly calls herself “elusive” (?) or a “chanteuse” (??). There on the cover of the album, framing a thoroughly airbrushed Mariah Carey against a CGI sunset, her scanty garment seashell-like enough to suggest a potential (Gaga-aping?) nod to Botticelli’s Birth Of Venus, a title like Me.