Throughout her two-decade career, Mariah Carey hasn’t been without flaws. She is at times a prime example of separating the artist from the art – save a few very specific career hiccups (Glitter anyone?). Spraypainting her crazy all over the walls of the music industry didn’t help either. Luckily for Mimi, her music has withstood the test of time and Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel is a continuation of that musical grace.
The Emancipation Of Mimi marked Mariah’s third career turning point. We met the first one in between Daydream and Butterfly when she discovered her sexy side – around the time rumors swelled that she’d eventually become a Bad Boy vixen (think “Honey” remix). The next came around the Glitter and Charmbracelet era, circa 2001-2002 when the slow mental decline began for Carey. While her music didn’t always reflect that breakdown, it was chock full of overzealous whistle-tones and syrupy Pop ballads that kept her relevant at a time when TRL could have permanently marred her. Then she took a spa holiday and was reinvented for 2005’s Emancipation. Both The Emancipation Of Mimi and E=MC2 honed in on Carey’s new skill-set for crafting songs that would inspire the girl who previously took a breakup a little too far, but eventually put her makeup back on and hit the club again. Now it’s a brand new Mariah. Her marriage to Nick Cannon [click to read] has left those who bet it wouldn’t last with empty pockets and she seems sublimely (and scarily) happy. So here’s the age-old Mary J. Blige question: if she’s happy then what are we left listening to?
Well, the answer can be found in her early career – more “Dreamlover” than “Vision Of Love” – when love fueled her desire to sing and not the other way around. Memoirs is an amalgam of that era mixed with the established divahood that Carey has rightfully earned. There are of course some exceptions. The gossip-kissing “Obsessed” [click to listen] along with a “Shake It Off” revamped “Up Out My Face” (plus a disastrous drum-lined reprise) show that Carey is either really smart or really naïve in thinking those songs maintain a fan-base. On the Pop side, they do, but her loyal following who now reside in the 30-40 year old age bracket might beg to differ. Memoir’s plentiful ballads are indicative of one undeniable truth: no one rocks a mid-tempo like Mariah. The opening tale “Betcha Gon Know” smooths the entrance of the album, and songs like “Candy Bling” and “The Impossible” keep the momentum going throughout. An attempted whistle-tone at the close of “H.A.T.E.U.” doesn’t necessarily indicate that Carey’s pipes are rusting, but perhaps she’s succeeding more with less blustery vocals these days. The album closes with a near-perfect cover of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” that brings you right back to the moment you first heard “Hero” and knew that Carey wasn’t leaving anytime soon. It’s apparent she still isn’t, “imperfect angel” and all, and we’re quite all right with that.