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Mariah Carey, "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" (Island) [1.5 OUT OF 4 STARS]

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"You a mom and pop; I'm a corporation," Mariah Carey sings on "Obsessed," the groovy ode to a stalker that's been released as the first single from her 12th album. Ostensibly a dis of Eminem, who's been taking shots at her on his last few discs, it's actually an apt statement for her entire career, which is more often lauded in terms of sales--160 million albums sold worldwide, the best-selling female performer of the '90s, recipient of an $80 million mega-deal with Virgin Records that was the biggest record contract ever, etc.--than artistic accomplishments. Now we can add the crass marketing of her new disc, which finds the CD packaged with a 34-page insert crafted with Elle magazine featuring ads from upscale fashion, champagne, jewelry and tourism brands.

"The idea was really simple thinking: 'We sell millions of records, so you should advertise with us,'" said Antonio "L.A." Reid, chairman of Carey's current label, Island/Def Jam. In other words, the star with the infamous five-octave range essentially is a commodity, so why not use her to sell other products besides her recordings?

Carey's boosters in the media (Elle included, of course) and the legions of self-professed "lambs" who comprise her fan base are hailing "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" as a return to her R&B roots and a move away from the transparent and base attempts to score street cred and appeal to the teeny-boppers with a more hip-hop-oriented sound on "The Emancipation of Mimi" (her 2005 comeback after a series of flops and a much-publicized personal meltdown early in the new millennium) and "E=MC2" (her last release in 2008). This is true to a point: Working with producers the Dream and Tricky Stewart, the once again happily married Mrs. Nick Cannon delivers an overall smoother sound this time, much heavier on brash ballads and genteel slow jams than dance-floor groovers, with the first single a notable exception.

But to consider this a great R&B record requires one to think of the likes of her favorites Jodeci as the pinnacle of the genre, because the fussy, soulless, airless vibe that dominates the album doesn't have much to do with true R&B greats from Aretha Franklin to Erykah Badu. Carey's former and present chart rival Whitney Houston actually comes closer to tapping that storied vein on her latest.

Though the 39-year-old Carey boasts of distinguishing herself from other divas by being the driving force behind writing her own songs--unlike Houston--that isn't necessarily something to be proud of, given the predominance of saccharine melodies and clich├ęd true-romance lyrics. "We would walk in the park every Saturday/Brand new, all in love, kissing time away/You was all up on me, it was plain to see/That I was your girl," she coos in "Candy Bling." Yet even that dreck is better than her choice in covers here: a version of the hoary FM-rock radio staple "I Want to Know What Love Is" that strips away almost everything but piano and vocals but still manages to sound more bombastic, phony and over-produced than the Foreigner original.

Through it all, as usual, Carey over-sings at every opportunity, needlessly trilling up and down the scales as if we needed one more reminder of why she's the favorite virtuoso of the "American Idol" crowd substituting skill for soul. Eminem isn't right about much, but he's spot on when it comes to dismissing this butterfly.

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32 Comments

Wow, Jim is quite a bitter queen--obvious by this review. There are a multitude of contradictions in this review, as well as dramatic opinions with empty support. With degrading writing and obviously bias remarks, it is obvious this reviewer was not a Mariah Carey fan before listening to her latest offering. As other reviews state, Mariah actually tones it down this time around, much less "over-sing[ing]" and "trilling" as this reviewer claims. And on a personal note, the stripped down version of "I Want To Know What Love Is" showcases some of Carey's best work of this decade.

My advice, get off the anti-Mariah Carey bandwagon, put on a smile on your face, and appreciate that the best selling female singer of all time is still singing, writing, and producing the music she wants to do and finding success with it 20 years into her career (Madonna, Whitney, and any other one of her 90s' peers cannot say the same for any part of that statement).

Mariah Jumped the Shark on her last album, but here, she jumped the Grand Canyon! It just feels like one BIG advertisement, not in vain to any musical artistry. Autotune, boring melodies, it just makes you wanna hurl. Mariah appeals to tweens and teens, not her main 20- and 30 something audience! That's why I prefer Whitney Houston. Sure, her voice is much more raspy and restrained, but the lyrics have much more feeling, and feels much more down-to earth. Barbra Streisand is what I'll be buying next week (a well-established legend and in many musical history books.)

First listen the album, then speak. U clearly have no idea what you're talking about. Oh and get a mirror and do something with um your face.

THIS ALBUM GETS 4 OUT 5 STARS IN MY OPINION. EVERYONE GO OUT AND BUY THE CD! SUPPORT THE BEST SELLING FEMALE ARTIST OF ALL TIME. THIS IS A GREAT SLOWJAMS RECORD AND HATEU IS MY FAVORITE OFF THE ALBUM.

Good lord. Lambs come out in full force any time anyone says anything not flattering about this vapid, braindead retard.

Right, so first I read the "review" and then I noticed the most unfortunate pic in the right hand corner. I'm not sure I'll be taking musical advice from this guy. Sorry.

Half of this review describes the CD booklet and related advertising. What a missed opportunity to discuss the fact that there are some truly beautiful songs on this album.

Mariah has been wasting her exceptional instrument on this tedious tripe for some time now. Thanks, but give me "Love is the Answer" by Babs anyday. Even Whitney, though a far cry from what she once was, still pulls off a better set than this.

Jim, spend some time on the music. The music is good. its definitely a 4 out of 5. Stop attacking the person. You're just butter and fat, I meant bitter, lol. And to end with Eminem shows what a pig you are. She dissed him remember and he cant let go, you hack! would that he would move on with his Obsessed life so that she does not have to defend herself. so what about the booklet. Whatever.

I have to agree with this review. I heard a leak of this album and it's nowhere near as good as Mariah's earlier work. She used to have a strong voice. Now she either whispers or screeches.

There isn't one good song on this album! Seriously!

Maybe Ms. DeRogatis is a bit jealous that he can't pull off that look that Mariah does on the cover

lol this man is ugleee hes stupid with his review lmao

Her album is utter TRASH! A score of 0 would even suffice. She's ridiculous and her music is a JOKE!!!

i should CRACK you right on ya forehead.

lol I agree with Amy and Wowzer on this one. The album was impressive, such a step forward from her last album she definitely returns to her R&B roots with this one and does a fantastic job at recreating the magic of her earlier work such as Butterfly, this album is very reminiscent of that album fans looking for some good slow jams should definitely give it a listen. Others looking for a more pop-ish sound keep on walking this album is definitely not for you. 4.5 out of 5 stars for me.

and I'm sure you know all about soul.

I love Old School Mariah but she's either whispering or using her whistle on this album which are the 2 things I find the most annoying. The songs all run together and there are few memorable moments. I rather have Whitney Houston's I Look To You at 50% her former glory then this Mariah album. At least Whitney still had great tone and songs like Salute, Call You Tonight and For the Lovers are memorable. I listened to this entire Mariah album and couldn't remember any of the songs after.

Seriously, this woman must have left a serious impression on people because the folks that hate her go out of their way to try and downplay her talent. She's either oversinging or undersinging, she's either too commercial pop or trying too hard to be hip-hop. She gives you schmaltzy ballads circa Musicbox you want something more raw. She gives you grit and honesty on Butterfly, she must be losing her voice because every song isn't a ballad. She works with a plethora of producers and she's "scrambling for hits," she works with a handful of producers and the album is "too boring." It's simply laughable. Clearly, these people were, at one time, serious fans of Mariah and because they prefer adult contemporary to R&B (which is fine, just own up to it!) they choose to sling mud at her later efforts. At the end of the day, she has made history whether you like it or not. And stop harping on how her "earlier work is better" and how you "miss old Mariah." It's 2009, in case you hadn't noticed. You like old Mariah, go listen to Emotions and shut the eff up. It's not 1992 anymore. Welcome to 20 years later.

This album it's a true good effort. I'm giving it 4 stars (of 5). There are really good songs on it, like Angels Cry, Betcha Gon' known, Obsessed, H.A.T.E.U., Languishing and I want to know what love is. Is a very intimate album, that should be a MUST buy this summer.

I've listened to the entire album, and surprise surprise, I disagree with almost every critical review. What critics are incapable of doing is approaching a Mariah Carey album in the right way. After 20 years, they still haven't learnt what to expect from her and how to listen to it. One man's "cliched lyrics" are another's truest thoughts and emotions. What critics seem to think is that we should be embarassed for feeling a certain way, and even more so for telling someone else about it. Mariah feels that way, and she knows others do as well. The reviews aren't even snobbery, they're pure ignorance.

Then there're the "too many pop songs"/"too many un-poppy slow songs" complaints. Every single album, it's one or the other. On this particular album, one reviewer commented her vocals were restrained, and another complained of over-singing! Mariah simply isn't the right artist for these so-called critics, and for them to ruin the fun for the rest of us is just sad.

Funny that I believe you gave 1 star to Emancipation of Mimi & it went on to win 3 GRAMMYs. Maybe you think your behind Obsessed IDK, U always seem to have negative comments about Mariah that have absolutely NOTHING to do w/ her music. i.e. Wardrobe, Weight, etc.
The problem w/ your review is that Perez Hilton leaked out the CD already & it has been receiving GREAT reviews from real music critics. Why do they let aging rock station music critics rate a CD that's anything but rock? I think I'm gonna reconsider my subscription to the Sun Times

Marc, did you really have to say:
Lambs come out in full force any time anyone says anything not flattering about this vapid, braindead retard.
Using the word retard is wrong on so many levels. It demeans people with special needs, it's a slur, and it hurts a population of people who really can't defend themselves against the likes of you. Bully much?
Enjoy 7th grade.

This review is interesting. And proves that the writer is a biased journalist which leans in the direction of bad journalism. The set up and comparisons to other artists and the attempts at knocking down Mariah's talent is very distasteful. A great journalist would have made historical refrences through out her entire career, instead of making a point to reference a one or two liner in a song that is targeted to a younger market. Every review I have read about the recent album seems to be favorable. Does this writer truly know the genre R&B? He states Jodeci but doesnt back up or refernce any of jodeci's songs or what makes them a great R&B group. I will get the recent Mariah CD to take a listen myself as true music fans can identify good music. If the CD is horrible you will read a post that I believe it is horrible. I dont believe in this writer's ability in identifying good music. He is more interested in being venemous than being a good journalist.

don't try sounding all 'personal' with your unintelligent comment, as if you know Mariah all that well. How about letting YOUR brain absorb the fact that at least she's way richer than you.

Seriously?! someone is agreeing with Amy here? How callous and ignorant does one have to be to bring someone's physical appearance into a debate whether his music review deserves merit? Is Jim giving you fashion advice (like Mariah clearly is with the advertising)? Maybe you guys should listen to Sound Opinions which will obviously show the haters what Jim is really about, and you wont have to deal with your obvious hateful biases getting in the way. The fact the she even considered a foreigner cover renders this album useless in my opinion, but then so is most of the bloated, ugly industry known as commercial rock.

Um, Jake - Madonna and Whitney have been around for much longer than Mariah. Mariah is at the point Madonna was at in 2002, coming off two multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated albums (Ray of Light and Music) and a huge, record-breaking return to the stage (Drowned World Tour). Let's see where Mariah is when she's 50.

I've been a Maraih fan since Music Box and have followed her since, some albums are for sure stronger than others but that's my opinion, depending on my life experiences and what appeals to me. I think reviews of albums are a little outdated nowadays, especially as you can go online and sample it for yourself! Music is unique in it's ability to stir strong emotions in people, both if you like it and if not. That said, I've never commented on a death metal band I dislike as I'm just not bothered by it - good luck but it's not for me - so I'm puzzled when people get so irate about Mariah (or anyone else) if you don't like her music, just don't listen to it! This album isn't my personal favourite, Butterfly will take some beating - but she still sounds great and even though the foreigner track may not be to everyone's taste, it's obviously a very personal song, for her husband and they way they feel about each other.
Lastly, I will say that the world revolves around sales. Companies are folding all over the world so the ones who are holding up are obviously doing very well! Few artist have really hit the mark with their careers the way that Mariah has and I say good luck to her! Similarly, this guy's career is based upon people reading his work and commenting on it so the best way to deal with it if you don't like it is to boycot it.

I dunno what this guy is talking about??! I heard the whole album I believe its a SMASH! its definately gonna blow on the charts! every track is simply "Mariah" Memoirs is indeed one of her finest in years! 5 stars from me *****

She sounds like she's still in Elementary school singing about some little boy on all these songs. She needs to grow up and take vocal lessons and try to get her voice back because it is GONE.

I suggest Whitney Houston's new album "I Look To You." It is much better and has inspiring lyrics.

I respect everyone's opinion, but have you actually LISTENED to this CD? It's Brilliant! Let's face it, she can't make the same kind of music that she did in the 90's. It WON'T SELL!!!! People don't by SOUL anymore. They buy weightless music.

Mariah is bringing us quality music that will still catch on with this new generation!

Obviously all the lambs on this thread are in the minority, because based on one day sales, this album is flopping on an embarrassing level. Oh well, you had a good run, Mariah, but it looks like it's time to hang up those stiletto heels.

I enjoy real live singing from both Whitney & Mariah, but I have bought multi copies of Whitney Houston's album and I will def be buying a copy of Mariah's, one copy! I'm just not a huge fan of auto tune! I hate it! Just good old fashion singing is enough for moi, that's just me and it's all about my money, innit?

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on September 25, 2009 9:48 AM.

Monsters of Folk, "Monsters of Folk" (Shangri-La) [2 OUT OF 4 STARS] was the previous entry in this blog.

Looking ahead to Riot Fest 2009 is the next entry in this blog.

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