Review Summary: A really fun, enjoyable pop album for the summer - nothing more, definitely nothing less
Mariah Carey in 2014 is just about as uncool as you can get. Critics deride her slower songs as adult contemporary schlock, her dancier, more sexual numbers are written off as desperate, people call her vocal technique screechy and overly melismatic, her tumultuous personal life and public personae are used to discredit her music, and Ariana Grande
has all but replaced her in the public's imagination with her smash hits “The Way” and “Problem.” The icing on the cake was the announcement of the title of her fourteenth studio album: Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse
. The shall-we-say eccentric
title aside however, Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse
is quite an excellent album, one that entirely deserves to be named in the same breath as such critical darlings as The 20/20 Experience
, and Channel Orange
in terms of quality.
The album's greatest strength is, like all Mariah Carey releases, Mariah Carey's voice. There has been so much written on her voice over the past couple decades so it isn't really necessary to go into detail, but she really does have a wonderful voice. She can be powerful and seductive in her lower register and charmingly ecstatic in her upper register, and she makes it all sound so fun and effortless for her. It also helps that she and her songwriters (Carey is listed as a co-writer for every song except the George Michael
cover “One More Try”) give her voice some really catchy melodies to sing. Other than “One More Try,” in fact, nearly every song here could have been a single.
Me. I Am Mariah
's stylistic diversity really makes it stand out too. Songs like “Cry” and “Camouflage” demonstrate the pop balladry she's most well-known for, but thankfully don't sink into too much sappiness. A number of the tracks are retro pop soul tracks, such as “#Beautiful,” the lead single. Other songs display hip hop influences. The Hit-Boy-produced “Dedicated,” which features Nas
, is a throwback to the 90s “hip hop soul” of artists like Mary J. Blige (who is featured on bonus track “It's A Wrap”), while “Faded” is produced by trap producer Mike Will Made-It. “Thirsty”'s beat, also produced by Hit-Boy, is more in line with the party vibe he brought to songs like "Ni**as in Paris" and "Clique." Wale
have a guest verse each on “You Don't Know What to Do” and “Money,” respectively. “You Don't Know What to Do,” like a few other tracks on the album, has a fun disco influence to it as well. It brings a nice bounce to that track, which is probably the highlight of the entire album. Finally, “Heavenly” has a strong gospel influence. The amount of variety on the album keeps it interesting during its 63 minute running length, and rather than being scattershot, Carey's beautiful voice and the catchy melodies anchor the album, keeping it consistent.
If you're looking for a “grand statement” out of Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse
, you're not going to find it. The lyrics, like most of her lyrics, mainly talk about love, relationships, and sex, and there's no overriding concept to the album. If you aren't looking for that though, you'll find an immensely enjoyable pop r&b album from one of the best voices of the past twenty years.