Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel
Only The Beatles have more No. 1 singles than Mariah Carey. For now at least. Because Mariah could very well tie or break that record as radio-ready songs start to pour from Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. Worldwide, she’s sold a wallet-popping 160 million albums, making her the best-selling female artist ever.
Given such success, Mariah hasn’t deviated much from her patented formula. In a short article in the liner notes, Mariah describes her 12th album’s vibe as "R&B hip-hop with a lot of slow jams," an accurate summary of what listeners can expect to find.
Elsewhere in that article, she says her one-year marriage to actor/singer Nick Cannon is "amazing—better every day." And a few of her tracks reflect that marital bliss. Despite her happiness, however, the diva hasn’t forgotten how to mine old emotional wounds for maximum emotional impact.
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Reveling in the glory of love, "The Impossible" (which Mariah says is about her marriage to Nick) starts sweetly: "I looked in your heart/And saw all my dreams come true." Similar sentiments abound on "Ribbon" ("Everybody know I’m his lady/ … I’m so proud he’s by my side") and "More Than Just Friends."
"Standing O" celebrates the strength we can share with significant others ("When you were weak, I made you brave"). She harbors hope for a broken relationship on "Angels Cry" ("I’m willing to live and die for our love/Baby we can get back that shine"). One line on that song could also refer to God’s love ("Super natural love conquers all").
Elsewhere, Mariah makes sure a cheatin’ ex knows it’s over for good ("It’s a Wrap"). And she wishes she could relive happier times before cherished relationships ended ("Candy Bling" and "H.A.T.E.U."). The album closes with a cover of Foreigner’s love-affirming, 1984 chart-topper "I Want to Know What Love Is."
The sensual pictures of Mariah on the CD sleeve give a good indication of what’s inside. Nine of 17 tracks include veiled allusions or outright references to sex.
"Betcha Gon’ Know (The Prologue)" involves Mariah finding her man cheating on her with an unclothed woman. (She responds by calling him a "f‑‑‑in’ jerk" in a bleeped lyric.) On "Ribbon," she sings, "You give my body chills/ … And boy I got your lovin’ on my mind." More explicit is "More Than Just Friends" ("We can make love in Italy in the grotto"). And on "The Impossible," we hear, "Tonight I’m gonna need all your attention/Close the door/I wanna do things I probably shouldn’t mention." But she does anyway: The song ends with a repeated line about "bed bumpin.’" "Candy Bling" reminisces about playing Spin the Bottle (apparently in high school). "Obsessed" revolves around a guy who is deceptively claiming he’s had sex with the singer.
In the wake of breakups, Mariah entertains daydreams about revenge ("H.A.T.E.U."), wields sarcastic taunts ("Up Out My Face," "Standing O") and sinks into depression ("Inseparable," "Angels Cry"). Other profanity on the album includes censored s-words, repeated uses of the abbreviation "f’ed up" and the word "d‑‑n."
In his All Music Guide review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine says that Memoirs "lacks … the pandering, heavy-handed sexuality Mariah has relied upon too heavily this decade." I’m not exactly sure what Erlewine qualifies as "heavy-handed sexuality," because sexual references (some sly, some obvious) are all over this release—along with a variety of photos featuring Mariah in provocative poses in skimpy outfits. The liner notes may quote Scripture a couple of times, but Mariah’s latest Memoir is far more imperfect than it is angelic.
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Mariah’s 12th studio effort debuted at No. 3 on the album chart; "Obsessed" debuted at No. 11 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
September 29, 2009