Roughly three years separated Mariah Carey’s The Emancipation of Mimi and its follow-up, E=MC². Less than a year and a half separate that album and Mariah’s newest, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel.
The rushed release of new material isn’t all too surprising – E=MC² felt at times too much like a carbon copy of Mimi, and the album wasn’t aided by a string of poor singles and very little promotion by Mariah after the album dropped in April 2008.
According to Mariah herself, this new project reflects where she her thoughts and emotions lie in her life. Since her last album, Carey has married for the second time, but her marital status has little to do with the lyrical content of this album; rather, time is spent trashing exes (see the rumored diss track to Eminem in lead single “Obsessed”) and discarding men (the majority of the album).
Lyrically, the album follows recent Mariah albums – some songs feature clever wordplay (“You a mom and pop, I’m a corporation/I’m the press conference, you a conversation” in “Obsessed”), while other attempts fall painfully flat (“See right through you like you’re bathin’ in Windex”).
Sonically, Memoirs is largely the antithesis of her albums from the last decade. It’s her first album since Daydream in 1995 not to feature any guest rappers, and the beats stays largely in the slow- to mid-tempo range. Sticking to The-Dream and Tricky Stewart as her co-producers for the entire album (with occasional additional production on a few random tracks) keeps the album much more consistent than Mariah’s usual output. The downside of this is that, while individual songs stand on their own, the album as a whole is painfully dull, with many of the songs sounding eerily similar.
Of course, when it comes to a Mariah Carey album, the primary focus is usually on the vocals. On Memoirs, though, her vocals are typically filtered through Auto-Tune. Only the album’s closing track, a cover of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” puts the focus on her vocals. The track, though, fails to live up to previous covers by the singer, namely Charmbracelet’s 80s cover, “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.”
Ultimately, Mariah’s attempt to create a consistent album produces some decent moments, but taken as an album, it fails to maintain anything resembling momentum.