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Chart Chat Album Review : Mariah Carey – ‘Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse’ (26.05.14)

Chart Chat Album Review : Mariah Carey – ‘Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse (26.05.14)

It’s been five years since ‘Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel’ the last studio album from Mariah Carey (if you ignore her 2010 Christmas special). That made no.23 and seemed a long way away from her mid 1990’s form which saw ‘Music Box’ and ‘Daydream’ both top the charts. She has had twelve top ten albums across her UK career and twenty five top ten singles, and that kind of track record commands respect.  The recent years may have been more barren in terms of hits but she is still capable of moments of real brilliance.  More time has been taken in putting this album together, and Mariah herself describes it as very personal record.  That comes across with the track ‘Supernatural’ even featuring her twins Monroe and Moroccan. What follows is our track by track guide to the album along with a few thoughts and comments based around our early plays of it.

Cry

The opening track was co-written with the award winning producer James ‘Big Jim’ Wright.  Aside from being a previous Mariah collaborator he has also worked with a variety of artists including Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Chaka Khan and the Isley Brothers. This is a simple ballad which reminds the listener just how powerful Mariah’s voice is.  Mariah has spoken in interviews of how she chose to sequence the tracks the way she has and so this is how she wanted the album to begin.

Faded

Fresh from his recent success with Miley Cyrus, this track sees Mike Will Made-It on hand here as co-producer and co-writer. It does need a little time to grow on you as it isn’t really a song which grabs you on its first listen.  It’s certainly not as impressive as his work on ‘We Can’t Stop’ but is still decent enough.

Dedicated (featuring Nas)

Nas has featured as guest vocalist on nine top forty hits including Mariah’s 2000 single ‘Thank God I Found You’, so perhaps that is a good omen for this track. He has also enjoyed eleven other top forty hits as the headline artist with his biggest singles coming in 1996 when ‘If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)’ and ‘Street Dreams’ both made no.12. This is one of the most immediate tracks on the album as it’s one of the songs you want to return to after the first listen. Nas delivers his rap on cue some three minutes in, and you could imagine this being released as a standalone single with some killer dance mixes.  Mariah delivers one of her highest pitch vocals at the end the two artists really do complement each other very well.

#Beautiful (featuring Miguel)

This was the song that returned Mariah to the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, selling over 1m copies in the US and peaking at no.15 while in the UK it made no.22 where is spent an impressive 15 consecutive weeks on the chart. Featuring the talents of Miguel, the song was fresh and current while still nodding its head towards Mariah’s 90’s heyday. There was no big secret to this being a success, it was more a case of Mariah going back to basics. The video to the track was also very popular notching up almost 30m views since its original upload back in May last year. I’m glad this made it onto the album while the less successful ‘Triumphant’ was left on the cutting room floor.

Thirsty

This track is inch perfect r’n’b and could quite happily sit on any of her big hit albums.  It was released on audio only via her Vevo account a week ahead of the albums release and it quickly managed to pick up over 600k listens during that time.  In fact the track is listed on a promotional sticker on the front of the CD front alongside the singles ‘You’re Mine (Eternal)’ and ‘#Beautiful’. Rich Homie Quan features on the track and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was selected as a future single from the album. The track saw her work with Hit-Boy who most recently produced ‘XO’ for the latest Beyonce album though his most famous UK hit was the Jay-Z & Kanye West track ‘N***** In Paris’ which made the top ten and spent 45 weeks on the chart.

Make It Look Good

Although not officially credited on the track (though he does get a mention on the sleeve notes), Stevie Wonder kicks this off with a full on harmonica solo.  Their collaboration comes over ten years after talk of a duet between the two first surfaced.  It’s the first of five tracks to be co-produced by Bryan-Michael Cox and long term collaborator Jermaine Dupri and coming in at just over three minutes in length it is a perfect length to achieve radio play.  The track contains a sample of ‘Let Me Make Love To You’ which was made famous by the O’Jays.  I like it but it’s not necessarily one of my favourite songs from the album.

You’re Mine (Eternal)

Although the Fedde Le Grand remix gave this some much needed oomph, the single still underperformed reaching just no.88 in the US and no.87 in the UK.  The video to the song has notched up 4.9m views since it was first uploaded three months ago but that doesn’t contrast well with the 29m views achieved by the worldwide hit ‘Beautiful’.  The remix version which saw Trey Songz providing vocals seemed to be the most popular version and the video to that version enjoyed 2.2m views. I have to say I prefer the “buzz single” ‘The Art Of Letting Go’, but I’m not sure if it was lack of promotion or just bad luck that caused this to miss out being a bigger hit.  Whichever it was, it seems to fit in well amongst this collection of songs. 

You Don’t Know What To Do (featuring Wale)

This track sees her team up with Wale who first came to attention in the UK when he collaborated with Lady Gaga on the single ‘Chillin”.  He also appeared on Daniel Merriweather’s single ‘Change’, and now he features on this track which contains a sample of ‘I’m Caught Up In A One Night Love Affair’. Being able to collaborate with such a variety of different artists leads to a pleasantly diverse range of styles across the album. She performed this track live on the Today show in the US and the subsequent video of that performance has been viewed well over 100k times. 

Supernatural (featuring “DemBabies”)

Despite her superstar status it is clear to most outsiders that Mariah places a high level of importance on her life as a mother. The love she has for her twins Monroe and Moroccan takes on a new dimension here as she lets them loose on this track. It’s not something which will be to everyones liking, but equally their appearance is quite suble and not as self indulgent as it might have been. It was co-written by the previously mentioned duo of Bryan-Michael Cox and Jermanie Dupri so you pretty much know what you are going to get here. 

Meteorite

This is a track which a few journalists have singled out as being the album’s highlight. Q-Tip takes control in the producers chair and what results is a track whose musical backdrop has almost a 70’s feel to it.  Q-Tip also had a hand in co-writing the track, and it opens with the spoken intro “Andy Warhol said in the future everybody would be famous for 15 minutes” but Mariah’s vocals kick in quite quickly over the disco backbeat. It’s tracks such as this which make the relatively weak singles even more puzzling as this shows that Mariah is in fact at the very top of her game.

Camouflage

Here we return to the writing partnership of Mariah and James ‘Big Jim’ Wright who penned the albums opening track ‘Cry’. Just as with that song, this is a beautifully crafted ballad which would sound fantastic late at night in a smokey jazz bar.  Mariah hits the high notes again later in the song, and there are uplifting gospel melodies in the background. Having seen the past three tracks achieve quite an uptempo pace it seems the right time to slow proceedings down.  When you are as good at ballads as Mariah is you will want to include a few across the album.

Money ($ * / …) (featuring Fabolous)

Another track with a new collaborator and this time it is the American hip hop artist Fabolous.  The track has a passing resemblence (but nothing more) to her 90’s hit ‘Fantasy’ while it does in fact borrow from two other tracks ‘Alabeke’ (performed and written by Dan Satch and his Atomic 8 Dace Band of Aba) and ‘Rapper Dapper Snapper’ (performed and written by Edwin Birdsong). For me the uptempo tracks are the better ones on the album, and this is another that I find myself returning to after hearing ‘Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse’ all the way from start to finish.

One More Try

Mariah hasn’t been shy of performing covers, and both her UK no.1’s (‘Without You’ and ‘Against All Odds’) were updates on other artists songs. I personally loved her take on Def Leppard’s ‘Bringing On The Heartbreak’ despite the fact that it never became an official single in the UK. This album sees her take on George Michael’s classic ‘One More Try’ and she certainly carries off her version in some style.  The production is big and bold, with a gospel choir providing backing vocals.  While George’s original is effective with its stripped back style, this benefits from being quite the opposite. At over six minutes long this is by far the longest track on the album but it doesn’t feel like that when you are listening to it.

Heavenly (No Ways Tired / Can’t Give Up Now)

This is listed as a tribute to the late Reverend James Cleveland and the track starts off with an excerpt from his sermon entitled ‘Gods Promise’. It also samples his track ‘Can’t Give Up Now’ alongside Funkadelic’s ‘Good Ole Music’. As you might expect from that background story the track has a strong gospel feel to it and this would be sure to brighten any church up on a Sunday morning. It ends on a stunning gospel choir acapella section, and if James can hear this then he would certainly be a proud man.

It’s A Wrap (featuring Mary J Blige)

This is the first of the three bonus tracks which feature on the deluxe format of the album. As the title suggests it features a guest appearance from Mary J Blige, but despite the combination of their talents what results is a fairly standard run of the mill jam. It samples from Barry White’s track ‘I Belong To You’ but even that doesn’t really add to the experience. 

Betcha Gon’ Know (featuring R Kelly)

It’s been quite a breathtaking list of artists who appear on the album and bringing things to a close comes R Kelly.  He also contributes as a writer, as does The Dream who also takes some of the production credits. This is much better than its predecessor and was certainly of a high enough standard to grace the main edition. While some of the artists only appear in passing R Kelly is very much an equal partner here in terms of vocals and that is to the benefit of the track.  For me this is another track which would have made a great single but given that it only features on the deluxe version I wonder if its chance has gone.

The Art Of Letting Go

This track was the second track to be taken from the album but was released via Facebook on 11th November last year thus making it impossible to truly judge its chart performance.  The idea was inventive as with Mariah enjoying over 20 million Likes on Facebook it was guaranteed to get her to a huge worldwide audience. The track shows off Mariah’s voice well, and with the vinyl crackle in the background it deliberately conjurs up music from a previous era. At one point this was going to be the title track, but things changed as the release date approached and we have ended up with the ‘Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse’ label.  It’s a good way to end the album, and few fans would deny this is classic Mariah.

Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse

For anyone curious about this track, this is just a 72 second spoken word dialogue during which Mariah tells the story of how the album’s name came about and just why she included her self potrait (painted when she was just three and a half) on the back cover.

In conclusion this is Mariah’s best album for some time. Tracks such as ‘Dedicated’, ‘Meteorite’, ‘Money ($ * / …)’ and her cover of ‘One More Try’ are the highlights along with the hit single ‘#Beautiful’.  If the less successful singles ‘The Art Of Letting Go’ and ‘You’re Mine (Eternal)’ have left doubts in your mind then see if you can grab a listen to one or more of the tracks that I have listed as I think your fears will be somewhat eased.  This hasn’t been rushed out, and despite the stop / start nature of its release it has benefitted from the care and attention devoted to it. Her career speaks for itself, and I think there will be more hits to come from this album on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

Ian Anderson

25 May, 2014 Posted by | ChartChat | Leave a comment

Chart Chat Edition 757 – W/C 25.05.14

Chart Chat Edition 757 – Week Commencing Sunday 25th May 2014 

Introduction

Welcome to edition 757 of Chart Chat, the music review site which has been running for over fourteen years.  You can find us on Twitter as @ChartChatUK so feel free to follow us and pass comment on the weeks new releases yourselves.  As always we will take a look at the current top forty followed by some reviews of the weeks new releases.  There is a new edition published weekly so if you are new here then I hope you will choose to revisit.  

Chart Review

There were seven new entries, one re-entry, nine climbers, nineteen songs going down and four non movers on this weeks chart. It was Sam Smith who was celebrating this week as ‘Stay With Me’ entered at no.1 holding off a strong challenge from Mr Probz who was a non mover at no.2 with the Robin Schulz mix of ‘Waves’.

Fuse ODG featuring Sean Paul got a new entry at no.3 with ‘Dangerous Love’ but Rita Ora fell three places to no.4 with ‘I Will Never Let You Down’.  Clean Bandit featuring Sharna Bass got a new entry at no.5 and John Legend fell three to no.6 with ‘All Of Me’. Calvin Harris went down three to no.7 with ‘Summer’ and Paloma Faith fell two to no.8 with ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’. Kiesza went down four to no.9 with ‘Hideaway’ and Michael Jackson fell two to no.10 with ‘Love Never Felt So Good’.

There were two new entries and three climbers in what remained of the top twenty. Pharrell Williams went back up three to no.12 with ‘Happy’ and Coldplay celebrated a new entry at no.15 with ‘A Sky Full Of Stars’. Jason Derulo featuring Snoop Dogg climbed two to no.16 with ‘Wiggle’ while Ed Sheeran went up two to no.18 with ‘One’. The other new entry came at no.20 and went to Afrojack featuring Wrabel with ‘Ten Feet Tall’.

There were two new entries, one re-entry and six climbers in the lower half of the chart. Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne climbed one to no.21 with ‘Rather Be’ and Katy Perry went up six to no.22 with ‘Birthday’. Pharrell Williams climbed five to no.27 with ‘Marilyn Monroe’ while Route 94 featuring Jess Glynne went up one to no.28 with ‘My Love’.  Sam Smith enjoyed more success this week as ‘Money On My Mind’ climbed six to no.30 and Little Mix got a new entry at no.35 with ‘Salute’. Kristin Bell & Agatha Lee Monn climbed back up two to no.37 with ‘Do You Want To Build A Snowman’ and Nicki Minaj got a new entry at no.38 with ‘Pills And Potions’. The top forty was rounded off by Zedd featuring Foxes who re-entered at no.40 with ‘Clarity’.

New Releases

Ashley Roberts – ‘Clockwork’

Former Pussycats Doll star Ashley Roberts releases her Brand new solo single ‘Clockwork’ this week.  During their time together The Dolls enjoyed a total of nine top forty hits including two no.1s, while Nicole Scherzinger has notched up eleven solo hits since her departure from the band so there will be some focus on whether Ashley can match that success.  She has become a familiar sight on British TV since appearing on the reality TV show ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ where she finished as runner up to Eastenders actress Charlie Brooks. She has also appeared regularly on This Morning and Saturday Night Takeaway with Ant & Dec. Her first solo single ‘Yesterday’ was released in 2012 but did not chart in the UK.  This single however should do much better for her and could well end up securing her a debut top forty hit next weekend.

Bitty McLean – ‘A Step Closer’

Birmingham born Bitty McLean enjoyed his biggest success in the mid 1990’s when he saw ‘It Keeps Raining (Tears From My Eyes)’ make no.2 in the charts. Although he is best remembered for that track he enjoyed a further six top forty hits including another two which peaked inside the top ten. He has continued to release albums with his most recent being ‘The Taxi Sessions’ in 2013, and this single is lifted from it. An audio version of the track was first uploaded to YouTube in 2011 but has only received 18k listens since then. He retains a loyal fanbase, and always receives a good reception at his live shows. As a track this is a bright and breezy slice of reggae which will sound great on the radio over the Summer months. It would be great to see him back inside the top forty after such an absence but whether he will be given the airplay he deserves remains to be seen.

Ellie Goulding – ‘Beating Heart’

British singer songwriter Ellie Goulding is aiming for her thirteenth top forty hit this weekend with ‘Beating Heart’, a track which does not appear on either of her first two chart topping studio albums.  Instead the track is taken from the film ‘Divergent’ whose soundtrack also includes contributions from Snow Patrol, Skrillex, A$AP Rocky, M83 and Tame Impala.  The video to the track was first uploaded to her Vevo account on 28th March and it received over 9m views during its first month.  It was originally written back in 2012 on the banjo by Joe Janiak but Goulding later reworked some of the lyrics, hence her credit as a songwriter on the track. Three of her last four singles have reached the top five, and she is truly on a roll at the present time. For me this is not her strongest track but I still expect to see this inside the top ten on Sunday afternoon.

Janet Devlin – ‘House Of Cards’

Despite finishing in the top five of the eighth series of X Factor in 2011, singer Janet Devlin is still to achieve any mainstream success. She funded and release her debut album ‘Hide & Seek’ through Pledge Music in 2012-13 while managing a top thirty hit on the Indie chart with ‘Wonderful’.  This year is set to see her release her first commercial album ‘Running With Scissors’ and from that comes her new single ‘House Of Cards’. It comes accompanied by a video directed by Henry Steadman, and it picked up over 130k views during its first two weeks of upload to her Vevo account.  She recently performed on the Sunday Brunch TV programme on Channel 4 and she is also set to appear at The Jazz Cafe in London in June when the album is released.  This may yet sneak into the lower reaches of the top forty but I fear that it may miss out.  I hope that I am wrong as it is a great track.

Klingande – ‘Jubel’

While it seems very little is known in the UK about French deep house artist Klingande he has certainly enjoyed success around Europe with his new track ‘Jubel’ (which actually means “jubilence” in Swedish).  Although his debut single ‘Punga’ did relatively little, this follow up topped the charts in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland while managing to reach the top ten elswhere in Europe including Netherlands, Sweden, France and Denmark. Alongside the single track download format comes an EP of remixes which contains the Nora En Pure Remix, the Friend Within Remix and the KANT Remix.  The video to the track was first uploaded back in September last year and has notched up over 30m views since then. This looks as though it will become a big hit next weekend and there is every chance that it could go on to replicate its European success in the UK.  

Kyla La Grange – ‘The Knife’

Watford based singer Kyla La Grange is up next with her new single ‘The Knife’.  It has been picking up airplay on the radio over the past few weeks and the accompanying music video was uploaded at the end of April. She is due to undertake a short four date tour of the UK in October this year when she will play gigs in London, Bristol, Glasgow and Manchester.  Fans who purchase tickets will gain an opportunity to get a signed copy of her new album ‘Cut Your Teeth’ upon its release in June. The video to the title track was uploaded back in January and managed to notch up an impressive 500k views although the single itself failed to chart.  Her debut album ‘Ashes’ was released back in 2012 and featured the singles ‘Better Better’, ‘Heavy Stone’, ‘Vampire Smile’ and ‘Walk Through Walls’. She has continued to build a fan base but I expect the album to perform better than this single.

Lana Del Rey – ‘West Coast’

Although not that many people were aware of her work before her huge 2012 album ‘Born To Die’, American singer songwriter Lana Del Rey actually released her first EP ‘Kill Kill’ as long ago as 2008.  She has enjoyed six top forty hits in the UK so far with the biggest coming with the Cedric Gervais remix of her track ‘Summertime Sadness’ which peaked at no.4 last year. She is on the verge of releasing her new album ‘Ultraviolence’ on the Polydor label and ‘West Coast’ is the first official single to be taken from it.  It has so far enjoyed a very positive reception around the world with the video picking up 9.6m views during its first two weeks of upload to her Vevo account.  I think that this will see her back inside the top ten next weekend, particularly considering the significant amount of airplay that it has managed to pick up over recent weeks. 

One Direction – ‘You & I’

One Direction are aiming for a second crack at the chart with ‘You & I’ which already made no.19 on the week of the release of the ‘Midnight Memories’ album.  It became their twelfth top forty hit, a tally which has also included three no.1s. The single is released as a digital EP featuring a video message from the band alongside four new mixes; the Radio Edit, the Big Payno Remix, the Duet Version and the Piano Version.  There is also a video directed by Ben Winston who has produced the promo’s to each of the ‘Midnight Memories’ single releases so far. It was uploaded to their Vevo account on the 18th April and was picking up around 2m views per day in the first few days.  Many fans will already have this track on the album so whether enough will decide to download the new mixes remains to be seen.  I can’t see this making the top ten on Sunday.

Royksopp & Robyn – ‘Do It Again EP’

Royksopp are no strangers to the top forty having notched up five hit singles so far with their biggest being 2003’s ‘Eple’.  Robyn has made nine appearance over her eighteen year career and famously topped the charts in 2007 with her single ‘With Every Heartbeat’. Now they are together for the release of the ‘Do It Again’ EP which features four songs alongside the title track; the ten minute epics ‘Monument’, and ‘Inside The Idle Hour Club’, ‘Sayit’, ‘Every Little Thing’.  With a running time around 35 minutes it is virtually a full length album but it is the title track which has drawn most attention.  A lyric video to accompany the track picked up over 300k views on YouTube during its first week and the track received significant exposure from Annie Mac on her radio show. Now the question is whether that pre-release interest can translate into sales.

SecondCity – ‘I Wanna Feel’

Next up this week is SecondCity who looks set for massive success with his debut single ‘I Wanna Feel’ which is released on the Ministry Of Sound label this week.  The track received its premier on Zane Lowe’s show on 13th March where he quickly awarded it his ‘Hottest Record In The World’ accolade.  The video was first uploaded to YouTube at the end of April and received over 100k views during its first week. Other mixes of the track which have appeared so far include the Original Club Mix and the Brookes Brothers Remix. He is set to play gigs in Liverpool and Nottingham in the next fortnight but also faces a round the world journey to appear at Fever Presents at World HQ in Newcastle, Australia on 5th June. This track has been selling very well in terms of pre-orders and could even challenge for the top spot next weekend.

Wolf Alice – ‘Creature Songs EP’

Finally up this week are Wolf Alice who release their new EP ‘Creature Songs’.   The lead track ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ was made available earlier in the month but this week sees the other three songs become available for download; ‘Storms’, ‘Heavenly Creatures’ and ‘We’re Not The Same’.  It is the follow up to their single ‘She’ which was released back in February of this year. This week sees them complete their sixteen date UK tour with gigs in Milton Keynes and London but it is hoped they will play some more live dates later this year.  They have yet to make it close to the top forty but they have been building their fanbase via their series of live shows. I’m not sure that this will give them a debut hit but it’s very good all the same.  Fingers crossed we will see a full album from the band in the not too distant future.

Also released this week are ‘Animal Ambition’ by 50 Cent, ‘Light’ by Alexis Houston, ‘You Don’t Know’ by The Beat Corporation featuring Alison Bethune & Natasha Sky, ‘No More I Sleep’ by Chicane featuring Senadee, ‘Your Love’ by Howling Bells, ‘Never Be Alone’ by Lilian, ‘Shotgun’ by M.A.D., ‘Your Love Is Like’ by Max Marshall, ‘Reservoir’ by Metronomy, ‘Come On Now (Set It Off)’ by Tube & Berger featuring Juloet Sikora and ‘Heart And Soul’ by Twin Atlantic.

Next Week…

My money is on SecondCity to score a debut no.1 hit but Klingande should also find themselves inside the top five, and possibly the top three. Don’t forget to stop by next week when artists releasing new singles look set to include D’Banj, Ed Sheeran, London Grammar and Tinie Tempah.  Until then have yourself a good week.

 

 

Ian Anderson

25 May, 2014 Posted by | ChartChat | Leave a comment