ChartChatUK

talks about the latest releases in the music world

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

Advertisements

25 May, 2014 - Posted by | ChartChat

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: