Likes: Camouflage, Heavenly, Money, Cry
Dislikes: #Beautiful (only because the lyrics are ridiculously childish)
Overall: Great cohesive album with a great balance of upbeat songs and power ballads. Typical subject matter filled with emotion, all encompassed in great production.
As the music industry becomes more dichotomized into either generic pop fluff and mind-numbing, bass-rattling trap beats or music with raw emotion, meaning and genuine essence, it's very understandable how someone like Mariah Carey can be a veteran, yet "out of touch" with the current, ever-changing genre trends. After two albums full of then-current, now-dated, forgettable ditties with one or two gems in the midst, Carey finally let go of trying and simply gave us her essence in her rawest, most unfiltered form with "Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse."
The album's subject matter revolves around Carey's favorite topics: love, loss of love and human relations (the best way I can describe songs like "Thirsty"). The songs are all great and cohesively blend well. They don't tell a story like her "Charmbracelet" and "Rainbow" albums, which is good because it doesn’t sound forced. Mariah, as a bonus, sounds like she's having fun on the upbeat songs. There is honestly not one "bad" song on this album, though, naturally, some songs are stronger than others. I personally was quite disappointed with the song Stevie Wonder was featured on (“Make it Look Good”). Although it wasn't bad, I expected it to be more organic and less sampled/looped with Wonder simply adlibbing on the harmonica. Aside from this, the features don't disappoint; Wale, Nas and even Fabolous all added a different dimension to the songs and refrained from being “filler” rappers. “Supernatural” stands out as Carey sings of motherhood and her children, Monroe and Moroccan ("Roc and Roe" or "Dem Babies" as Mariah would say), are featured. Monroe sings a line and Moroccan harmonizes at the end once the music stops.
It's clear from this album that Carey no longer has the silky, honey-smooth chest voice timbre she did for the first decade of her career, but she still has her signature tonality, textures, impeccable range and control. Her chest voice is very brittle, though the high and low extremes are clear and intact. No more in denial about her current vocal capabilities, she has even learned to emote with the voice she has. The vulnerability in "You're Mine," the heartache in "Camouflage," the hopelessness in "Cry" and the newfound hope in "Heavenly" are in the forefront of her delivery. Without even trying, Carey leaves vocal traces of "Old Mariah" all around this album in various nooks and crannies of songs, like the opening ballad "Cry." She effortlessly soars through all 5 octaves of her range and although there are occasional, obvious "cut and paste" vocal runs throughout (especially in the gospel meets old-school hip-hop number "Heavenly"), Carey's voice is undoubtedly the pinnacle of this album, not getting washed out in the production like in her previous release “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel.” The biggest highlights on this album are hands down "Camouflage" and "Heavenly." There's something about hearing emotion in Carey's voice that brings you closer to her, even if the song's message doesn't hit you the first time. "Camouflage" focuses on being in a relationship with someone who has lost their feelings. She ingeniously puts both people in the realm of "camouflage," singing "I camouflage my tears," juxtaposed with "you wear your disguise," where the lover pretends to still be in love. "Heavenly" is a cover of Mary Mary's "Can't Give Up Now" (which is a rendition of the hymnal "No Ways Tired"). Carey's natural alto resonance brings the verses to life, saving the belting and whistles for the big acapella ending with an unforgettable, finalizing riff.
What J. Has To Say:
One of the biggest obstacles for an act of Mariah Carey’s caliber and longevity is maintaining inspiration and a freshness. The downfall of many is that they resort to adhering too closely to trends, which are often fickle. I feel that over her last 2 records, Carey struggled to find her groove or happy medium and remain motivated. Leading up to the release of “Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse," it seemed she was still directionless, but the final product displays a comfortable Mariah Carey rebuilding the foundation for a path. I love the warm, summery, vintage, unpretentious essence of the album. It made me crave for her to do a record entirely with a 70’s, 80’s and throwback rap feel and explore the sound of the New York music scene she grew up with that her former label, Columbia, was hesitant to let her play with (as she explained in the hip-hop documentary, “The Tanning of America). When I was listening to “Me. I Am Mariah…”, the pseudo-cover “Don’t Stop” from the “Glitter” soundtrack kept coming to mind, which sampled “Funking for Jamaica (N.Y.)” by Queens-bred jazz artist Tom Browne (with vocals by Toni Smith) from 1980. If there is any issue, it’s that there aren’t any tracks, in my opinion, that are contagious or especially affecting. I didn’t have a “Yeah, that’s my jam!” or a “crying in the corner” moment. My last notes: “Thirsty” doesn’t fit with the rest of the tracklist and the protruding use of the F-word on “#Beautiful” was unnecessary, throws off the vibe and kind of ruins the song for me.
Likes: Dedicated, #Beautiful, You Don't Know What to Do, Camouflage