Wednesday 28 May 2014

Mariah Carey - Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse

If being a diva was measured in egotism then Mariah would win.  Only she could come up with an album title like 'Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse'.  This, even when interest in her music is waning (in mainstream UK charts at least).

And if singing was measured in high notes and fast flashy runs then Mariah would undoubtedly win.  No really - this article proves it.

Except being egotistical doesn't make you a great popstar.  Singing higher than everyone else doesn't make you a better singer.  These things mean nothing without music to back it up and thankfully the 'elusive chanteuse' has some decent songs here to support her self-appointed title.

This album will do nothing to endear non-fans, however.  Mariah trills, riffs and squeaks her way through fourteen songs, melody as elusive as the chanteuse herself in a wave of perpetual arpeggios.  Sometimes a simple tune is more effective than endless runs.

Her vocals are just one reason for this album being so self-indulgent.  This is not the immediate pop album you might be expecting.  It all begins with Cry, a five minute long gospel ballad of sickening schmaltz, whilst final track Heavenly is another overly long track incorporating traditional gospel songs and an admittedly impressive vocal.  It's preceded by a cover of George Michael's One More Try that fails to excite in any way.

Needless to say it's the more uptempo tracks that are most successful.  Mariah has worked with some top talent, from the likes of Nas, Miguel and Wale, to numerous in-demand producers.  Dedicated settles into a mid-tempo R&B groove; previous single #Beautiful is a cool yet sweet duet with Miguel; Thirsty is an aggressive concoction of clipped hip-hop beats and Mariah claiming (in typical Mariah fashion) "the best thing to happen to your ass was me"; and Make It Look Good features a skipping beat beneath the soulful vocals and retro production.

You Don't Know What To Do is exactly what you'd expect from a Mariah track, beginning with an elaborate introduction (and intrusive rapping from Wale) before soaring into a pop gem.  The throbbing disco of Meteorite is the real album highlight though, with its magical orchestral inflections and a more restrained vocal (by Mariah standards).

The album lacks a real standout single, but this is Mariah's attempt to create a full body of work rather than an individual hit.  For the most part she succeeds, with an album that covers the full gamut of her career, covering gospel, soul, R&B, hip-hop, funk and ballads, as well as personal lyrics and guest appearances from her twin children.  As such this is something of a concept album, the concept being Mariah herself.  Only she could produce such a self-assured album, which is somewhat expected after thirteen previous albums.

Which brings us back to that elaborate title.  This is Mariah.  Take it or leave it.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Thirsty
* You Don't Know What To Do
* Meteorite

Listen: 'Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse' is available now.