Boy, Mariah Carey has had trouble finally giving her 14th album to her fans. Coming 5 years after Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel, we heard the first single, “#Beautiful” with Miguel, last summer, and it’s spectacular. It even made my top 50 songs of 2013, but then there was no album that followed that song’s momentum. We’ve heard a couple non-starter singles in the past few months, “The Art Of Letting Go” and “You’re Mine (Eternal)”, and then Mariah said she was going to release the album as a “surprise”. This lead-up to the album was a complete mess, so I was pretty intrigued to see how Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse turned out (cause lord knows, that album title and photoshopped cover image aren’t helping matters).
Things start on an unexpected note with “Cry”, a quiet piano ballad that features some great vocals from Mariah. She’s still got it. Maybe there’s hope for this album after all. Mike Will Made It produced the next track, “Faded”. I know that without even checking the album notes. Like Pitbull yelling “Mr. Worldwide”, he says his name right at the beginning of pretty much every song he produces, but he shouldn’t make this song his calling card. “Faded” is a boring clunker.
Things improve with the Nas-assisted “Dedicated” and “Thirsty”, but neither are home runs and you already feel like you’ve got this album figured out. Straight from the Mariah Carey playbook, it’s going to be filled with half-baked hip hop tracks with a couple power ballads thrown into the mix. Well, Mariah is ready to surprise you, and it all starts with a harmonica. “Make It Look Good” opens with the wind instrument, and the album turns on its high heels. With elements of gospel and blues, the fun track is unlike anything we’ve ever heard from the diva before.
From there, the surprises keep coming with the disco-esque “You Don’t Know What To Do” and “Metorite” (featuring percussion and strings over a killer bass line). Assisted by her twins, “Supernatural” has Mariah powerfully singing at full force about being a Mom, and a well used choir spices up a classic power ballad on “Camouflage”. Like she did with Foreigner‘s “I Want To Know What Love Is” on her last album, Mariah puts a gospel spin on George Michael‘s “One More Try”, and keeps the church feel for the standout “Heavenly”.
You can’t ignore the blunders that the album has, but Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse really makes an effort to change up Mariah’s usual style but doesn’t alienate her fans either. It’s creative, fun, and surprising. For a diva that’s had a 25-year career, that’s a major accomplishment.