Review: “Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel” by Mariah Carey (CD, 2009)

Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate unknown, is the 2009 twelfth album Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel by the American singer, songwriter, and actress extraordinaire Mariah Carey. Will you be Obsessed with this album, or will it be yet another bargain bin Memoir? Read on…

Mariah Carey - Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel (2009) album.
Mariah Carey – Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel (2009) album.

This 21 track CD opens with the gentle piano, little bleeping synths, and soft breathy vocal welcomes of Betcha Gon’ Know (The Prologue). A big beat drops in alongside Mariah’s voice, and it allows you to hear the warmth and softness of her voice really well. The harmonies and big notes in the chorus work really well against the minimal sound of the song. It’s a pretty mellow start to the album, but it’s warm and welcoming too.

Next up is lead single Obsessed and now we’re into some fat beats, samples, and some chatty male MC’s. The bass notes attempt to give a sound on a grand scale, set alongside a simple repetitive handclap. The over-use of ‘uh uh uh oh oh oh‘ vocals reminds me somewhat of Umbrella from Rihanna from two years before. The track failed to catch attention, stumbling and falling at #52 in the UK singles chart.

That’s followed by H.A.T.E. U., which stood as a US single, opening with an almost childish simple electric piano sequence and soft vocals. This is a downbeat plodder, loaded with breathy vocals from Mariah over a heavy but simple beat as she awaits the feeling of resentment and hate after a break up. Mariah’s vocals sound lovely here, and the trademark high ‘whistling’ vocal note synonymous with Carey even makes a discrete appearance towards the end.

It’s Candy Bling next, again with the breathy vocals over a gentle finger snap track. Whilst the vocals sound really nice, they’re not necessarily recognisable as Mariah Carey – and could easily be anyone else able of whispery vocals. The track fails to evolve, relying solely on Mariah’s more subdued vocals.

Then it’s Ribbon, which starts off with a robotic voice and lots of MC’s shouting ‘hey’. Eventually, Mariah arrives on the vocals with more sultry breathy vocals against a fairly quiet and simple song. A few more bpm, and this track could easily have become a bit of a belter, instead it’s a wafty track.

Piano, heavy beats, and repeated female ‘uh uh‘ vocal samples open Inseparable. This is feeling like a familiar formula for this album. The track is pretty basic, with only some chime bars, a bass, and a male MC joining in. To its credit though, it does include a vocal interpolation of Cyndi Lauper‘s hit Time After Time, but like the Mariah high vocal note return, it is an island amongst a sea of monotony.

More ‘uh uh oh oh‘, open Standing O. The track feels like something that Rihanna could have troubled herself with, set on top of another heavy beat, and a few notes from a piano. Again, Mariah’s vocals are flawless but mostly the same as previously heard on the album, and not distinctly her.

That’s followed by a slightly dreamy opening of It’s A Wrap, with piano and drifting high note vocals. Bass drum and handclaps arrive, with Mariah giving some powerful vocals. Here, her vocals do sound notably her, and she sounds like she’s having fun with the playful vocal melody. It’s almost 1960’s sounding with the harmonies, but again, the track fails to evolve very much.

Up Out My Face follows that, and the tempo lifts up. Someone plays the piano with their little finger whilst some nice repeated brass stabs help to keep the momentum. Mariah sounds somewhat more awake here, set alongside the simple R&B handclap led beat. She gets some great vocal harmonies with herself, although the lyrics are really quite mundanely verbose.

Next is Up Out My Face (The Reprise) which sounds like a high school band version, with brass, lots of percussion, and that’s because it is – the Southwest Dekalb High School Band. It’s just 52 seconds long, but I think i might have preferred them doing the backing in the ‘real’ version of the song.

We’re on to More Than Just Friends now, and we’ve got some nice stabbing synth pads, big beats. The song is awash with vocals from Mariah, perhaps too much, but it’s not bad.

That’s followed by The Impossible and this sets Mariah’s vocals alongside what sounds like some kind of acoustic guitar (or synth version). There’s a simple percussive beat, but thankfully Mariah sounds like Mariah here. It’s sultry, which matches the sexual lyrics, and we’re treated once again to that trademark high note very briefly. The track ends with a vocodered male voice, leading the track straight into The Impossible (The Reprise), where Mariah seems to be entirely thrown off the scent of the song by this vocodered voice for a couple of minutes.

Then it’s Angel (The Prelude), which drops us into a wash of piano and Mariah whistley vocals, and for this 1 minute and 4 seconds, it’s like we’re visiting Mariah’s internal monologue. It’s almost heavenly or almost whale-song. That leads on to…

Angels Cry which opens with some simple slow piano notes. This ballad really shows off Mariah’s vocals and at times it picks up a rhythm that really works. It’s a very minimal track though, with vocal harmonies, and occasional drum fills. A remix of this song was released as a single in 2010 with Ne-Yo but it wasn’t successful – falling at #81.

That leads on to Languishing (The Interlude), which continues the piano ballad theme. The gentle finger snaps give us a soft tempo that works well alongside Mariah’s tender vocals. It does feel like the song is languishing a little, but it’s in a good place, and Mariah sounds familiar here, and also slightly reminiscent of Seal’s Kiss From A Rose.

Second single I Want To Know What Love Is, and this song narrowly gave Mariah another Top 20 hit, by hitting #19 in the UK. This is of course a cover version of the huge 1984 hit by Foreigner. Here, piano and finger clicks lead Mariah along what is a familiar sounding path, and it is pretty loyal to the original, with an update of beats, a switch to a female vocal, and a load of gospel sounding chorus. Mariah finally gets to show off her vocal power and range in the key change in the final third, and this reminds us all exactly why Mariah is an incredible singer when she’s given the chance.

This leads on to a section of the album titled ‘Obsessed Remixes’ which, yes, you’ve guessed it, remixes of Obsessed starting with Obsessed (Cahill Radio Mix), and this definitely gives the pumping dance remix that the track needs. I can imagine this track banging out over the speakers in my gym… you’re unlikely to know who it was, but that doesn’t matter so much as it pumps the track perfectly.

That leads on to Obsessed (Seamus Haji & Paul Emanuel Radio Edit) which plays on the ‘uh oh oh’ vocals manages to throw a bass sequence over gurgling synths as it gallops along. Not quite as good as the Cahill Radio Mix, but it’s a close race.

Then it’s Obsessed (Jump Smokers Radio Edit) takes a slower tempo, and Jump Smokers join in with some encouragement on the mic. There’s a few nice sounding bleepy synths in this version, but this remix’s play with the ‘uh uh’ vocal sample, makes it sound too much like Rihanna, and they really go for this approach in the final third, even upping the tempo for some reason.

Obsessed (Friscia And Lamboy Radio Mix) closes the album and this version seems to slow down the verse’s vocals before setting it against a nice gurgling and bleeping synth pop backing. The end result is quite a nice little dance track that really would have been revolutionary if it had been Mariah’s single version.

Mariah Carey’s lead single ‘Obsessed’ (2009).

Verdict

Over all, this album is one of Rihanna’s more mediocre albums.

Did I say Rihanna, of course I meant Mariah Carey, but 21 tracks of very similar sounding music becomes a chore. This is R&B Mariah, and with L.A. Reid (Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, Sheena Easton etc) together on the executive producer credits it’s ended up being quite monotonous and boring.

There are a few high points – the opening Betcha Gon’ Know (The Prologue), the Up Out My Face (The Reprise) and Angel (The Prelude) all sound great and have some redeeming velocity and catchiness to them, but the latter two are tiny little ~1 minute songs. The Cahill, and the Friscia and Lamboy mixes really pump some much needed energy into this album. There are plenty of meh moments here, but Ribbon and Inseparable hit peak boring.

I feel that Mariah’s team in 2009 was feeling the shadow of Rihanna’s huge 2007 success, and aiming for a piece of the action. Sadly, this album failed to reach it, and a lack of full-sounding songs resulted in a long album of similar sounding songs. Unsurprisingly each song has the same three songwriters and producers at the helm with occasional extra accomplices. The album could easily lose about four tracks and they probably wouldn’t be missed, and over all, you’d end up with a much more palatable album. This is likely why an International Edition (this one) saw the remixes stuck on the end to try to help it sell to the non-American audience.

Rated 3 stars! It's a nice album.
  • POP RESCUE 2022 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 2009 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #23, certified Silver by the BPI.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.49 from a British Heart Foundation store.

Based on all of the Mariah Carey albums that we have reviewed so far, we are able to calculate her average album score as 
3.60 out of 5.

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