Wednesday 21 May 2014

Album review: Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse

What can be said, or more to the point, what hasn't already been said about the best-selling female artist of the millennium? Everyone's favourite slightly bonkers diva, Mariah Carey has been dropping her much envied vocal runs over the world's music charts for well over two decades now. However, in more recent years her musical offerings have been met with a rather lukewarm reception.

Originally this album's intended lead single, the lame duck that was "Triumphant (Get 'Em)" has thankfully been quietly ditched from the album formerly known as The Art of Letting Go. "#Beautiful" made the grade though, complete with entirely superfluous punctuation - an intermittent theme on The Elusive Chanteuse. While Miguel's lyrics may be needlessly crude and arguably beneath someone of Carey's stature, it's an obvious single choice and remains a catchy summer jam. The other singles, "You're Mine (Eternal)" and "The Art of Letting Go", both appear too, though the latter only on the deluxe edition, and are both solid Carey ballads.

The curious thing about Carey's 14th studio album is that, while it may not be packed with huge singles, it's a strong effort from Mimi/MC/The Elusive Chanteuse (still not buying it) nonetheless. It works incredibly well as a whole, with no bad songs that have you reaching for the "skip" button. Her voice still sounds great too, even if the odd note sounds a little harder for her to hit now she's well into her 40s - Mariah is still easily one of the best vocalists on the world stage. With the healthy crop of ballads on The Elusive Chanteuse, Carey really gets to show her pipes are still in fine working order, particularly on those richer, deeper notes.

It may work better as a whole, but that's not to say this new album isn't without it's shining moments. Starting off in a deceptively low-key fashion, the breezy and disco-lite vibe of "You Don't Know What to Do" is perfect for the forthcoming summer and could almost be a "Fantasy (Part II)". The rap contributed by Wale may be a little surplus to requirement but it still marks one of the album's obvious highlights. Similarly, "Meteorite" is a fun (if slightly generic) empowerment anthem. Featuring Dem Babies, "Supernatural" was the horrendous and cringe-worthy pratfall waiting to happen when the finalised tracklisting was unveiled earlier this month. Thankfully, it's actually a rather sweet song that closes with some adorable chatter between Mariah and her kids.

Then there's the utterly over the top and brilliantly epic closing track. With rather a mouthful of a song name, "Heavenly (No Ways Tired / Can't Give Up Now)" is Mariah at her ridiculous best. There's gospel flavourings complete with obligatory choir, layered vocals, more melismas than you can shake a diva-shaped stick at, and that's not to even mention the multiple - yes, multiple - key changes. Hallelu! Lord Jesus, it's a winner!

Unlikely to win her any new fans, and not exactly pushing any musical boundaries - unless you count trying to make R&B rightfully more mainstream, damnit - Mariah's 14th album deserves to serve her well, because it's far stronger than the troubled lead up to its release would have you believe. Definitely worth the long wait, but we still reckon the sublime "Almost Home" deserved to be a deluxe edition bonus track.

(So So Gay)

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