Entertainment Weekly - B
Me. I am Mariah... The Elusive ChanteuseLet's start with that subtitle: The Elusive Chanteuse? It's hard to take it seriously when the first two words in Mariah Carey's new album title are Me and I, and she's standing right there on the cover in a crocheted swimsuit like a vision of Aphrodite that somebody airbrushed on the side of a van. And although the singer hasn't released a proper studio full-length since 2009'sMemoirs of an Imperfect Angel, she's been everywhere: claiming she needed ''a fragrant moment'' with her perfume on HSN; telling 20/20 that she gave birth to her now 3-year-old twins while blasting her own song, ''Fantasy,'' in the delivery room; having a hold-my-hoops showdown with Nicki Minaj on American Idol. (Her time as a judge on Idol, she told Billboard, ''was not festive.'') So it's genuinely exciting that she opens her new album with ''Cry,'' an emotional Mariah-at-the-piano ballad that could make people start to care about the music again.
Working with longtime collaborator Jermaine Dupri, Carey front-loads the track list with midtempo R&B and soulful torch songs that spotlight her best asset: That Voice. She comes on strong with Jennifer Holliday-in-Dreamgirls bravado on ''You Don't Know What to Do.'' (''You'd better SING IT, girl!'' yelps guest Wale appreciatively.) And she's whistle-toning all over the end of ''Dedicated,'' a fun, Wu-Tang-sampling tribute to hip-hop's golden age, featuring Nas.
Nostalgia is a big theme here, both lyrically (she's looking through old photo books on ''Faded'') and musically, with arrangements that borrow from Inner Life's disco rave-up ''I'm Caught Up (In a One Night Love Affair)'' and the O'Jays' Philly-soul classic ''Let Me Make Love to You.'' Stevie Wonder even whips out a harmonica solo for ''Make It Look Good'' that could've been unearthed from the crates. There are still way too many slow, generic love songs and too much schmaltz, like the harp-strumming ''Supernatural'' (featuring the giggles and babblings of ''DemBabies, a.k.a. Ms. Monroe and Moroccan Scott Cannon, a.k.a. Roc N' Roe,'' according to the album credits). But it's easy to get nostalgic yourself during the gospel epic ''Heavenly (No Ways Tired/Can't Give Up Now),'' backed by a full choir and samples of the late Rev. James Cleveland, with Mariah trilling like crazy. This might not be the ''Vision of Love'' Mariah, but she sounds more like that girl than she has in a while.
That Voice has been through a lot, and you can hear it. There are times on The Elusive Chanteuse when she's trying to power through a note where it sounds like digital technology might be holding her up by the straps of that crocheted swimsuit. But who else has survived EDM and Auto-Tune and still climbs her way up the octaves like this?
NY Daily News - 4/5 stars
Mariah Carey: ‘Me. I am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse’: Album review
Mariah got the memo.
For her first pop album in five years — housed under the diva-like title "Me. I Am Mariah....The Elusive Chanteuse" — the star needed to heed the warning of her disastrous last work. And she has.
That disc, 2009's "Memoir of an Imperfect Angel," became the worst selling, and most creatively dire, recording of Carey's nearly quarter-century career. It also set off the longest stretch since she scored a slam-dunk smash single, dating back to 2008's "Touch My Body."
Carey's new music was long-delayed. In between, she put out an indifferent Christmas album and started fresh recordings, only to abandon them. The star also had personal challenges, like a pregnancy (with twins) she has described as "really difficult." Worse, she had to co-judge "American Idol" with Nicki Minaj
While the new "Chanteuse" has a formal release date of next Tuesday (May 27th), iTunes started streaming it early this morning.
The music reacts to Carey's fallow years in most every way it should. It returns her to the type of grand balladry, and formal melodies, that first made her a star. It's her most melodic, least-trendy album in memory - both moves that greatly flatter her.
Though the disc contains cameos from rappers like Nas and Wale, it has far fewer hip-hop inflections than the faux-hip "Memoir" disc. Instead it stresses songs like the opening weeper "Cry," an inspired throw-back to initial hits like "Vision of Love." Accompanied primarily by piano, Carey unfurls the full range of her instrument, something she had too often scaled back of late to suit songs over-indebted to their beats. The result lets her lean into the song's drama, which she engages completely.
That's not to say that Carey has abandoned more up-beat material. "Meteorite," which starts out quoting Andy Warhol's "15 minutes of fame" line, shoots us back to the days of Studio 54, with a spiraling, string-drenched disco beat. The pre-release single "#Beautiful," with guest star Miguel, has a classic R&B melody, boosted by a looming backbeat.
Whether in more elegant ballads, or most assertive R&B songs, the new tunes give Carey more to play with than usual.
As on many discs, Carey sticks in a famous cover. They're often corny ones (see: her run at Foreigner's "I Wanna Know what Love Is" last time). But here she makes a smarter choice - George Michael's "One More Try." Backed by a gospel organ and choir, Carey dances over the notes, wringing every ripple out of the tune. She even tailors her worst tics - those endless melismas - using them to mine emotion rather than to falsely impress.
Contrary to its title, the new album may be Carey's least elusive work. Rarely has she made her talent more clear.
Stream the album here
this bitch stans for madonna hard (the writer of the NYDnews) and has never given mariah a good review. you can tell from his backhanded compliments how much he hated writing this lol