Sunday, 8 June 2014

#LIM SPECIAL: Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (#MariahWeek Review)


One of the many things to love about this lady is that as much as she likes to write loosely, to leave meaning open to interpretation, if you really analyse her lyrics, you will find some of the wittiest, most intelligent phrasing. If you don't pay attention, you'll miss the punchline. This is why it always makes me so sad to hear her referred to as airheaded; because her intelligence way surpasses that of many revered in the public eye today (and several of those writing about her - if you think that her extensive vocab became a gimmick for this album, then clearly, you've never listened to any of her previous ones)! All of that aside, let's talk what the world called a Turkey, shall we? Because I do not think that you can fully appreciate, or even understand Me. I Am…, without looking back at its predecessor.

Betcha Gon Know (The Prologue)

A gamechanger in many ways, Betcha marked a complete about face from a 12-album career formula that had so far proven successful. Mariah opened with a dark ballad. She was angry, she was vengeful, she was broken; but above all, she was exceedingly calm, which turned our light, happy-go-lucky Honey into a borderline scary, scorned woman. Previously, these types of lyrics were masked with an up-tempo, less threatening beat. One that matched the lyrics made this Mariah unnerving in a less Chica, more Chucky, kind of way. I personally read several reviews shunning it, because critics simply couldn't expand their minds to accept this Mariah Carey – without their perceived bouncy fluff, they simply did not know what to do with her! The first time we have a connected storyline almost from start to finish; this song acts as the equivalent of a scene-setting, curtains up.

Obsessed

This album's only misstep, quite possibly contributed to its overall reception. Despite her protestations to the contrary (which also harmed the album's credibility, in my humble opinion), it's quite obviously aimed at a desperate, pill-popping, confused entity of a person, who at the time, switched from over a decade of taking pointless shots at a woman, to a newfound obsession with a newly-married, non-ex. Though the track is a great one ('I'm the press conference, you're a conversation' – C'monnn!), almost on par with Clown (Charmbracelet, 2002), and right on the money in fact; it has absolutely no place on this album, unless it were to come much later in the story. Since it did not, Obsessed should have been a standalone single, as trying to strengthen the innocent claims, by burying it in an album, really did not bear either case any weight.




H.A.T.E.U. (Having A Typically Emotional Upset)

Back to the story however, and this is the balladic morning aftermath, of the explosive night before. An anagram, more than an emotional threat, it's the Mariah Carey equivalent to an 80s Cyndi Lauper track, only with crazy high, heartbreak notes salving the soul. The rose-tinted spectacles have been shattered, she sees the cheating chump in the cold light of day, and all of the overwhelming emotions start flooding in, as the shock begins to wear off. Although she no longer wants him, that shock has not stopped the love that had previously taken deep root. Reality seeps in as the smoke clears, and she is left to survey the messy ruins. A great closing line acts almost as an invitation to an excellent So So Def remix by Jermaine 'JD' Dupri. Featuring OJ 'Da' Juiceman, Big Boi, and Gucci Mane – even though the latter is as superfluous to the track, as he is to music in general. The last line of the album version acts as the hook for the remix, and thus binds the two together neatly.




Candy Bling

The nostalgic throwback to a childhood romance that seemed like everything, in the days before real heartbreak came her way. It's sweet, reminiscent, and one of those 'do you remember when' songs that everybody can relate to. What I initially thought to be a stupid song title inviting ridicule actually makes perfect sense a few lines in, and the floaty production even offers wistful transport back to those sunny days of puppy love

Ribbon

With the exception of a very annoying backing by Terius Nash (aka The-Dream), this is one of the album favourites. What is clearly the first of a few love songs dedicated to her then-new husband, actually works as a steamy part of the storyline, as the throwback to when everything was hot, with a capital H.O.T. The return to adulthood talks of their heyday as a couple, when the couple were at their seemingly unbreakable best, and moments apart felt like hours, instead of 20 good minutes.

Inseparable

Moving into the next phase of the breakup, she’s missing him, struggling to cut him out of her life. Trying to figure out that elusive 'where did we go wrong' moment, she is on that wavering verge of forgetting what he did wrong, as her vulnerability takes control. Sounding like beautiful, straight 90s RnB, Inseparable hearkens back to everything that music had been missing up to that 2009-point.


The Angry Phase is upon us. Finding her inner strength momentarily, she remembers his crimes with self-deprecating clarity. Now that she does, she lauds her former beau for his acting abilities on their stage of a relationship. From the 'I'm a fool for giving him everything' school of thought, she attacks herself, and him in equal measure, before exiting stage left.



It's A Wrap

Is her first attempt at closing the door for good. It's not just an epic moment in the story, but also in Carey's abilities as a songwriter, and level of song composition. It’s a highlight in her own personal story as an artist. Comedic sass, stellar vocal arrangement and production. Carey finds her musical home, and evolves into that Chanteuse we are later introduced to. This is the real Mariah that any supporter knows and loves. It is the class of the music, met by her larger than life personality in this Jazz lounge epic, that is just screaming to be delivered from Marilyn’s piano.

In terms of the story at hand however, it is the moment when she regains her power and control of the situation. The lyrics have you wondering if in the earlier vulnerable moment of Inseparable, she did, in fact, take him back for a split second, only for him to mess up in an even shorter amount of time; because by this point, she's officially done – there's no coming back. Out all night, and ignoring her calls, the comedy takes the form of the drunken meltdown of a 40s screen siren, in kitten heels, satin and pre-Technicolor monochrome. Sarcastic insults flow freely, as do the (understandable) threats of violence, and warnings of worsening humiliation – by the time anyone's reduced to mentioning Maury Povich, it's safe to say that whatever you had is gone, it's gone, it's gone, it's gone

Up Out My Face

Is where the tempo picks up, and so do the comedic insults. She finally cuts those ties, as she comes good on her promise in Betcha, that he will feel her pain, if it is the last thing that she ever does. The marching band reprise is just genius (I do love a good marching band, me), as it not only adds stature and attitude to the  track, but is also a nod to her dashing hunk of a prince, riding in on his white horse(powered Bugatti), to save the dayDrumline, anyone?!




More Than Just Friends

By now, we've met the replacement, and the connection is intense. The wordplay is like a fraught, Wimbledon Final, setting the scene for the next man on it. Mariah aces some great one-liners, just for the heck of it, and you get a peek into just how easy this songwriting thing can sometimes be for her. However, she is begging you to read between the lines again – the quiet intro and hook asks, "Am I okay?" In quiet need for affirmation beneath all of the bravado

The Impossible

After the shocking heartache at the start, it is no surprise that Mariah would have closed off her heart. So when this new person opens it back up, and teaches her that it IS ok to love again, it's no wonder that she considers it The Impossible. Another written for her new husband, the chorus lyrics say everything that needs to be said: 'You did the impossible, you rescued my love…I had almost given up'. With Jodeci's 'Forever My Lady' sample running as a pulsating undercurrent, it's no surprise that the song is breathy, and sexual; so when it gets a reprise that takes things one step further, Mariah officially raises the temperature, until you want to engage in partnered activities – will somebody kindly pass me some ice and a fan

Angel (The Prelude) / Angels Cry

The mood turns sombre as we move into the Angel Prelude. Thankfully unlike real-life, things have not worked out with Mr Rebound, and she is facing the agony of wanting her true love back, even though she’s still on the ground from his last blow. Devoid of every remaining scrap of self-protection, she lays her heart on the line one last time, and offers to put the work in to salvage what’s left of their relationship, before the heartbreaking final acceptance that their relationship cannot be saved.




Languishing (The Interlude)

A beautiful interlude that could absolutely have survived as a full track. Its sadness talks of judgement, desperation, and a lack of consideration and compassion for the pain in our fellow human beings. The sadness behind the rhetorical questions takes us into the massive powerhouse finale.

I Want To Know What Love Is

Mariah’s Foreigner cover fits perfectly into the story, and is a fitting close, as she begins to accept that the real love in her relationship came from her alone. In an ideal world, her cheating ex would never let he go (likely wouldn't have cheated in the first place, to be fair); but in the real world, even though she accepts that they are done, she is lamenting over what could have been, if it were a two-way street, and realising that she never had that at all. In belting acceptance, it’s the moment of closure.



Now. If you go back and listen to this album again with a new ear, you might just discover that not only is this pattern a precursor to Me. I Am…, but you might also now discover, why Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel is quite possibly one of Mariah Carey’s best albums yet.

Until the next...
ES ;)