Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PoP RecommendS - MemoirS of an ImperfecT AngeL


Mariah made an unusual move by posting the entire CD on her My Space page, and I confess that I was completely addicted from first listen.
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I have been a Mariah fan since the first time I heard Visions of Love on the radio in 1990, and I have stayed for the entire ride, hearing the subtle changes in style with each CD as she moved closer to her true musical passions. The only true misstep I can attribute would be for Rainbow (no, not Glitter), which I felt had a few standouts, but was a transitional CD that never got it's footing. *a note about Glitter - regardless of what anyone says, it was a standout CD that perfectly blended the elements of the era it was trying to portray - the 80's. People seem to forget that it was a SOUNDTRACK and not a true Mariah album.
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Charmbracelet seemed to be the first real step since Butterfly to move Mariah away from her pop catagorization and into the RnB realm, that she has always dabbled in. Emancipation was another step, but still offered a bit of something for everyone. E=MC was a fun CD with some great material, but it seemed to want to recreate what MIMI had been, and though it completely fell flat on that account, it was a stellar CD in it's own right.
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And then along came Memoirs and Mimi has her first, TRUE RnB, Hip-Hop CD, with the exception of Angels Cry and I Want To Know What Love Is, although on the latter she adds a gospel choir, which is just the right touch and allows this song to be the perfect closer for the CD.
I do read reviews, but I never let them sway me from forming my own opinion, so it's a bit strange that I would feel compelled to write one. The one or 2 negative reviews I read left me mystified - are these people sure they are listening to the same CD that I am? Anyone who knows anything about music should marvel at how effortlessly she mixes in elements, and even phrases from other songs, yet manages to make them completely her own. And the Mariah on Memoirs has perfected an already great gift for lyric and melody, shifting from anger to humor with a simple turn of a phrase. Clearly, our girl had a blast making this CD.
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As someone else mentioned, artists often speak about the "concept" album, and sometimes they actually achieve it. In the case of Memoirs, there is a definate story here, not in terms of "once upon a time", but it is a journey through all the ups and downs of relationships - not necessarily the same one- but an overall picture of the range of human emotions brought about by love.
Musically, the CD flows from start to finish, with no insertions that take the listener off guard. A few make the tired, over used claim that "all the songs sound the same", but if you want to get technical, this could be said about almost any album in existence. If there are a million different styles happening then the CD would sound disjointed and uneven. Yes, there are similarities in the music and production, but it serves to strengthen the overall product. I can listen to this CD from beginning to end and still want more. In my opinion, it's just THAT good!
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Vocally, Mariah uses almost every element and texture of her incredible voice. The fact is that it is not what it was 10 years ago, but whose voice is? There is a husky quality that has emerged, and this just gives her voice more emotion and soul. And for the record, breathy vocals are NOT whispering. This is actually a layer of the vocal chord that despite what non-singers may like to believe, it is not easy to sing this way. It is one of the qualities that sets her apart from her contemporaries...the ability to jump from head voice to chest voice within a single a phrase, and I can't think of any other artist that can do it the way she does. On Memoirs, we are treated to cooing, a velvety use of her lower register, some genuine belting, and the signature whistle register - all to perfect effect.
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Mariah says that in many ways the style of singing on this CD is an homage to the great Minnie Ripperton and it's a worthy tribute. It's hard to pick a favorite, because it shifts with my mood and each listen, but I love Betcha Gon' Know, H.A.T.E.U., Standing O, Ribbon, Up Out My Face, More Than Just Friends, Angels Cry, and the closing remake of I Want To Know What Love Is.
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If you can listen without prejudice, preconceived notions or the desire for Mariah to be singing songs in the style that made her famous, or the next "We Belong Together", then you will appreciate this CD for what it is: a masterwork by an amazing artist who continues to evolve and stay fresh.
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The best CD of 2009 so far - without a doubt.
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©2009 - Sean Dibble



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