Memoirs… is a slow burner. It does not hit the listener on first play, but it takes its time to warm up to be praised for what it is, a great blend of old school R&B, taking Mariah back to the same lines of Butterfly. The record goes through a set of moods, exploring regret, falling in love, heartbreak and ‘knowing what love is’.

The record does not top 2005’s The Emancipation of Mimi, where Carey belts her soul out and hits more mature ground musically speaking, but instead captures the essence of Mariah not taking herself seriously, and being a diva without make-up, just like one her singles off E=MC² was described the year it was launched. The songwriting is mostly juvenile (except for the power ballads), but it is tailor made for the mellow, and at times playful, sound of the disc. It is highly emotional and melancholic; it longs for lost love and seeks for true love, while mildly referencing past work in the process though still keeping an innovative twist; from these perspectives the album title applies.

It’s worth highlighting the album interposes Carey’s ability to hit the whistle register, letting it be used largely throughout the songs, even featuring it fully in ‘Angel (Prelude)’. Aside from the evident presence of the whistle register, the difference between this record and its predecessor, is E=MC² tried too hard to revise what ‘We Belong Together’ was in most of its ballads, which seemed desperate for recapturing the success and composition of the single. Before it was recorded, the sound of the album was described as a greatest hits album without using the greatest hits, and it indisputably contains ‘distant cousins’ to previous work, such as the cleverly titled ballad, ‘H.A.T.E.U.’, which follows the footsteps of ‘We Belong Together’, thus becoming an updated version of it without copying or rehashing the magic of the latter. The inspiration and influence of past singles present on the new tracks serve as references, instead of working as ‘replacements’.

The record is consistent, except for ‘Obsessed’, the infamous stab at Eminem’s offensive remarks towards Carey in Relapse, which does not mesh well with the rest of the track list; it seems off place. In spite of being fun and summery, the reason behind it was unnecessary; it definitely looks like a last minute addition as it takes on a different route than the rest of the album. Carey switches her vocal range and instead of focusing on belting and hitting octaves the whole time, in its place it goes for a whispery tone, which is what fills and consolidates the record’s emotional feel. Something interesting to note, is the album seems genuinely passionate and unashamedly accepting when it comes to love, it actually makes one feel in love, and the way she sings in the prologue’s closing verse, “Betcha gon’ know how it feels, even if it’s the last thing I ever do…to be continued.”, in fact gives the chills. Guess it is that good. The bitter opener ‘Betcha Gon’ Know’, the piano driven ‘Languishing’ (which is splendid; it could have been an amazing full song instead of an interlude), ‘It’s A Wrap’, ‘Angels Cry’, ‘H.A.T.E.U.’ and the hypnotic finger snapped ‘Candy Bling’ are the unsullied moments of Memoirs… All in all, it is a beautiful effort.

At first it may seem it all sounds the same, because upon first listen one cannot make a distinction between tracks, and this is because the songs address similar themes all the way through (and because Tricky Stewart and The Dream were responsible for the album’s entire production), but it only takes careful listens, paying attention to the lyrics to really see it. Memoirs… is not ground-breaking, but it is surely different from anything in her back catalogue and sees Carey standing between her comfort zone and somewhat pushing the boundary vaguely.

★★★★

C.Perez