Imperfections are in the eye of the beholder. You can see them as
flaws, or as the very qualities that make us human -- and that make us
strive to be better people in search of a perfection that we know we
can never fully achieve. In the thirteen songs on her spellbinding new
album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, Mariah Carey explores those
aspects of our shared humanity with a rare depth, honesty and
open-heartedness. It's one of the strongest statements in her long,
The subject of Memoirs is
love at all its stages in our lives. Experiencing it for the first
time. Losing it. Remembering its most painful moments, and also its
times of greatest innocence and joy. Yearning for it. Learning from it.
Growing as a result of its profound power. Finding it again and being
grateful for so great a gift. And, finally, being humbled, filled with
wonder and elevated by love's mysterious ways. In that sense and more,
Memoirs is a full, immensely satisfying journey.
"Each song is
like an intimate conversation or entry in a private diary," Carey says
about the album. "A lot of the songs reflect specific, different times
in my life. Others were inspired by movies, actual events that happened
to me, or the stories of friends who told me about experiences that
they've gone through." With just one exception, Carey wrote and
produced the entire album in collaboration with The-Dream and Tricky
Stewart. The trio clearly shared an inspired sense of what Memoirs
should be. Sinuous grooves and instantly memorable melodies flow from
track to track, while the wit and intimacy of the lyrics create the
feel of one friend talking to another. As well-defined as each song is,
Memoirs plays with the beauty and consistency of a classic,
"My main goal was to work with people I
could collaborate with without it seeming redundant or stale," Carey
says. "In my opinion Tricky is one of the most underrated major
producers out there right now. I really enjoyed collaborating with him.
And I especially liked writing with The-Dream, basically because we
both love having fun with lyrics and melodies, and we're also capable
of getting more serious on deeper songs. There is a particular sense of
freedom I feel when we write together -- even though I make him stay in
the studio all night until he is ready to kill me! LOL!"
first single is the hard-hitting "Obsessed," which is accompanied by a
video directed by Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour trilogy) in which Carey
plays both the glamorous star and her stalker fan. Like the video, the
song's lyrics combine devastating putdowns ("Last man on the Earth
still couldn't get this") with humor ("See right through you like
you're bathin' in Windex"). The no-nonsense "Up Out My Face" captures a
similar caustic mood, dismissing a former lover with the send-off,
"When I break, I break, boy." "It's a Wrap" delivers a similar message
about the end of an affair: "When it's gone, it's gone." "Standing O,"
with its irresistible chorus, sardonically applauds a faithless ex for
his signature achievement: "You played the one that loved you the
most." "Betcha Gon' Know" foresees karmic revenge for a wayward lover,
but, once again, the clever lyrics ("Oprah Winfrey whole segment for
real, for real / 20/20 Barbara Walters for real, for real") encourage a
smile amid the pain.
The ballad "H.A.T.E.U.,"
meanwhile, finds the singer seeing life in the wake of a breakup and
longing for the moment when loss and regret transform into a cleansing
anger. But the title of the song doesn't necessarily stand for what you
think it might. "H.A.T.E.U. is the first song I wrote for the album,"
Carey says, "and it stands for Having A Typical Emotional Upset."
a brilliant technical singer with an extraordinary vocal range, Carey
rises to new heights on that track. "I sing a recurring melody in the
upper register of my voice; it's not an ad-lib, but an integral part of
the song's hook," she says. "That's not something I've done before, and
when listening back to it, it reminded me of how Minnie Riperton used
her upper register on her hit song 'Lovin' You.' I thought how ironic
that her song was called 'Lovin' You' and my song is called,
'H.A.T.E.U.' - and both use that upper 'whistle register' as a major
part of the melody. So it's sort of an homage to Minnie Riperton, a
tribute to her since she has been so influential in my singing style."
a tender note, the wistful "Candy Bling" beautifully evokes the
blissful realm of young love ("Anklets, name plates that you gave to
me/Sweet tarts, ring pops had that candy bling/And you were my world"),
while "Inseparable" aches for a love that went wrong for reasons that
seem impossible to comprehend. "More Than Just Friends" floats off into
a fantasy of what a casual relationship might become ("Permanently
paint me in your picture like Picasso/Love me down till I hit the top
of my soprano!"). "Ribbon" and "The Impossible" swoon with happiness
and thankfulness over redemptive love that has returned to make life
rich again. "You did the impossible," Carey sings. "You rescued my
Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel ends with a spectacularly
powerful gospel rendition of Foreigner's gorgeous ballad, "I Want to
Know What Love Is." Carey's voice soars into the heavens as a
soul-stirring choir makes it clear that the search for love is the
closest that any human being ever gets to the divine.
brings us back to the angel of the album's title. "I had written a song
called 'Imperfect,'" Carey says, "but it didn't make it onto the album.
The lyrics of that song address the fact that the world puts so much
pressure on us -- especially on women -- to be perfect and look a
certain way, and that is impossible because nobody is perfect. Only God
is perfect. I know I've tried to be a good person, but I am definitely
"But after I put this album together and decided
to name it Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel," she concludes, "I remembered
that the Minnie Riperton album that contained 'Lovin' You' was called
Perfect Angel. So I felt in so many ways that it was meant to be."