Mariah Carey accomplishes a feat with Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse that pop stars rarely achieve: Twenty-four years and 13 other studio albums into her career, she compiles one of her best sets yet. iTunes is streaming a preview of full length which comes out next week and features production from Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins, and Hit-Boy, among others.
As the title states, Me. I Am Mariah captures her essence. Oblivious to shock value trends plaguing pop music, Carey sings a collection of love songs over a mixture of gospel-tinged ballads, 1980s R&B, and hip-hop soul.
Her last pop albums, 2009's Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel and 2008's E-MC2, only scored one top 10 hit each. Carey has apparently taken the three and a half years since she dropped her 2010 Christmas record to hone the Me. I Am Mariah tracklist.
As her singles "You're Mine (Eternal)" and "Beautiful" featuring Miguel reflect, Carey is sticking to the basics — straightforward, undeniable vocals. The album's emotional opening track "Cry" sets the pace. On the stripped-down piano production, her tone matches the song's somber story of longing for intimacy.
Me. I Am Mariah offers many moody moments. On "Camouflage," she makes a plea for compassion from a mate. She delivers one of her most authentic church-singer stylings on the hymn "Heavenly (No Ways Tired/Can't Give Up Now" with the heartfelt lyrics: "Nobody told me the road would be easy/I don't believe he brought me this far to leave me." Her children, Monroe and Moroccan, appear on "Supernatural," one of the album's few blissful songs. Monroe even displays her talent, repeatedly crooning a lyric during the song's one-minute outro.
The album offers several other upbeat moments. Carey's current single "Thirsty" is a catchy, smack-talking track fit for urban radio. She teams with Miley Cyrus's "We Can't Stop" producer Mike Will Made It for the rumbling "Faded." And she goes old school R&B on the Nas-assisted "Dedicated," the rollerskating jam "You Don't Know What to Do" with Wale, and the Q-Tip-produced house track "Meteorite." Surprisingly, her cover of George Michael's 1987 ballad "One More Try" is not a standout; instead, she sounds like she's just going through the motions, overproduced and detached.
Me. I Am Mariah (the deluxe edition of which includes songs with Mary J. Blige and R. Kelly) could spark a buzz as big as her 2005 smash, The Emancipation of Mimi, which spawned the classic "We Belong Together." Regardless, it will absolutely shut down the comparisons to new kid on the block Ariana Grande.
Me. I Am Mariah comes out May 27.