They always say not to judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Mariah Carey's new album, it's okay to judge it by its back cover.
As promised last week, the 44-year-old pop diva has unveiled the title, key art, and track listing for her 14th studio album, but it was a drawing on the back cover that really tells the story.
Initial fan reaction was mixed, arguing that the images of Mariah on the album's two different front covers look retouched to the extreme, and the title — "I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse" — is rooted in a seemingly ego-driven declaration of self-identity.
Moreover, the track listing on the back cover features a child's handwritten drawing, leading some to wonder if Mariah let her kids choose the album's theme.
Those fans might want to look a little closer.
Mariah told Billboard that her new album would "take its name from a personal possession of mine that's part of an entity that I've had almost all my life." And sure enough, the album title's meaning was explained in a YouTube video Mariah posted along with Thursday morning's announcement.
"On the back cover of this album is a personal treasure," Mariah begins. "My first and only self-portrait. I drew it when I was 3 and a half, and entitled it 'Me. I Am Mariah.' Please don't judge me for such a simplistic title — C'mon, I was only 3 and a half! It was a creative visualization of how I saw myself with the purity of a child's heart before it was ever broken. I've kept this drawing private for so long but because this album is a reflection of the peaks and valleys that have made me who I am today, I've decided to share it with those of you who actually care and have been here for me through it all. We've been through a lot, but I've always known me. I Am Mariah."
She continues, "Along the way, there have been many nicknames and I've inadvertently embodied many personas. Lately, they've been calling me… The Elusive Chanteuse."
In other words, the album title is a combination of how Mariah first envisioned herself as a child, along with a recent name given to her by those closest to her. Mariah's other popular nicknames over the years have included "Mimi" and "MC."
All of this falls in line with what Mariah's echoed many times in recent years; that her next album would be a reflection of how motherhood has changed her.
The inevitable Beyoncé comparisons continue beyond the album's "surprise" rollout strategy. First, Mariah's album title has vague similarities to Queen Bey's 2008 album, "I Am… Sasha Fierce." Also, Mariah chose to feature her brood on one of her latest songs. Track 9, "Supernatural," is credited "W/ Special Guest Stars 'Dembabies' A.K.A. Ms. Monroe & Mr. Moroccan, Scott Cannaon, A.K.A. Roc N' Roe;" Beyoncé featured daughter Blue Ivy on the track "Blue" on her latest self-titled visual album.
Many of Mariah's albums over the years have looked somewhat similar, and this one is no exception. Mariah mostly offers up variations on her two signature album cover looks: a full body shot centered in the album's middle, or a close up face shot. Sure enough, on "I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse," she offers one of each — the full-body centered image on the 15-track Standard Edition, and the close-up on the 18-track Deluxe Edition.
Wanna take a look back? Below are a few examples of Mariah's album covers that riff on the full body shot:
And here are a few showing off her facial close-up:
The Deluxe Edition of "I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse" features additional tracks that include "It's a Wrap" (feat. Mary J. Blige) and "Betcha Gon' Know" (feat. R. Kelly) — both of which were originally featured on her 2009 album "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" — and the previously released "The Art of Letting Go."
Other collaborations on Mariah's new album include "Dedicated" (feat. Nas), the also previously released "#Beautiful" (feat. Miguel), "You Don't Know What To Do" (feat. Wale), and "Money ($ * / …)" (feat. Fabolous).
"I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse" is available May 27.
The full track listing is below:
3. Dedicated (feat. Nas)
4. #Beautiful (feat. Miguel)
6. Make It Look Good
7. You’re Mine (Eternal)
8. You Don’t Know What To Do (feat. Wale)
9. Supernatural (With Special Guest Stars "Dembabies" a.k.a. Ms. Monroe & Mr. Moroccan Scott Cannon a.k.a. Roc ‘N Roe)
12. Money ($ * / …) (feat. Fabolous)
13. One More Try
14. Heavenly (No Ways Tired/Can’t Give Up Now)
15. It’s a Wrap (feat. Mary J. Blige) [Deluxe edition]
16. Betcha Gon’ Know (feat. R. Kelly) [Deluxe edition]
17. The Art of Letting Go [Deluxe edition]
18. Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse