Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel peaks early, on the second song: “Obsessed,” Carey’s big summer single, is a wicked dis of an unnamed Eminem for spreading rumors about their involvement: “You’re all fired up with your Napoleon complex / See right through you like you’re bathing in Windex.” Even then—or when she pines for lost love and/or decries its curdling—Carey largely sounds laid-back and cool here, rather than her usual overpowering self. Credit the production and co-writing of Christopher “Tricky” Stewart and Terius “The-Dream” Nash, also responsible for Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” among other hits. Their team-up with Carey is canny: Stewart and Nash loosen up the diva’s sometimes overblown on-record persona, and in return she gives definition to some of their more meandering tunes and backdrops. Memoirs is Carey’s least pyrotechnic album, its flow is as important as its tunes, and while Carey is still given to acrobatic vocal displays (the seagull chirp of the 1991 hit “Emotions” is alive and well on the climax of “H.A.T.E.U.” and midway through “Inseparable”), her lattice of subtler vocal overdubs softens and strengthens those flights. By the time the album closes with a run-through of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is,” she’s cooed and murmured so much it’s somewhat surprising to encounter the leather-lunged belter unadorned again—but only somewhat.
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