As far as titles go, this is probably Mariah Carey’s clunkiest: Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse. It sounds like a kid wrote it, which is perhaps what the iconic singer wanted. As a matter of fact, the title was taken from her childhood portrait of herself (featured on the back cover). “This is my first and only self-portrait. I drew it when I was 3 ½, and entitled it ‘Me. I am Mariah,’” she says in the outro. “Please don’t judge me for such a simplistic title, come on! I was only 3 ½”. Mariah goes on to say that this self-portrait was a “creative visualization” of how she saw herself through a child’s heart. The whole thing feels like she’s letting us in on a secret – to her magical superstar success.
The secret out, Mariah Carey spends the rest of her 14th studio album chilling. There’s no soul-wrenching pain or long soaring crescendos. Nope. She’s relaxed, luxurious, totally adjusted to her happy family life with hubby Nick Cannon and twin babies, Moroccan and Monroe. The cuties giggle on the cloudy “Supernatural,” and one even says, “I’m a Chanteuse”. What a treasure! But for Mariah die-hards, one might ask, where’s the diva we’ve come to know and love? The diva’s still there, she’s just sitting down.
The album opens with “Pride,” a soft piano-led balled. It’s an emo, introspective cut – an interesting choice to open an album – but one that lets Mariah croon beautifully. By opening so softly, Mariah encourages the listener to begin by… listening.
Next we hear several well produced, if formulaic, groovy tracks. They come across as background lounge songs. Besides “Beautiful,” these tunes lack that big pop radio-friendliness for which Mariah is known.
My theory? This album is not about big performances or public perception, but about Mariah’s personal retrospection. As the star says in her interlude, the album is a “reflection” of some of the “peaks and valleys” that have made her who she is today. In that sense, Me. I am… feels appropriately golden-oldies nostalgic, very “rocking chair”.
My ear did perk up on “Make It Look Good”. The harmonica, symphonic sounds, R&B groove and clever wordplay made the retro stylings feel like Stevie Wonder was making a cameo.
Speaking of retro, my personal favorite track overall is the old-school “Beautiful” with Miguel. The duet sounds like Motown relived, sprinkled with the queen’s signature fairy dust and glitter.
Speaking of Glitter, “You Don’t Know What To Do” takes us back to those days. This bouncy, sugary tune makes us feel like we are suddenly in a fun roller skate disco!
As for the mandatory nods: 80’s cover of George Michael’s “One More Try” is very nice. Mariah also fulfills her standard gospel moment with Mary Mary’s “Can’t Give Up Now”.
And… “It’s a Wrap,” (like her duet with Mary J. Blige). Me. I am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse does not necessarily have the most memorable songs of Mariah’s career. The album lacks a certain focus, or mission statement. But maybe that is the statement.
This plays as a sunset album from a diva with nothing to prove. (Hence the sunset on the front cover). It’s not Mariah’s final bow, but a rocking chair away from her golden years. The only thing Mariah is trying to say on this album is – this is me. The songs sound like she’d croon them in her bedroom by herself like some happy, smiling kid – or some elusive chanteuse.