Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel is Mariah Carey's 12th studio album that was released on September 29, 2009 by Island Records.
- Betcha Gon' Know (The Prologue) 4:00
- Obsessed 4:02
- H.A.T.E.U. 4:28
- Candy Bling 4:03
- Ribbon 4:21
- Inseparable 3:34
- Standing O 4:00
- It's A Wrap 4:01
- Up Out My Face 3:41
- Up Out My Face (The Reprise) 0:51
- More Than Just Friends 3:37
- The Impossible 4:01
- The Impossible (The Reprise) 2:26
- Angel (The Prelude) 1:04
- Angels Cry 4:02
- Languishing (The Interlude) 2:34
- I Want To Know What Love Is 3:27
In early 2009, singer and songwriter The-Dream stated that he and Carey had already begun working on her next studio album, saying: "I think it's about just writing an album that includes the focus of all the hits that she's had. She can't take a loss; she has to do everything to the T. So it's basically like we're trying to make a greatest hits album without using the greatest hits".
In February 2009, The-Dream told to MySpace Music that he and Carey had finished seven songs for the album.
In May, Carey revealed that she was calling the album "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" because it was going to be "very personal and dedicated to the fans".
She says that she chose to use three images for the cover art because "there are a lot of different emotions and stories revealed on this album." She also stated that she loves "the whole album" and she's "completely immersed in it".
On June 16th, Carey said on Twitter that there will be "big ballads" on the album. She also said that she "tried to make something for all who love Butterfly, and even older albums."
For the first time in her career, Carey worked with American Grammy Award-winning hip-hop and R&B record-producer Timbaland. They worked on a number of tracks, but none were included on the album.
Another song, "Imperfect" (which was written by Carey and deals with societal pressure on women to "be perfect and look a certain way") also failed to make the track listing.
In an interview with BET, Carey said that she worked with Jermaine Dupri, but none of his songs are on the album. Despite the majority of the project being written and produced by Carey, Tricky Stewart and The-Dream, the main goal was to avoid having a "redundant or stale" album.
In an interview with Elle, Carey described the sound of her new album: "Each song is its own snapshot of a moment in a story. But overall, the vibe is R&B hip-hop with a lot of slow jams. [...] Each song has its own mood; some flow seamlessly into each other, and that was the purpose, and others are very different. The album has a sense of humor, [you can hear me laughing out loud at certain points], but it also has deep and introspective moments."
For "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel", Mariah Carey has collaborated primarily with the team of The-Dream and Tricky Stewart for songwriting and producing throughout the entire album.
Mariel Concepcion of Billboard dubbed the album as a record for "big ballads and R&B tunes about love and heartbreak while herself labelled it as "an R&B hip-hop album with a lot of slow jams."
Lyrically, Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine described the album as a "breakup record," with Mariah "kicking all kinds of men to the curb (basically the whole album)."
Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone saw the album as "a mix of love ballads and sassy breakup anthems" while Dan Gennoe wrote that the album's focus is on "sentimental simpering, bittersweet slow jams, tears, heartbreak and five octaves of love."
The album starts with "Betcha Gon' Know (The Prologue)", involving Mariah finding her man cheating on her with an unclothed woman and threatening to expose him on national television ("Oprah Winfrey whole segment, for real", she sings).
The second track and album's lead-single "Obsessed" details anger and anxiety at being stalked with a guy who is deceptively claiming he's had sex with her.
Several critics believed that the "guy" in question was Eminem, who allegedly spread rumors about their involvement.
"H.A.T.E.U." stands for "Having a Typical Emotional Upset", and it's a painfully slow track about the emotional torment of lovers being torn apart while in "Candy Bling" she wishes she could relive happier times before cherished relationships ended.
On "Ribbon," she sings, "You give my body chills/ … And boy I got your lovin' on my mind" while on "Inseparable", Mariah sings about true love alongside a thumbing bass.
"It's a Wrap" has Mariah making sure a cheatin' ex knows it's over for good while "Up Out My Face" shares lyrical similarities, with Mariah issuing a sassy kiss-off: "I thought we had something special/ That we had something good/ But I should've had another mechanic under my hood," she sings.
The song's "reprise" follows, with a marching-band coda.
The track "More Than Just Friends" talks about reveling in the glory of love, with Mariah singing, "We can make love in Italy in the grotto" and poking fun at her own vocal signature ("Love me down till I hit the top of my soprano," she coos).
"The Impossible", which Mariah says is about her marriage to Nick Cannon, starts sweetly: "I looked in your heart/And saw all my dreams come true." It takes its cue from early-'90s group Jodeci's song "Forever My Lady."
She harbors hope for a broken relationship on "Angels Cry", with her staple high-pitched voice over piano and finger snaps, singing: "I'm willing to live and die for our love/Baby we can get back that shine".
The album reaches its most painful moments in "Languishing", about being in a relationship with someone you still don't feel you know after many years. "Would you reach for me if you saw that I was languishing?," she wonders.
The album closes with a cover of Foreigner's love-affirming, 1984 hit "I Want to Know What Love Is." Mariah's version of the song features a gospel choir and whistle notes.
"Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel" debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200, opening with first-week sales of 168,000 units. It also topped Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was certified gold in December 2009, denoting shipments of 500,000 units.
"Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" received generally positive reviews from music critics.
At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from music critics, the album received an average score of 69, based on 13 reviews, indicating generally favorable reviews.
Allmusic gave the album three and a half stars (out of five) and called it "her most interesting album in a decade", commenting that: "Even if it doesn't smack of the confessional autobiography of the title, there's no denying that Memoirs is an album, not a collection of tracks, possessing its own flow and mood, which gives it a personality the slightly desperate E=MC2 lacked" though "it never manages to kick out a song that is all that distinctive on its own terms".
Another critic pointed out that the album lacks "the pandering, heavy-handed sexuality Mariah has relied upon too heavily this decade – and in doing so, it feels age appropriate in a way she hasn't in a long time, despite a collection of silly, jumbled lyrics".
The A.V. Club also gave the album a positive review with a grade of B-, commenting, "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, her lattice of subtler vocal overdubs softens and strengthens those flights."
A mixed review came from Slant Magazine, in which music critic Sal Cinquemani called the album "one of her most sonically consistent". However, finding the album "soulless", he noted that the aural similarity of the tracks led to the production sounding "cheap and same-y, lacking the fullness of her best work".
He continues, "Mariah is in fine voice throughout the album, and there are plenty of inspired moments to be found... Which makes it all the more disappointing that the album's final stretch devolves into a mess of old-school Mariah rehashes that should have been left in the past."
Entertainment Weekly music critic Leah Greenblatt gave Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel a B, noting that the album neither impresses nor disappoints, but is merely satisfactory: "imperfections are nowhere to be found on Memoirs, but neither are many true revelations." Robert Christgau once again gave the album a "dud" score.
Jon Caramanica from The New York Times gave the album a mixed review, writing that the album "manages simplicity and clutter all at once".
Caramanica also criticized Carey's vocal performances, decrying her overuse of her softer vocal registers at the expense of her more powerful lower and mid registers: "When exactly did Mariah Carey stop singing? Even when she began flirting aggressively with hip-hop in the mid-1990s she was happy to impose her titanic vocals atop even the scrappiest production... Of late though, Ms. Carey has been whispering, as if newly scared of grand gestures."
A positive review came from Billboard music critic Mariel Concepcion, who wrote that "Mariah Carey is not only revisiting her past appearance-wise, but she's also taking her sound back to her R&B roots...Overall, Carey's throwback vibe on "Memoirs" is refreshing and much welcomed."