• "Memoirs of an Imperfect God"

    22 Sep 2009, 15:52 by empoor

    We've been told that "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" is Mariah Carey's attempt to deliver an album that brings back her 90s sound. The comparisons between her presence in the start of her career and the current-day personality she has become have even surpassed the music alone—her appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show took everyone almost twenty years back in time. The hair, the smiles, the fact that she wasn't wearing a mini-skirt, and especially the high notes at the end of her live performance. Apparently, the media wants me to believe that this is still the Mariah Carey I grew up with.

    However, is it? Mariah Carey, 39, has, in my own opinion, never sounded out of sync with the music of the times she lived in, and the things happening in her own life have always transcended into her albums. So, if this album is truly a plain throwback to the albums she produced in the 1990s, I simply cannot abide it. Nevertheless—and I will repeat myself—is it?

    The Past
    In the spirit of the media's obsessiveness about her 90s sound throwback, "Charmbracelet" was a castrated first attempt to bring back the old Mariah. It turned out to be a lacklustre album with few high notes, because let's be honest, Island Records probably wanted people to forget all about her Virgin Records disaster, and going from screaming disco-pop to crickets-crickets definitely did the job. Even though they killed any musical outbursts in the process, thereby guaranteeing that Mariah sounded bored and still-depressed on every song.

    Though this all might just be my own personal interpretation of "Charmbracelet," I bet everyone will agree with me that she broke through that castration-barrier with "The Emancipation of Mimi." I'm not sure what she was on while recording "Emancipation," but we should all have a taste of that specific brand of crack. The production suddenly went from snooze to Hey-Bitch-Why-Aren't-You-Dancing, and every media outlet was calling this her grande comeback to the top of the music industry.

    Really? A three year period between albums justifies calling something a "comeback" now? We all know Mariah Carey went nowhere, and we definitely know that "Emancipation" was nothing like her previous albums ("Rainbow" excluded). With "Emancipation" she told the world that she doesn't need to be relevant: the rest of the world needs to be relevant in accordance to her presence. If you want to call "The Emancipation of Mimi" anything, then call it an "industry reckoning"—Mariah making a statement that she was not to mess with. It's like that.

    Then came "E=MC²"—which to me was nothing more than an attempt to solidify that reckoning. Some people called it "Emancipation 2" and they were probably right; if not that "E=MC²" felt like something "Emancipation" never achieved: consistent. The initial statement ("Emancipation") contained a lot of great songs, but lacked the overall steadiness of greatness—while "E=MC²" on the other hand achieved consistency. Mariah's musical, writing and production interests had finally come together, and it showed.

    So, what does one do after finally feeling like a whole person again? Well, most people would chill and relax, and enjoy their country-sized Manhattan apartments.

    Thankfully, Mariah Carey—every time I feel the need to write her full name; she's a corporation, you know—did not feel the need to relax. And thus we return to the original subject of this article: "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel."

    "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel"
    I will stay on topic this time and start-off by stating that the first time I listened to it, it seemed to be an album that followed a few key rules from the Janet Jackson rulebook.

    First of all, the album contains a prologue, two reprises, a prelude, and an interlude. Except for one of the reprises and the prelude, these are all almost full-length songs, making them an addition to the songs they're supporting instead of just introductions and endings. Some people don't like interludes; and under normal circumstances, I'm not part of that group. However, I found myself wondering why some of the interludes were included. The "Up Out My Face" reprise is nothing more than an unnecessary continuation of the original's song ending; "The Impossible (The Reprise)" feels almost like an entirely different number than the song it's supposed to be supporting; and "Angel (The Prelude)" does nothing more than establish what we already know: Mariah's voice can replace any man-made instrument.

    Would I have been less critical if the interludes would've been full-blown Janet copies? Chatter and speaking introductions; orgasms and grunts; whole, awkward conversations with an inanimate robot? Perhaps; it would've showcased a more personal Mariah, and would have given us a different way into some of the songs. Yet, she didn't go that way; the interludes never surpass their two-dimensional nature, and while there is little to criticise when it comes to her execution of the interludes, they could've been much more.

    Now on to the actual songs, considering that's what the album's really about. Is it a musical return to old-school Mariah Carey? Short answer: No. Grab your copy of "Mariah Carey" or "Emotions" or "Daydream", and compare it to "Memoirs"—you will quickly hear that this is in no way the same Mariah Carey. And though this may sound like a bad thing, in my opinion it's a compliment.

    If she would've sounded exactly the same now like she did all those years ago, would that have been a positive commentary on her musical talents? It would not have been. The Mariah that sings on "Memoirs" is so much more a grown woman: a real woman, an emancipated woman. This is the woman Mariah Carey should have been from day one. Instead of wasting her talents on mediocre R&B-crossover songs, she sat down and recorded songs that showed progress, growth and stability.

    The Bad (Or, The Nice)
    Her crossover roots are still there, though. In "Ribbon" you can hear her slide between tempered R&B and a more hiphop-oriented sound; and she almost pulls it off. "Ribbon" is not one of the winners on the album, because to me it feels unfinished. It's a nice song to have playing in the background, but to actually pick-and-play it—no.

    There are only three other songs on the album that have the same faith as "Ribbon": "Obsessed," "H.A.T.E.U." and "Standing O." The first one in this array, "Obsessed," should've been left off the album all-together in my opinion. It's a nice revenge song, that showcases Mariah's claws nicely. Which marks the second time I've used nice to describe a song, and that's really all that "Obsessed" is. Nice. Well, perhaps there's something else: it's extremely out of touch with the rest of the album. It's as-if Mariah recorded "Obsessed", walked into a door, and recorded the rest of the album.

    "H.A.T.E.U." is not nice, on the other hand. It's much more than nice, and that's why it's such a shame Mariah's voice ruins the songs potential. While listening to the song, over and over, I wondered whether why she kept restricting her voice throughout the whole number. I didn't want to put all the blame on the awful use of auto-tune, but, I have to. "H." never became the song it should've been because Mariah doesn't need auto-tune. Do you have a lousy voice? Use auto-tune to make it seem hip. Have a superb, world-rocking voice? Use auto-tune to ruin every single note.

    Then there's "Standing O," which doesn't suffer so much from auto-tune, but more from a lack of creativity. It's not an awful song—on the contrary, it's a great listen if you don't feel like experiencing inspiration.

    The Good (Or, ... The Good)
    If you have been waiting for praise, read on. Because from her ridiculously-awesome cover of "I Want to Know What Love Is" (including its awesome interlude) to the pop-sounding, voice-cracking "Up Out My Face", the rest of the numbers are fantastic, and many should deserve Grammy Awards.

    "Up Out My Face" is just plain—dare I say it?—hip and cool. From the lyrics to the voice, to the repetition; this is a song that benefits greatly from a fun-sounding and tongue-in-cheek production. Where the repetition of "Standing O" fails, "Up Out My Face" excels.

    All right, let's just stop and rewind for a bit. I started off by talking about Janet Jackson, and then almost-completely disregarded my own comment. Because, secondly, now that we're going to discuss "Candy Bling" and "More Than Just Friends", something from the Janet Jackson rulebook comes to mind. Mumbling. Or, to be more specific, alleged mumbling.

    Especially in her recent work ("Discipline" excluded for convenience), Janet has been singing like a fourth-grade schoolgirl: very soft, very mellow, and without focusing all too much on enunciation. A lot of times you just want to shake her and yell at her, "Speak up, dammit!"

    And that little routine comes to mind when listening to "Candy Bling" and "More Than Just Friends", both great songs with awesome beats and production, but both suffering from the alleged-mumbling syndrome. Especially when Mariah sticks with her whispering voice for more than a few lines it starts to become annoying. One shouldn't need printed lyrics to understand a song.

    But I digress. There are five songs left on the list to talk about, and I'll start off by applauding Mariah for her cover of Foreigner, and the incredible prelude that goes with it. Many people don't like it and tell me that the timing is off, to which I say, it's a cover, people. It shouldn't need to follow the same timing and pacing; I actually believe it's a great improvement. The emotional baggage that is presented in the song really comes to the foreground in this way, and the relaxed build-up serves a presentational point. There is one annoyance in the song though: why isn't it about a minute longer? It fades-out in the best part of the song right now. Minor annoyance, though.

    I have nothing intelligent to say about why I feel "Inseparable" is a superb song. Everything just fits—from the story-lyrics to the supportive execution of the music—and, furthermore, it feels like a pure Mariah Carey extraction. The same can be said from "The Impossible," a snug fit that also has the added benefit of providing Mariah with a way to show-off that she does know how to whisper-sing while enunciating.

    "It's a Wrap" is a song that relies heavily on Mariah's voice, and which wouldn't have worked with a different artist. The song showcases the layers of her voice, puts a spotlight on her shouting abilities, and asks you to join in with your own singing—or, *cough*, at least that's what I got from it.

    And that leaves just one song to discuss: "Angels Cry," the masterpiece song on the album. As you may have noticed, when it comes to applauding songs I have less to tell than when I'm criticising them, and the same applies here. "Angels Cry" is a song you just fall in love with. Ever been asked why you fell in love with someone, and you couldn't think of anything besides the clichéd obvious? I have the same with "Angels Cry." "What do you mean, why? Just listen to the song; isn't it bloody obvious why I did? That sound, those lyrics, the emotion and feeling, that awesomely fierce-yet-mellow ending, ... Pure excellence!"

    No, really
    Yes, I will say that "Memoirs" overall sound has more to do with Mariah's earlier albums than the recent batch that came from the House of Carey. The restless nature of "Emancipation" and the creative blandness of both "Glitter" and "Charmbracelet" (and perhaps also "Rainbow") have very little influence on "Memoirs" ("Obsessed" excluded; that one would've fit on "Emancipation").

    However, run away from people who proclaim that this album is old-school Mariah Carey. The title, "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" is a perfect description of what this album really is. It's the coming together of a willingness to sit back and enjoy life and music, and the talent to excel at providing your musical colleagues with a fuck-off message. Anyone who dared to doubt Mariah's ability to shine nineteen years after her debut, has been set right. There's only one, true and holy God, and her name is Mariah Carey.
  • Janet needs no disciplining

    20 Feb 2008, 19:23 by empoor

    Janet Jackson. Hearing that name, not even in its full format, even when hearing the name "Janet", it makes the chemical balance in my head boil over with happiness. Remembering songs like "Control", "With U", "Love Will Never Do (Without You)", it makes me forget all my problems, all the things on my to-do-list and everything else that's just pure evil (because to-do-lists really are the devils creation).

    It's 2008. It has been 26 years after the sweet sister of Michael Jackson (himself still sweet too, then) launched her first album. Not entirely voluntarily, until four years later, when she makes her big breakthrough with "Control", produced by hit sensations Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Yeah, it has been 26 years since the sweet girl with the ever-naughty look in her eyes came into the music industry.

    So much has happened since. I'm not going into it all, but lets just say she has had her ups and downs. Her start at Virgin Records (with a killer multi-million record deal) began superb with "Janet." and ended disastrously with "20 Y.O." (well, commercially that is, I actually liked the album). Virgin just ain't what it used to be, so lets all be happy that her record deal was finished after "20 Y.O." It was like faith, because Janet really needed a new home, with people who didn't just say "yes" to anything she made.

    Because "20 Y.O." (the title refers to the twentieth anniversary of "Control" -- some people record new albums for those kind of anniversaries, and some just rerelease the original with a bunch of bad remixes and remasters. So not talking about anyone related to Janet, totally not.) may not be a bad album in my opinion, it isn't at all challenging or creatively new. Too much urban, too much -- yeah, I'll say it -- Jermaine Dupri. I love you JD, you have done a great job for Mariah Carey and I also love you for making Janet the most happiest woman in the world, but no. Just no. "20 Y.O." was crappy in comparison to the rest of the albums because of you, I'm sorry.

    So, is "Discipline" any better? Well, don't scream out in agony but you've got to know something first: there's no Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on this album... I know, do you need a minute? I sure do.....

    Okay, I'm fine, did some crying in a lonely corner and feeling better now. Cough, cough. Back to business: yes, there's no JJ & TL, but maybe for once that can be a good thing. I know, I know, CRAZY TALK, but just hear me out. She needed a break from her original style. Lets all remember Jimmy and Terry *were* producers on "20 Y.O." and see how that one turned out. You angry now? Oh my, you've got some mood swings. So, who are the producers of this album then? Well, of course Janet is the executive producer, but this time with someone unknown to the Jackson family: L.A. Reid. Yes, the big boss at Island Def Jam. Yeah, they really love her at Island if the big boss himself executive produced the album. (Or he just wants to show off, because he's also doing that at Carey's next (ridiculously named) album.)

    Okay, stop throwing rocks at me! I'm almost at the good stuff! Bitch..... Rodney Jerkins, Johnta Austin, D'Mile, Maddscientist, Ne-Yo, Stargate, Tricky Stewart, Shea Taylor, The-Dream... and... Jermaine Dupri. Yes, he's on there as producer, but this time it's different. He delivers a not-so Dupri sounding mix to the album, AND, his voice is absent from the album. GASP!

    The album itself? WONDERFUL. Yes, really, believe me on this. It's great! I wouldn't say it's her best, that's a hard thing to say. (Especially since "Control" is the only album I own of which I love EVERY SINGLE SONG.) Even the interludes are stellar!

    I'm beginning with the "bad" stuff. These songs aren't really bad, they're just not as superb. There is one thing funny about all of them: they're all too-sweet ballads. Don't look at me like that, I'm not a ballad hater, hey, I freaking LOVE "With U", okay?! "Can't B Good", "Never Letchu Go", "Greatest X" and "Curtains" are the songs I'm talking about. Yes, their good songs, but not in comparison to the rest of the album.

    The bests of the album? Wow, that is hard. "Feedback" is a stellar song, of course! Just because it's totally different and new. Talking about that, "The 1 (feat. Missy Elliott)"? WOW. Even more new, it's one of the really must-hear songs on there. (Also, the only collaboration.) "Rock with U" (by Jermaine and Ne-Yo, whom I usually hate) still remains my favorite of the album, really sensual and sexy. A beat that is way too killer to be legal. Talking about THAT, "So Much Betta"? Probably the second best of the album, with a HILARIOUS manipulated voice on there. It's so cool!

    Janet gets dirty (and I mean DIRTY, even for her standards) on the title track, "Discipline". When you meet her, she's really sweet and loving and all, and then she orgasms at the end of a song... Yeah, I know. Nasty. When describing "LUV", nasty doesn't come to mind, it's really hip and urban-like, a great song, not a favorite though. "Rollercoaster" is though, from the moment that song begins you're hooked. When that trademark Janet laugh enters the song in the beginning you know you're addicted. It's a really simple song when it comes to lyrics, but the speed of the delivery of the lyrics is so loving. Jackson sounds wonderful on this song, even though it still remains the whispering singing voice she is known for in recent years. Her voice is much more present and louder on this album than on "20 Y.O." or "Damita Jo", so I should just shut up about that. "2nite"? Great song, not a superb one. "What's Ur Name" is sweet, but too Dupri-sounding.

    Overall? SUPERB. Best in recent years, and certainly her best overall-good album since the ultimately dirty "The Velvet Rope". Miss Janet, you're back even though you never went anywhere. Well, actually you did. You got sucked into the urban what-is-everybody-else-doing scene of the R&B music industry and thank god you've found yourself again. You'll always be the best, even after 26 years.
  • Albums of 2007: the Best and Worst of a Surprising Year

    20 Dec 2007, 09:05 by empoor

    Best Overall Album
    - "X" by Kylie Minogue
    ...... Best Track: "Heart Beat Rock"

    Album of Honours
    - "Dignity" by Hilary Duff
    ...... Best Track: "Burned"

    Best Original Album
    1. "X" by Kylie Minogue
    ...... Best Track: "Heart Beat Rock"
    2. "Dignity" by Hilary Duff
    ...... Best Track: "Burned"
    3. "Blackout" by Britney Spears
    ...... Best Track: "Ooh Ooh Baby"
    4. "特務J" ("Agent J") by 蔡依林 (Jolin Tsai)
    ...... Best Track: "愛無赦"
    5. "Trav'lin' Light" by Queen Latifah
    ...... Best Track: "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die"
    6. "Because I Love It" by Amerie
    ...... Best Track: "Some Like It"
    7. "My December" by Kelly Clarkson
    ...... Best Track: "Sober"
    8. "Carnival Ride" by Carrie Underwood
    ...... Best Track: "Last Name"
    9. "Meet Miley Cyrus" by Miley Cyrus
    ...... Best Track: "East Northumberland High"
    10. "As I Am" by Alicia Keys
    ...... Best Track: "Superwoman"
    11. "Spirit" by Leona Lewis
    ...... Best Track: "Better in Time"
    12. "TCG" by The Cheetah Girls
    ...... Best Track: "Crash"
    13. "Headstrong" by Ashley Tisdale
    ...... Best Track: "Suddenly"
    14. "Insomniatic" by Aly & AJ
    ...... Best Track: "Division"
    15. "Good Girl Gone Bad" by Rihanna
    ...... Best Track: "Shut Up and Drive"
    16. "Brave" by Jennifer Lopez
    ...... Best Track: "Brave"

    Most Disappointing Album
    1. "Ms. Kelly" by Kelly Rowland
    2. "Songs About Girls" by
    3. "Long Road Out Of Eden" by Eagles
    4. "Como Ama Una Mujer" by Jennifer Lopez
    5. "Curtis" by 50 Cent
    6. "Not Too Late" by Norah Jones
    7. "Memory Almost Full" by Paul McCartney
    8. "N.B." by Natasha Bedingfield
    9. "I Love You" by Diana Ross
    10. "American Gangster" by Jay-Z

    Most Genuine Album
    - "Because I Love It" by Amerie

    Most Surprising Album
    - "My December" by Kelly Clarkson

    Most Experimental Album
    - "Volta" by Björk

    Best Non-Original Album
    - "B'Day Deluxe Edition" by Beyoncé
    (Re-release of the Columbia Records album "B'Day" by Beyoncé)
    ...... Best Track: "Get Me Bodied (Extended Mix)"

    Best Non-Vocal Album
    - "The Simpsons Movie: The Music" by Hans Zimmer on Adrenaline Music
    (From the 20th Century Fox movie-adaption of the animated series "The Simpsons" on the Fox Broadcasting Company)
    ...... Best Track: "Clap for Alaska"

    Best Original Soundtrack Album
    - "High School Musical 2" on Walt Disney Records (tie)
    (From the Disney Channel Original Movie High School Musical 2 by Walt Disney Pictures)
    ...... Best Track: "You Are The Music In Me" by Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay Evans
    - "Hannah Montana 2: Original Soundtrack" on Walt Disney Records (tie)
    (From the Disney Channel Original Series Hannah Montana by Walt Disney Television & It's A Laugh Productions)
    ...... Best Track: "Rock Star" by Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana

    Best Non-Original Soundtrack Album
    - "Hairspray Movie Soundtrack" on New Line Records
    (From the New Line Cinema movie-adaption Hairspray of the Neil Simon Theatre musical-adaption "Hairspray" of the New Line Cinema movie Hairspray)
    ...... Best Track: "Good Morning Baltimore" by Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad

    Best Concert-Registration Album (Non-DVD!)
    - "The Beyoncé Experience Live: Audio Version" by Beyoncé
    (Accompanying the release of the Columbia Records album "B'Day" by Beyoncé)
    ...... Best Track: "Listen"

    (Last update: 01/16/2008)
  • Feedback on "Feedback"

    13 Dec 2007, 09:31 by empoor

    It's no new news that Janet Jackson will be returning in 2008, this time back at the Universal Music Group (after a five-album-stint at now-ruined Virgin Records). Her Island Records' album (done with the labels now) is being supervised by L.A. Reid, the big boss, himself. No excessive Jermaine Dupri production this time, so a second "20 Y.O." will not be.

    Now, that album didn't flop because it was bad. Certainly not, it was a good album, not entirely Janetfied, but still good. The album flopped because radiostations still not were willing to be favorable against Jackson. It didn't help that Virgin got reorganised into a hot piece of mess, either. But, Janet's not the first to go through this.

    Mariah Carey, the diva all divas, went through it too. Radio wasn't all too willing to her after her mental breakdown, and even though "Charmbracelet" was a great album with rave reviews, non of the singles hit track and the album didn't sell all-that. But Island Records knew what to do, sending Carey back to her roots. If they can get Janet back to hers too, I'll call it a comeback.

    As a taste, "Feedback", has been leaked onto the internet. A song that will maybe become her debut single. So, does it deliver? Well, it's a great song. Danceable, really addictive and cool. Produced by Rodney Jerkins, it's a different tone for JJ, remembers back to her "20 Y.O." demo "Weekend". Notice: don't get me wrong, I love it.

    Yet, it's not G.R.E.A.T. Her voice is overly produced, the song is too heavy at times and it is just not that wonderful. I won't call it a comeback single if this is the final version, it needs to be softened down a lot before that. And why, why, not a message? Okay, I won't complain too heavenly about that, but still annoys me.