By Gillian TellingChuck Arnold and Melody Chiu
Updated June 09, 2014 12:00 PM

Me. I Am Mariah …

The Elusive Chanteuse |


Mariah Carey‘s unfortunate clawfest with Nicki Minaj on American Idol was supposed to help launch the pop diva’s follow-up to 2009’s Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. But a full year after all that cattiness concluded, the album—which at one point was supposed to be titled The Art of Letting Go but is now partly named after a self-portrait mini-Mimi did when she was only 3½ – is just arriving. Thankfully it is not the hot mess that such delays sometimes indicate. While somewhat uneven and lacking a killer single (other than “#Beautiful,” Carey’s lovely hit with Miguel that was released way back before she left Idol), The Elusive Chanteuse is a good Mariah album, if not up to the sorely underappreciated Memoirs. For the most part, it’s the same kind of album that Carey has been making for years, from the soulful slow jams (best are the gospel-spirited “Cry” and “Camouflage”) to the hip-hop dalliances. One of the guest rappers, Wale, joins Carey for a fresh spin on the dance floor on the disco-house jam “You Don’t Know What to Do.” Even hotter is “Meteorite,” which deepens the groove for the after-hours party.

Follow Chuck on Twitter @cchuckarnoldmuz

Visit the PEOPLE Premium Critics’ Corner at