Ever since her rebirth a few years ago, Mariah Carey has been on a roll. Once destined as a pop-star-flameout punch line (she started the decade with the nearly career-killing Glitter), Carey has spent the past four years and three albums renovating her R&B sex kitten image and reclaiming her title as one of her generation’s best and most popular singers. On Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, producers The-Dream and Tricky Stewart steer Carey toward her most sturdy-sounding album (only the overblown cover of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” which closes the record, breaks the flow). “Betcha gon’ know how it feels when I get you back/ And I’m gon’ la-la-la-la-la-laugh,” she sings on Angel’s prologue, setting up an hour of paybacks, smackdowns, and get-outta-my-face slaps — all of which Carey easily slides into. She even calls out Eminem on “Obsessed” for his dis earlier this year: “You’re a mom-and-pop/ I’m a corporation,” she sings over one of The-Dream and Tricky’s typically bouncy beats. Angel isn’t all about chugging the haterade, but when even the album’s best ballad is called “H.A.T.E.U.,” you know Carey is on to something. — Michael Gallucci
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