Scary Carey is in desperate need of a big hit this year, particularly when her old rival Whitney is on the verge of a comeback - but she won't have one with this album. Fans of generic r'n'b may be sated by her 12th studio effort, but for those who are aware of the pop brilliance that she's capable of, it's yet another disappointment.

She almost doesn't seem old enough for the label, but at this stage, Mariah Carey is something of an industry stalwart. The 39-year-old has reinvented herself almost as many times as Madonna, and with about as much fanfare, too (minus the adopted babies). She's gone through phases that range from bubblegum pop princess, to soul diva, to r 'n' b mistress, to inventing a disastrous alter-ego by the name of Mimi (let's leave that one for the autobiography).

After a brace of albums that concentrated more on studio gadgetry and technical prowess than her actual obvious strength - that scarily impressive voice - Carey needs her 12th studio effort 'Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel' to be a good 'un. Unfortunately, it's not. Once again, the New York native frustratingly refuses to use her voice to its full potential, instead 'under-singing' the notes of most of these r 'n' b-flavoured tunes - notable exceptions being the semi-swaggering 'Obsessed' and the swinging soul of the likeable 'It's a Wrap'.

But it's not just within the songs that Carey over-indulges her ego, either: 21 tracks - many of them 'preludes', 'interludes' and 'reprises' - make it extra-difficult to get excited about, especially when 4 of those tracks (yes, four) are remixes of one song ('Obsessed', FYI).

There are murmured ballads, saccharine lyrics ("When you and I say goodbye, I felt the angels cry") and heavy beats in excess on 'Memoirs...', but not nearly enough memorable melodies, hooks or vocal performances. It says it all that the best track is a cover of Foreigner's 'I Want to Know What Love Is'; maybe Mariah's next album should be a collection of other peoples' songs. If it helps her get back on track, so be it.