I was asked/dard/forced to run through all of Mariah’s back catalogue last year, and I only just lived to tell the tale. But since I’m posting a lot of my old messageboard reviews on my blog, I thought it might be nice to continue doing that, even if Mariah didn’t end up being one of my more rewarding voyages.
Let’s start at the beginning with her self-titled eponymous album. I will admit, it’s a strong debut, and fits nicely with my idea of what 90s big-hair-Mariah sounds like. Ballad-heavy, but clearly that’s where she thrived at the start of her career. A few uptempo tracks try to cut through some of the syrup. I think more than likely I couldn’t appreciate this fully because I’m lacking some context. Not all albums are timeless classics, but this doesn’t suffer too much at the hands of the last 22 years.
08 Vision of Love – Well despite what I said, let’s start with something that HAS survived pretty well, one of her original hits. Maybe that’s because it’s not a 90s sound, with a 50s style shoo-be-doo thing about it. You can’t argue with her voice (I’d better enjoy it while I can), she’s got a wonderful range and has a great strength to it. I’m not hugely keen on the 50s sound, but it’s one of the best examples of that. Love that outro too.
07 There’s got to be a way – Surprised to read that this was a single, but it seems to have been a flop so no wonder. Feels like a charity record really, what with its politically-charged lyrics. Or you know what I mean anyway, talk of bringing people together and finding a way etc. I must applaud her being able to fitting “regulated bigotry” into the lyrics without it sounding ridiculous! Not really special-sounding, just a pretty standard 90s midtempo sound with a sprinkle of gospel. You’d never get Des’ree fitting the word destitution into a middle-8 would you?
06 I don’t wanna cry – Heartbreak time, and what was her 4th US #1 out of 4 singles. I would probably put that down to momentum more than anything, I don’t think the song is anything particularly special. Her voice puts it above many other songs in the same vein, but the chorus doesn’t really hook me in. It’s alright but I’ve heard this several times now and I still don’t remember it…
08 Someday – Now this is more like it, I can imagine I would LOVE this had I listened to this back in the day, I’m already having nostaglic feelings for this sort of uptempo sound. I’m not entirely sure what it reminds me of (probably it’ll turn out to be Five Star or something tragic). I can at least imagine this being a US #1 (which it was).
05 Vanishing – From uptempo to NO TEMPO. I’m not a fan of these sort of jazzy piano acapella THINGS, throwing some gospel at it doesn’t help either. This is just filler to me, her voice is again great (I feel like I have to keep mentioning), but the song just doesn’t have enough about it.
08 All in your mind – Cute intro, it got my attention anyway. Feels like it should be the soundtrack to Short Circuit 2 or something (that’s a semi-compliment, FYI). I love that synthy piano business too, puts me in the mind of True Blue a little (not that the song itself sounds like anything off there), which is clearly a good thing. The chorus leaves a little to be desired, but it’s at least an improvement from Vanishing. Got a rather staggery tempo to it, but I think it works.
07 Alone in love – A CHILLY WASTELAND of a ballad now, at least a better start than I Don’t Wanna Cry, I’m buying it. She’s stuck in a metaphorical maze (at least I think it’s a metaphor), with a convincingly emotive and “Celiney” heartbreak. It just goes ON a bit, after nearly 5 minutes I’m left in no doubt about WHY she’s alone.
06 You Need Me – Guitary intro, RAWK … is this going to be Like A Prayer? Sadly no, not even close. It doesn’t even really fit with that intro, in fact I’m finding this a bit of a drag really. The chorus doesn’t really do it for me, though I LOVE the middle-8, it even makes sense of the noisy guitar nonsense popping up at regular intervals. Not really for me, sorry. Why does she only wheel out the whistle vox during the fade-outs?
08 Sent from up above – Now THIS is a better chorus (Hoo! … Hoo!), and the production just feels a lot smoother and earpleasing. There are a few dud glory notes that I could do without, but the song as a whole really works beautifully. The chorus doesn’t have a great hook but there’s plenty here to stop it getting boring.
09 Prisoner – I feel pressure to rate this well, after all I heard about it. Fortunately I don’t have to fake it, as this is rather fabulous. I love the tempo, the verses & bridges lead BEAUTIFULLY on to the chorus. I also love that sort of beepy synth bed behind everything, I can’t quite describe what I mean. That glory note lead-in to the middle 8 is wonderful, and that rap! Wonderful, how did this never get a single release?!
07 Love takes time – Feels a bit of a strange choice for a closing track, but here we are. I don’t really love this one either (maybe it takes time LOLZ), I used to skip it when I had #1s on (if it was on there). For a pretty standard ballad like this, it does the job ruthlessly, but it’s a bit too syrupy for my tastes. As I said before, maybe at the time this would have been off-the-scale amazing, but I’ve heard better.
So that’s that. I would say that while I did worry a little about how this album would turn out, I will say that it was a lot more accessible than I thought it might be. While some of her OMG-amazing moments I had already knew about were from the balladeering era, she hadn’t QUITE hit the mark yet. Still, I made it through the rain and it wasn’t as much of a downpour as I had expected.
Keepers for the iPod: Vision of love, Prisoner