Album: Mariah Carey – “Rainbow” (1999)

Oh now, you know I’ve been struggling a bit with Mariah so far, but on we go to Rainbow, another step down to rent-a-rapper R’n’B-ville. Or so I thought at least. I mean obviously there’s quite a lot of that, but the old balladeer isn’t going down that easily, and while it does sag in places, it wasn’t as tough a listen as I had feared.

10 Heartbreaker – Well a good start, I love this lead single with its inexplicably expensive video (seriously WTAF? What did they spend the budget on?). Reminiscent of Fantasy, but without the soaring VOX. Not that that’s necessarily bad, but the chorus doesn’t explode. That said, it’s very catchy and I have very fond memories of it, and it’s still one of my favourites after such a long time. Sounds like a limp review for a 10, but I MEAN IT.

08 Can’t take that away – So out goes the rap immediately, time for some balladry. I feel like I should know this song better than I do, maybe it just sounds similar to some of her more notable slowies. In fact I was a little surprised to hear this sort of thing so far after big-hair Mariah’s albums. I don’t feel as empowered as this is evidently trying to make me feel, but it’s alright. Doesn’t outstay its welcome and building to a ROUSING climax, but not exactly reinventing the wheel.

04 Bliss – OH GOD MAKE IT STOP. Starts off pleasantly sounding like Loving You by Minnie Riperton, and indeed the SQUEAL VOX are there, but I just CANNOT get into this. The verses are alright but the chorus is just like having my eardrums drilled by a dentist. Bonechilling and I get NO enjoyment from those moments. A poor echo of a song whose Butterfly equivalent would at least have been half-listenable.

07 How much – Usher 1999 pretty much describes the sound of this, not a million miles from U Make Me Wanna’s sound, and I am 99% sure that’s the man himself guesting on this. The melody isn’t quite there, but it’s a nice late-90s R’n’B throwback, for better or worse. Just seems to be a lot of whispering verses with some VOX-OFF battle between the two queens. The production saves this from being a total loss for me, it’s generic but likeable.

08 After Tonight – Unbuurrrreak my HEAAAARTT … oh hang on. If I’m drawing parallels to Butterfly, then this feels like the “My All” but again not as good. Not that this song is bad, I just LOVE “My All”. Obviously with comparisons to those two songs, you can’t go far wrong. Nice structure, like the chorus and everything. No surprise whatsoever to read that this is a Diane Warren song. Doesn’t feel like the big key change has enough punch, but a turn-up for the books.

07 X-Girlfriend – Surprised that this isn’t a Darkchild affair, maybe it’s just that sucker effect all over this, with 1999 written through this one like a stick of rock. A pretty poppy R’n’B track, evidently supposed to be some sort of throwdown to Mariah’s love rival but it’s not particularly Mariah. This could have been recorded by any number of R’n’B artists from this period couldn’t it? It’s alright though, if you are in the mood for this sort of sound.

07 Heartbreaker (remix) – Well I loved the original, but I’m not really into the remix. I like the different feel to the production but I was always a pop lover and this just doesn’t compare for me. They throw everyone into this, don’t they? The various guest raps do actually improve it though, it’s not bad, it’s just not the original.

07 Vulnerability (interlude) – A quick detour now, into a ethereal world of random shrieks of lyrics. Yeah, it’s nice enough… hmm, so what? I just don’t get interludes on albums like this. I mean is this supposed to be one whole story?

09 Against all odds – I’m loathe to admit this for fear of retribution, but I really like this. I was used to this as a mutually benefitting business deal of a duet with Westlife (and Brian looking at her ample bosom). But with just Mariah on it (and importantly no Phil Collins), I really love this. I mean I can imagine this trying to be another “Without you”, which it doesn’t manage to my ears (though I totally 11/10’ed THAT), but it’s a solid song and she delivers it with the GUSTO I expect. Vocals not too overbaked but still impressive, lovely.

06 Cry baby – Comforted by Snoop Dogg? Gross. Don’t really like this, verses are a bit deadpan and not the most amazing lyrics I’ve ever heard. The chorus doesn’t really help out either, no MELODY that I’m interested in. I’m sure the lambs probably love it, but it’s not doing it for me.

07 Did I do that – Spazzy lullaby intro, then that horrific Mystikal bit, how did he ever get big? Somehow being so abrasive has ended up getting it stuck in my head. Not sure I’m quite following who she’s burning with this one, but I’m sure it makes a lot of sense if you have your PhD in Mariahology. I think I preferred some of the generic ’99 R’n’B really but it’s not a dead loss.

08 Petals – OK back to ballads, this album is totally schizo. Anyway a rather lovely track, kind of reminds me of Kiss From A Rose, except without the big finish. Love her deep voice on this too, even distracting from the VERBIAGE in the second verse “I gravitated towards a patriarch so young predictably…” etc. OK it doesn’t really go far melodically, but it’s a good one to nearly close the album with.

08 Rainbow (interlude) – Seamless transition, though why do we need an interlude so late? This would have made a better outro if you ask me. A lot nicer than the other interlude anyway, would have been nice to have heard a full song.

09 Thank God I found you – Now please clear this up, was there a remix of this that used a song from Willy Wonka? I swear they played that on the chart show at the time. Anyway her last US No.1 for a while, and I really understand this as a chart-topper. OK so she roped in biggish boyband 98 Degrees, but they offer little more than Boyz II Men-lite (or -white) backing vocals. The chorus is schmaltzy but memorable, and just has a nice summery freshness to it (not I don’t know what I mean either) reminiscent of Daydream’s lighter moments. A bit odd to have this tacked on the end but always nice to go out on a high.

OK my resistance to R’n’B is going to be a problem, but it was really quite palatable in the late 90s, let’s hope that carries on (but I won’t hold my breath). A combo of that and more traditional slowies leaves me with a patchy but not unlistenable OPUS to see the millennium out. While some of the tracks clearly don’t hit the mark in my mind, there are some moments that compete well with the highlights of earlier albums, even if they don’t quite match the peaks.

Keepers for the iPod: Heartbreaker, After tonight, Against all odds, Thank God I found you

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