THIS IZZZZZ … a relief. I have made it through the rain, through the featureless blah of Charmbracelet, and I am ready to be EMANCIPATED as I move onto Mariah’s return to chart succe$$. Don’t CALL IT A COMEBACK.
OK so it would be easy to get carried away in the moment, the matter is that I’m rather fickle when it comes to R’n’B. Being female HELPS obviously but I only count a small handful of artists in this area I’d pay a lot of attention to (OMG I should do Brandy next). But happily this is a pretty listenable album – the faint praise is rather surprising given I’m listening to the XXL Super Deluxe Diamond Reinforced edition with a weighty 18 tracks. At least they didn’t slap on one those awful “Over 70 minutes of music!” stickers that basically promotes the quantity over the quality.
The rappers are still there, but they (mostly) COMPLEMENT the music rather than take it over as I heard with some dismay during the last two albums. Even Fatman Scoop! WHAT!
(PS, what an amazing cover!)
08 It’s like that – Hmm I didn’t QUITE get the fuss over the lead single, but that rather off-key clunking whistle klunk beat is infectious like a worrying rash. Most welcome of all though, the VOX are back, she’s turned the volume up finally. Some really bonkers lyrics up in here too “Them chickens is ash and I’m lotion”?!! Despite this, the bridge has a nice build, the harmonies are good even if the chorus doesn’t QUITE get me. Still a grower though, I’ll give it that, and a great opener.
10 We belong together – Now the biggie, and really the one that got me listening again. I remember this one from Live8 when she really pulled it out of the bag and got herself a bonafide SUMMER HIT. Small fry in comparison to the success on Billboard though, wasn’t this #1 for about 4 months? It’s got everything I need from her, great melody, subtle backing, only oversinging at the climax where it belongs. Not really much more I can do to explain myself, it’s a real Mariah classic to file along with the big 90s hits in my opinion.
09 Shake it off – I confess I’ve taken rather a SHINE to this! The only memories I had of this were some rather ropey TV perfs where you’d be forgiven for calling the song SHAKY ROFF. I love that “poop-poop!” intro, and the whole style of the song just feels different to the usual minimal R’n’B slurry this would’ve ended up as on Charmbracelet. I guess it has more a feeling akin to Boy (I need you), though obviously they are totally opposite songs lyrics. The vocals are kept under control melody-wise and it opens up nicely towards the end.
08 Mine again – OK slowing it down a bit now, usually the point I frown as the quality of the album drops off a cliff. But luckily we aren’t really there now. OK I find this one a bit earache-inducing, though her vocals are in great form. It’s laid back without being lazy, a nice compromise. Love some of the production, really works well. Love those little flutey bits too. Oh forget how I started off, I like this a lot!
08 Say Somethin’ – Much as I liked the previous song, THIS is what I like. I didn’t need Wikipedia to smell the Neptunes all over this one, in fact my first impression was that it reminded me of a track off Britney’s Blackout, just the production I mean. They might appear a bit of a spent force but I always rather liked the Neptunes’ sound. I like the dancey edge this has in comparison to what’s come so far. And it doesn’t outstay its welcome by going on for 5min+… in fact none of these tracks get much longer than 4 minutes, which I’m ALL FOR. The chorus here is good, memorable and plenty of space to develop in later choruses. OK a bit uneventful but I like it.
06 Stay the night – I know you all accuse me of freaking out and rating songs higher than my comments, but I really AM liking the album so far, don’t jinx it. Well OK we are getting a bit of mid-album SAG, and the earache-vox are coming out again. I like the old-school production, that’s definitely my favourite part of this, but the chorus is pretty unoriginal, stay the night, morning light, blah blah. I’d rather have a piece of toast and watch the evening news. It’s alright and over soon enough, but my attention is starting to DRIFT.
07 Get your number – Hmm I don’t like this guy. Couldn’t they afford Nelly for two songs? Shame, because the song has the makings of something pretty good. I’m not totally into this, though I do like the weird distorted bridge. Where is she on the chorus though? This little SQUIRT isn’t a good substitute for Mariah. This feels like a mis-spent opportunity. Shame, because it’s a good song!
07 One and only – Hmm the whispery vocals are creeping in again. I love her high-speed delivery of some the lyrics though. I hear a few errant whistle-notes in too, we really ARE lapsing into old habits aren’t we? With memories of earlier albums making me shudder we move on to the guest rapper. Twista’s pretty good really, much better than just some guy yelling “DAYUM” all over a good song. As you can imagine I’m not a huge rap fan but I like this, and it really helps things along. Without it, it would have been pretty boring.
07 Circles – Only halfway through? *deep breath* OK I confess I’m not a big fan of this, the volume is up a bit much, I think it’s the frequency that would cause my head to explode if played for an extended period of time. INSIDE VOICE, Mariah. I love some of the lyrics though, “But inside I kept repeating, don’t you let them see you cry, so I cas-u-all-y turned my head as the tears ran DOWN my eeyee-hhess”. It’s a nice song but the vocals just make me flinch a bit too much.
06 Your girl – Goodness, under 3 minutes? If only the Charmbracelet songs had been this quick! Seem to be on the same vox with a bit more subtlety than the last track. Oh wait now, she wants to make someone MIIIIIINNNEEE *explodes*. The chorus is a bit shouty, why can’t she build up to these big notes nearer the end of the song instead of smashing me around the head with that for 3 minutes? OWWW.
06 I wish you knew – Oh maybe the opening bunch of tracks coloured my opinion of this album, I’m starting to get quite bored now. I mean I’m pleased she can sing again, but there’s only so much I can SAY about that. More heartbreak, this time with some crowd effects and a talky bit (actually I love that shit). God knows why he doesn’t know how she feels, unless he’s DEAF or about 1000 miles away. Oh god, whistle note! *presses applause button*
07 To the floor – OK the real Nelly is here, and suddenly it’s the early 00s again, magic! I didn’t mind Nelly really, at least it’s not Jermaine fucking Dupri. The bassline is great, not surprised to see the Neptunes involved here too, very distinctive. The chorus is practically non-existent though, what an odd song, it’s like they just forgot to put main vocals on it. Not exactly DILEMMA but we can’t have everything, at least it’s an upturn in quality.
06 Joyride – We’re not even at the end of the original album yet are we?! OK I will find some inner strength. Why does this remind me of Mary J Blige’s Everything? I think it’s some melodic bit of the first verse, it’s obviously not THAT similar. I kinda wish I was listening to THAT though. I like the backing harmonies on what MIGHT be the chorus. It’s difficult to tell really, the song kind drifts around with some nice bits of a tune but … I don’t know. I think I could hear this 100 times and I still wouldn’t be able to sing it back to you. I thought joyrides were supposed to be EXCITING.
10 Fly like a bird – OH FUCKING YES, I knew there would be a great song here still somewhere. I really love the vocals on this, really measured with a gorgeous tune. LOVE that chorus. This should have been a bigger single, what a shame. Love how the vocals come OUT for the second chorus, it just fits a lot nicer than song of the 100dB perfs in earlier songs. KEY CHANGE! I thought they might forgotten about those… GOSPEL CHOIR! Perfect, what an amazing closer to the original album. Really memorable, uplifting, wonderful.
07 Don’t forget about us – Heh… well they couldn’t just let the album do it’s stuff, I don’t think these bonus tracks really added a lot to it. We Belong Together Pt II was a bit of a blatant stretch for another No.1, which the US fell for in the end. It’s just like WBT but just doesn’t have the same spark does it? No, sorry, I’m not claiming this, accept no substitutes.
06 Making it last all night – Oh more Dupri? LUCKY US. Again, I’d hope to justify an expanded edition of a hit album, they’d put some really GOOD stuff on it, but instead we end up with stuff that just feels like it didn’t make the cut first time around. I mean kudos for Dupri to getting the “International house of pancakes” into a rap, and he does seem a little less hateful than in Get Your Number but that’s not saying a lot. Sorry, not feeling this at all, some of these vox just sound more like a Liberty X album track.
07 So Lonely – DARKCHILD! Rhyming Mariah with Fiyah? Ugh! Well Twista’s back, I am quite impressed still by the SPEED of him. She does feel a bit like a guest vocal this time though, or at least a collab. Actually I quite like the production on this one, even if I don’t like the song that much. I guess it’s quite normal for these Pt II tracks to flip the track around, particularly if they were duets, I guess I just prefer the Mariah-centric version of this song.
05 We belong together (remix) – Hmmm. They didn’t even have enough OFFCUTS to do an expanded edition, so let’s take one of the best songs, and get the people who shat all over “Last night a DJ saved my life” to shit all over THAT. DESERT STORM! DJ CLUE! FUCK OFF! The production isn’t too bad, but this whole thing is just so unnecessary.
PHEW, that was an epic wasn’t it? OK there were highlights and vast patches of meh … but the important thing is that THERE WERE HIGHLIGHTS. Really good ones! I’d not heard Fly Like A Bird before, and if ANYTHING I’ve taken that from this album, which isn’t too bad is it? The album hasn’t converted me to a new genre or anything, but at least she got some pretty awesome crossover hits on this, and it put her back on top of the tree (for a bit). I might hesistate when confronted with an expanded edition Mariah album from now on though, that really did spoil things a bit, particularly with such a fabulous closing track.
Is the only way down now?
Keepers for the iPod: It’s like that, We belong together, Shake it off, Say Somethin’, Fly like a bird