And so, we finally make it to the final Mariah album. It only took me the best part of 9 months, but in contrast to the queen of elephant gestation, I am fully dilated and ready to make the last push. So what does a present-day(ish) Mariah sound like? I guess I worried she would be stuck in dreary 90s RnB hell before I started on her back catalogue, but RnB has changed a fair bit since the 90s, and if the last 3 albums are anything to go by, she at least keeps on top of the current sounds. Perhaps that’s better demonstrated with E=MC2, because I didn’t quite get that feeling with this album, mostly because she’s just so darn ANGRY. Oh let’s just get this done…
09 Betcha Gon’ Know – Oh dear, someone has a case of the Mondays! I love the sparse beeps and beats on this opening track. Her deep vocals get me right into this story of catching her bloke with some FLOOZY. What’s that “BBAAA!!!” noise at 0:52?!. She paints quite a PICTURE doesn’t she? Actually I might say she’s angry, she obviously is but the tone of the song is more downbeat and just tired of everything. POOR MARIAH … hang on though, she goes back to him? Maybe it’s just to hunt him down. Anyway, a STRIKING opener.
10 Obsessed – Now this is the only one I knew from this album, and WHAT A SONG! I don’t think enough is made of that bonkers video where she’s got a FAKE BEARD! I mean even Celine wouldn’t do that and she’s out of her fucking tree. Dressed like Eminem with a twist of Mean Girls, this is a HOT MESS threatening to go CRITICAL. The sleazy production, autotune frenzy and enough one-liners to circle the Earth several times. AMAZING.
08 H.A.T.E.U. – I thought this would be an angrier upbeat one from the name, but it’s as mellow as you can get isn’t it? Maybe because she’s not H.A.T.Eing anyway at the moment. I understand what she means here, all about being obsessed about a painful relationship, ultimately having to move away but never losing the feeling that she just wants to throw herself right into it again. SIGH… Special mention from some rather bizarre editing after 3:20, couldn’t they nail it in a single take?? Odd …
07 Candy Bling – What an awful name! Maybe not, if you are the sort to buy an exclusive-rageous scent off a shopping channel… A bit of a featureless plain of warpy RnB guff, but that’s something quite sweet about it. It’s YOUNG LOVE, innit? Well I can’t really associate because I feel like I was born middle-aged and frigid, but I SORT of like the vocals, even if it’s all a bit monotone. Hmm, undecided. Ring pops should totally be rebranded as candy bling though, sounds MUCH better.
07 Ribbon – Oh she’s in love now? It’s a nice change of tone in the album, even if it doesn’t get much more interesting than Candy Bling. I DREAD to think what she’s put a bow on. It’s inoffensive enough, but feels a bit like background music to me. Now I’m properly concentrating on it, I’m a little bored but the general noise being made is nice enough.
06 Inseparable – Are we in that mid-album drop-off already? Sigh … I really can’t whip up much enthusiasm here. This is the definition of FILLER. If this was an entry in my memoirs, it would be “Was quite happy today but nothing really happened”.
07 Standing O – Poor cow, Rihanna got in there first with the (hardly new) theatre metaphor for a relationship, and did a much better job with it. It’s a serviceable analogy though, with a rather unconvincing toast to some bastard man. WELL DONE on being a massive bastard you big bastard *slow clap*. She sounds a bit emotionless though, I’m suspecting she’s not really singing about a real-life situation, once more with FEELING Mariah!
07 It’s a wrap – Moving onto a movie analogy here in the same vein, with our brave bosomy heroine calling time on a crappy relationship. After 30 seconds of ghostly wailing (whaling?) anyway. It’s quite JAUNTY though, I like it. This album is regaining its composure. It does build nicely towards the end, and she at least sounds like she means it when she’s all like “OH DO JUST FUCK OFF” towards the end. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of a whistle register HATE NOTE do you?
08 Up out my face (+ reprise) – Now THIS is a bit more like, it’s taken her three attempts in a row to get a good “Oh BOLLOCKS TO YOU” song. It’s not quite a BUG-A-BOO level of uptempo but I like it. She’s quite withering for the most part, giving the verbal smackdown to a pretty ordinary piano-led soundtrack, but it’s fun enough not to need much production. Some bitchy brass instruments in there too. That mental stream-of-consciousness metaphor frenzy at the end is worth the ticket price alone! The reprise has a lot more of the bitchy brass, like a whole band-camp full of “BITCH PLEASE”! Amazing.
06 More than just friends – Oh we’ve all been there! I’m there RIGHT NOW! I’m afraid I don’t think she’s going to win anyone over with this weak-assed slut-o-rama. I get the impression she’s not CLOSE friends with this guy, she’s being a bit too BRAZEN about it. Anyway, filler city again I’m afraid, not really into this.
06 The impossible (+ reprise) – Well she’s still working on this guy, and boy does she love him like a lot of stuff. A freeze-pop though? TRES ROMANTIQUE. It feels like it would have been better served being called L.O.V.E.U., it’s like the yin to H.A.T.E.U’s yang. Love you like Kool-Aid? That stuff is RANK. Anyway, struggling to like this much, again it’s a 4-minute long stretch of rather featureless blah. The reprise doesn’t even seem to be much different at all, so this just feels like a 6 1/2 minute stretch of BLAH.
08 Angels Cry (+ prelude) – A pointless prelude to what turns out to be quite a nice (if squealy) song. A bit more like a PROPER song instead of these bland smears of RnB, even though it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel. Finally I can talk about verses, bridges and choruses! It’s lovely, not overbaked vocally and a nice CLIMAX at the end. Well put-together, and a nice GLORY NOTE at the end too, what more can I ask for? (well…)
07 Languishing – This reminds me of a song on a much-earlier album, what am I thinking of? I remember saying it was a bit like Kiss from a Rose (Petals?). Anyway, it’s quite long for an interlude, why isn’t it just a proper song? Anyway, rather nice and a nice lead-in to the final song.
09 I want to know what love is – I remember seeing that craptacular video when this got released, but now I’ve decided I really LOVE THIS. Surely an unpopular opinion but I’m on the last track of 13 Mariah albums, I think I’ve made my PEACE WITH THAT! It’s just a good song to begin with, and a competent Mariahisation of it that keeps what was good about it in the first place. No doubt there’s some horrific DJ CLUE REMIIIIIXXX somewhere, but not here. A ROUSING finish too, can’t go wrong with a well-placed gospel choir can you? Well of course you can, but not here.
PHEW! 13 albums and I’m DONE. The latter years were thankfully a vast improvement on the doldrums of Charmbracelet, but I hope she pulls something exciting out of the bag before too long, she’s hardly the queen of reinvention is she? It’s a passable album with a few really classic moments. It’s just not as good as E=MC2 or Emancipation, IMO. Are you really going to argue about THAT?
Keepers for the iPod: Betcha Gon’ Know, Obsessed, H.A.T.E.U., Up out my face, I want to know what love is.