Eventually even Mariah Carey had to grow up. The mother of two, still prancing around like a sex kitten with a twinkle in her eye, has her best album in a decade with “Caution,” to be released tomorrow.
Since 2005’s “The Emancipation of Mimi,” Mariah had drifted more and more into generic hip hop. Her unique voice became more and more strained as she tried to replicate the magic of that comeback album. Three albums of new material successively sold worse and worse as she aged, shed her core audience, and had any number of publicity debacles.
But let’s skip past the failures. With new management and PR, Mariah also gave in and got some real music makers for “Caution.” Timbaland is prominent throughout the ten tracks. So are top hip hop composers and producers Skrillex and Poo Bear (I know it’s all nicknames, what can you do?). These guys know how to make catchy pop records– they work with the Justins (Timberlake and Bieber). They’re not fooling around, or sampling. They’re like real record producers of yore who know hooks and where to put a voice.
This group has created a warm space for Mariah’s voice to shimmer. She’s not belting, as in “Visions of Love.” But she’s not yodeling anymore, either. The producers have fashioned a Janet Jackson-type record for Mariah, where a 50 year old woman ignoring her age can find peace. It works.
Unfortunately, four of the 10 tracks have already been released as singles and failed. This was a mistake. The best of them, “The Distance,” deserves another chance. Even “GTFO” comes off better on the album than it did on its own. The only no-no is the misuse of the non word “Irregardless,” on the song “A No No.” Whoops!
The six newer songs are really strong, catchy, sultry, commercial and well played by Mariah. “Giving Me Life” and “Portrait” are stand out ballads. “Stay Long Love You” featuring Gunna is the main upbeat track, and it can be remixed for radio or clubs easily. There’s a lot of piano on “Caution.” I wish I knew who was playing it. (No credits yet.)
But for once, we’ve got Mariah’s voice front and center, no apparent tricks. The feel is almost Anita Baker-esque. I really liked a track called “One More Gan” (gan being again). Like the other tracks, “One More Gan” evokes the glow of a rich R&B album that adults and kids can embrace.
I’m impressed. I didn’t know if Mariah had this in her. Now, she should book some small venues and show off her work.
PS That “irregardless” — it’s not that way on the official lyrics. It’s Regardless, which is proper. Maybe Mariah needed to lengthen the word; she did it herself. It’s still not a word.