Thoughts: Mariah, Caution

Mariah is known for so many daunting things. She’s had 18 #1 hit singles and is always asked by the critics and fans when the next one is coming (because she needs to “beat” the Beatle’s/Elvis’s record). Someone is always wondering when a hot new single will overtake One Sweet Day’s record of 16 weeks at number one on the Billboard charts. Everyone’s wondering what she feels about All I Want for Christmas being such a bemouth of a song every year after the Halloween holiday. So many people still make fun of Glitter (#JusticeForGiltter).

I think Mariah answered to that very well this week when she did a few things. One of them was the conversation with Genius, one of my favorite sources for discussions on music, past and present. This hour-long interview dives into many of her signature songs and some of her deepest cuts. It discusses her talent and passion for songwriting and the strength of her songwriting skills, which are constantly overlooked by the engaging and hypnotic melodies and the vocal acrobatics she’s known for. Mariah herself says when creating the song what matters most to her is the composition and lyrical content.

Mariah just released Caution, one of her most engaging, concise and coherent albums in years. Caution has also been a part of a pretty consistent album campaign which has not been a part of the Mariah Carey process since E=MC2. Let’t not forget the lack of a successful second-single for Memoirs and the false starts of Me. I Am Mariah. Caution has received the full treatment. There’s been an album cover release challenge, amtrack list reveal through the engagement of surprised lambs, instant-grat songs on iTunes and other streaming platforms, and an appearance on the Voice. There’s more to come.

Since the release of Me. I Am Mariah, Mariah has cleaned house and hired a new group of people who may be finally telling her “no, let’s try this”. Mariah joined Roc Nation and has their guiding hand assisting her current career path. Most personally, in January Mariah openly discussed her challenges with bipolar disorder. I think who we are seeing is finally a glimpse of the real Mariah. Not the persona. She’s let (most of) it go.

Mariah also just appeared on Jimmy Fallon and gave a knock-out performance of what I believe should’ve been the first single off Caution, The Distance featuring Ty Dolla $ign. She performed live. There’s no question about it. The production was edited to give it more texture, yet her confident vocals and the songs effervescence shone through it all. It was the perfect debut performance of the song.

All of this is such a sharp contrast to 2014 when Me. I Am Mariah was stalling all over the charts. Personally, the album still stands as a very strong and classic Mariah album give or take its length. Though the vocals on record were superb, there was very little belief that she was going to be able to reproduced them live. But we’re not here to go through the past, though I hope Me. I Am Mariah does have a justice moment a’la Glitter. You Don’t Know What to Do should’ve been a single (just sayin’).

Caution plays to Mariah’s new-found comfort in her vocals. Gone are the days where she is littering every song with dizzyingly arranged vocals that take us on a rollercoaster ride of emotion and heights. The vocals on Caution are much more reserved. This makes sense. For years her performances have been plagued with questions regarding the vocals: were they live or not? Caution also stays consistent, where previous effort Me. I Am Mariah tried to stay current and trend-hopped. The fact is Caution is also current, but achieves this appropriately by being slick and well produced. The lyrical content is also engaging. You actually listen to the words. The flow of the lyrics is hypnotic. This is peak Mariah.

mariah-caution-world-tour

Standout tracks include Caution (title track), The Distance, GTFO, One More ‘Gen and the bookend, Portrait which is akin to Outside (Butterfly) and Looking In (Daydream).

What will this album do in terms of sales and streaming performance? I’m not sure and frankly my expectations are low. I think the public has been marred by the recent debacles of the 2015-16 Mariah. The public is also very ageist, and though she is a massive star and vocal talent, she is close to the age of 50 and unfortunately becomes labeled “legacy” act; which is so fucked up. Mariah still has so much to share with us, Caution and recent performances prove that.

Caution is out now and is literally becoming the best critically reviewed album of her career. She’s out on the Caution World Tour starting February of 2019. If anything, she’s not going down without a fight. But we know that.

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