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Almost 24 years ago, a heavenly voice blessed the radio, “Vision of Love” hit and the world was introduced to an exceptionally gifted vocalist Mariah Carey. She was not just an immensely talented singer, but a writer and producer, and an artist that would be ever-present from that moment on. With the release of her 14th studio album “Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse” this Tuesday, she’s reflecting on a long career of personal and professional highs and lows, and a truly amazing catalog. Her evolution as an artist is evident in all of her albums, and this Discography Review is intended to give my personal take on her musical output, being the lifelong Lamb that I am.

mariah_careyThe goal of Mariah Carey‘s self titled-debut was to show off her superior voice techniques, and the goal was definitely met. She shows great range and technique throughout the ballad heavy album. The biggest problem with the album is that, despite a few uptempos, it’s a little too dull for the young talent that she was. It was an album designed to be on par with her vocal contemporaries of the time, namely Whitney Houston, and it failed in showing any personality to the singer. There are some shining moments like the phenomenal “Vanishing”, which was an early instance that Mariah could write some amazingly emotional songs. Overall a decent set of songs to introduce the phenom to the world.

Grade: B+  Best: Vision of Love, Vanishing, Sent from up Above

 

51Egz0AZZnLIn 1991, it seems like Mariah wanted to step away from the stale pop sounds of her debut with the amazingly underrated sophomore album “Emotions“. The ballads she became known for aged her in peoples’ minds, and “Emotions” was a way for her to be a young upbeat artist having a little fun. There are still those adult oriented songs like “If It’s Over” and “And You Don’t Remember”, which end up showing a more raw and gritty side to her flawless voice. But the overall feel of the album is more relaxed, and a lot more soulful. There are those club stompers like “You’re so Cold” and the title cut, the R&B slow-jam staple “Can’t Let Go”, and of course the inspirational signature “Make It Happen”. She sings full on with so much alertness and confidence that it’s Mariah trying to show more of her personality through her voice.

Grade: A-  Best: Make It Happen, Can’t Let Go, You’re So Cold

 

66938-mariah_carey_-_music_box“Emotions” didn’t exactly sell as good as her debut, and maybe that step into a more R&B and Club direction wasn’t taken well by her label, so maybe they decided for her third studio album “Music Box” that they were going to play it safe. And judging from the number of huge hits and iconic songs that came from this album, maybe playing it safe was a good thing. The cute uptempo Pop “Dreamlover” is undeniably infectious, and her cover of “Without You” is without a doubt one of her finest vocal performances. The now ubiquitous power ballad “Hero” also came from this album, which overall has a lot of great material, but it’s definitely Mariah at her safest. It’s good, but it just feels a little stale and calculated, rather than an extension of her own musical inspirations.

Grade: C  Best: Dreamlover, Without You, Anytime You Need a Friend

 

mariah-carey-daydreamBy 1995 Mariah was at the top of the industry, with record breaking sales and mega-successful singles, she began to show more hints of who she was as an artist and who she wanted to be. “Daydream” follows a similar pattern to “Music Box”, mainly the idea that the album was aimed to please everybody and make money. However there’s something about it that shows slight signs of  a change coming in Mariah. Though it’s not included on the actual album, the remix for “Fantasy” with Ol’ Dirty Bastard was a big shock at the time, and it started to show that Mariah had more surprises under her hat. And it made for a better album than the previous. There’s something about her vocal delivery that shows more confidence than ever before. This album is also the home to some of her biggest hits like the record breaking #1 hit “One Sweet Day” with Boyz II Men, and the quintessential Pop song “Always be My Baby”. There’s also phenomenal album cuts, one of my Top favorite songs from her “Underneath the Stars”, the emotional and dark “Looking In” and the powerhouse cover of Journey’s “Open Arms”. It’s a solid album, and definitely the last of the “Old” Mariah some Lambs still seem to crave.

Grade: A  Best: Underneath the Stars, Always Be My Baby, Fantasy

 

B000002BQK.01.LZZZZZZZAfter the success of “Daydream”, and the end of her marriage, the birth of the “New” Mariah came. Hate her or love her, she definitely made a statement with “Butterfly” that she was going to spread her wings, take control, and do what she wanted to do. It was no surprise, after the success of her Hip Hop remixes on the previous album, that she wanted to do music that was more young and urban. The album was a success because it was the first album where we felt we were listening to the feelings and emotions of the Diva. From sampling Mobb Deep on “The Roof”, harmonizing with Bone Thugs N Harmony on classic “Breakdown”, and covering Prince’s “The Beautiful ones” with Dru Hill, this album at least showed us what really inspires her. There’s still enough of the “Old” Mariah, like the amazing vocal performance in the title track, the A/C ballad “Whenever You Call”, and #1 hit “My All”, but the overall feel is of a singer and writer finally free from her chains and becoming the artist she wants to be.

Grade: A  Best: Honey, Butterfly, Breakdown

 

66940-mariah-carey-rainbowMariah’s Hip Hop loving era continued on “Rainbow“, one of my favorites. It’s not a drastic change from “Butterfly”, but her branching out and working with new producers and exploring new depths of her voice and sound are exciting and make this album stand out. Firstly, the ballads are amazing and personally they are some of the best in her career. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis pulled emotional and powerful vocals on “Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme)”, and really sweet emotions on the Joe and 98 Degrees collaboration “Thank God I Found You”. And David Foster produces the flawless “After Tonight”, which plays like an elevated sequel to “My All”.  The main focus of the album is fun, as displayed on the cute and catchy lead single “Heartbreaker”. And Hip Hop is also a major player here, as she features Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Usher and Master P. Great music, great fun and just another step in this artist evolving.

Grade: A  Best: Heartbreaker, Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now), Thank God I Found You

 

That’s all for now! As Mariah Week continues, there will be lots of goodies, and this Discography Review will of course be continued. Stay Tuned!

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