(Don't worry, this review won't be about Nick Cannon. Actually, big ups to Nick. I didn't know the dude had it in him. Until this time, he was most famous for making that serious face while drumming in Drumline, but now, he just wedded that chick.)
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Mariah Carey's latest number one album should've been titled, More Of The Same. As a 38 year old pop star who has had her ups and downs, more of the same could be a good thing. For Mariah's case, it might be, based on her sales numbers so far. But my worry about this trend is that for someone who has been around for almost 20 years, Mariah should worry less about satisfying the trendy kid crowd, and more about satisfying her now grown up audience. Though she's not an afterthought by the buying public like Janet Jackson now is, she's also catering to disappearing crowd. Her future, in my opinion, is going to be an adult audience, especially as she gets older herself. This latest album is full of wannabe hip hop tracks, much like her albums after Daydream (her best album in my opinion) have been. To think that Mariah is old enough to be a mom to the audience she is catering to leads me to believe that Miss Honey B. Fly is going to soon need to figure out how to grow, rather than how to run on a treadmill.
Based on this new album, there are three things that really stand out to me that she needs to understand.
Your Songs Don't Have To Go Bump In The Night
In the beginning of Love Story Jermaine Dupri says that Mariah told him, "You gotta make it knock." Why is that? Why do Mariah Carey songs have to knock? I'm not sure if Mariah and company knows this or not, but no one is throwing this album into the CD deck in their jeep and cruising down the street to show off how much their stereo system bumps. This ain't DJ Magic Mike. Anyways, do people still do that?
Hip hop is not just a sound. It's not just a style. Just because Jermaine Dupri, or Don Chi Chi as I like to call him, has been successful producing hip hop records, doesn't mean Mariah's album has to be littered with hip hop sounding tracks, especially when most of them aren't all that creative and are same sounding. Thanx 4 Nothing', beat wise, sounds almost exactly like One And Only from her last album. Migrate with T-Pain actually has a little bit of bounce to it, but when I bob my head like that, I want to hear something come out of Jay-Z's mouth, not Mariah's vocals going through the vocoder. And really, if anyone in the world doesn't need to use that gimmick it's her right? What's next, Whitney getting the T-Pain treatment? Ok, don't answer that.
Side Effects may be a personal song about her marriage, but I think when you feature Young Jeezy in a guest rhyme, it takes away from the meaning. In fact, if I didn't listen really closely, I wouldn't have known what the song is about because with all the Jeezy and Don Chi Chi sound effects, it's like they don't want you to hear the words anyway.
Don't Be A Mid-Tempo Queen
Except for the slow jams, which aren't many, this album stays right in the mid-tempo. It's funny because in the late 90s, Jermaine Dupri was all about making people dance. Actually, he and Puff Daddy both said they were just about making people dance. I guess it makes a little bit of sense for Mariah to not really make dance music because she doesn't really dance herself. She does one dance specifically in which she stands up right like the mic stand and sways a little bit back and forth. But there's a problem with staying mid tempo. All the songs sound the same. In fact, many of the songs sound like We Belong Together including I Stay In Love which is a really good song except it sound like a carbon copy.
First single Touch My Body is fun, but is kind of creepy at the same time. Musically, it sounds like a leftover track, but Mariah's playfulness wins out until she tells her lover that she will hunt him down if he brags about their secret rendezvous. Really, I think it was just a good excuse for her to be able to show off her new body immediately in the video. Did I already say big ups to Nick Cannon? Oh yes, I did. Cruise Control features Damian Marley and is very skippable. For one, I'm not a fan of fake reggae beats. And secondly, I never ever wanted to hear Mariah sing in Jamaican patois, which she does.
Learn From MJB And Do The Opposite Of Janet
As Mary J. Blige has grown up album by album, she's gone from a girl who represented the hood to someone who stays true to herself in every genre in which she sings. She lays it out on the line. When Mariah sings about her bad marriage, her relationship with her father, and simply heartbreak in general, it doesn't feel as honest as it does with MJB. And I'm no huge MJB fan. Actually, I'd rather listen to Mariah, but when MJB emotes you feel it. With Mariah, you kind of feel it in your pinky toe. On Bye Bye Mariah nearly gets there. It's a song about losing a loved one, specifically her father, in her case. But it feels honest. With I Wish You Well, she goes back to some of the tracks on her early albums. It has a gospel feel to it and she sings with her soul instead of trying to be cool.
Even though she's goes back to wannabe hip hop queen with I'm That Chick, at least she samples something that listeners can get into. With Michael Jackson's Off The Wall blazing in the background, Mariah parties all night through the night. MJB's first single from her latest album was very Michaelesque. You can take it back there if you come strong enough, and Mariah does it here.
I don't mean to throw Janet Jackson under the bus (and really, I love Janet so much that if I was the King of Zamunda, she would be my Queen), but she's actually the type of artist that has regressed so much of late that she's become a caricature of herself. We understood very much in the early 90s that she loved sex. She didn't need to tell us in every song she's created since 2001 that she loves sex. There's no need to become a one trick pony. If Mariah wants to avoid the one trick pony route, she needs to go away from the easy songs like I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time which sounds like any old song from Charmbracelet. iTunes bonus track 4real4real pairs her up with Da Brat which must've been a favor or something because Da Brat hasn't had a hit in years. You mean Kriss Kross was busy? But these kind of songs are so retread. You've heard them on every Mariah album since Butterfly, when she decided to go for it with the hip hop beats.
Even though the critics seem to enjoy this new and free Mariah Carey, I've heard that story before. E=MC² isn't terrible, it's just tired. Save for a few tracks where she shows glimpses of creating good music, I fear that her next album is going to be fifteen songs with Nick Cannon talking about how she's still that chick. Don't do it Mariah.