This is the one, kiddies, that I've been waiting to hear. Mariah fan after Mariah fan after Mariah fan has told me that the soundtrack to the infamous flop Glitter would be the album to make me fan. Or, at least, one that'll make me tap my first more than once. And well, they were semi-right. After the abysmal, sold-her-soul musical catastrophe that was 1999's Rainbow, Glitter is a much more of a different road for Mariah. With every MC record, it starts off with a very high note with a dancey-pop song before nose-diving into a sea of second-rate ballads and generic slowjams that would make Toni Braxton ashamed of her genre. I should have known something was different about Glitter when the opening track seemed uncharacteristically ... stupid.
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Awww, yeah. There's finally some real, honest good to be had on a Mariah Carey album. It's no surprise that I absolutely adore the 1980s: the sounds, the visuals, the whole rich feeling of exploration. The synth was just gaining some momentum and everything was an experiment. As the film apparently takes place in the mid-80s, the soundtrack naturally reflects those sounds, and, for the first time in a very long time, Mariah showed a very stripped version of herself. Glitter is obviously some autobiographical, and even though she had no passion or soul on her previous effort, Mariah sounds a lot more honest hear than on the bulk of records. Her cover of Robert Palmer's I Didn't Mean to Turn You On was a clever choice-- it actually comes dangerously close to the quality of Robert's incredible version. Written by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis of Janet Jackson fan, this is one of those highly underrated classic 80s song, and I'm honestly proud of the way Mariah sings it. She's got a sultry power to her voice that makes me enjoy her wheezing, which usually drives up a freaking wall. Unfortunately, that's, by far, the best song on the album, and Mariah gets a little lost being the production.
I enjoyed the hypnotic feel of If We, but the guest spots detract from the overall presentation. For once, I really wanted to hear Mariah. She's droning on, yes, but I think that's the point, and it adds to the overall 80s mood. I also enjoyed her rendition of Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, which may pretty much lend itself to be an enjoyable song. It's a great song, Mariah can sing. It just worked, unlike her previous cover of Against All Odds by Phil Collins. I like when Mariah is being a little bit kitschy without going over the top, and that's what she did with Glitter. There's a sense of vulnerability on this album that isn't seen on her masked and impersonal previous efforts; I feel like she's a lot more connected to this material. That may be just because it's more accessible, I don't know. I do know that it's a lot more of a joy to listen to that anything else the woman's done (...thus far.)
There's not much on this album that I "despise" like I did on her previous albums, but there are quirks that bug the hell out of me. What annoys me is that, of all people, MARIAH CAREY loses her presence beneath a myriad of really stupid guest spots and a great production team. On this album, Mariah sings mainly like she's having sex, which is fine, but not when you have people like Busta Rhymes shouting over you. Then, all the vocal layering renders her absolutely untelligble. Her voice becomes a straight up harmony and it gets really different to hear her. She's singing like she's singing on her older ballad-driven albums, and I'm not so sure how well it really matches dance music. That's not to say she can't do uptempo tracks-- believe me, she can. It's just that there's something off about this album: Want You is weird. It's got a catchy hook, but the production doesn't really remind me so much of the 80s, rather than remining me of someone trying to imitate the 80s. Mariah sounds...okay, I guess, but it's very easy to lose her beneath the dead weight-- this time in the form of Eric Benet, who just outshines her.
And what the hell is going on with Don't Stop (Funkin' 4 Jamaica)? This song is a disaster if I ever heard of. This dance song features rapper Mystikal, who has one of the most obnoxious voices I've ever heard in my life, including Ja Rule. I think Mariah sounds sweet and playful here, but gives a damn? All I hear is Mystikal shouting, hollering, and making noises (that make him sound constipated) over all the potential. I also don't get 80s from this song; in fact, it sounds like something directly out of the 2002 hip hop scene. And though I'm not sure of the direct film context, I don't think that tracks like Never Too Far really capture anything about the colorful decade-- in fact, this song, though not terrible, just evokes the same bland Mariah-standard that we heard on 95's Daydream.
The ironic thing about Glitter is that, unlike every other Mariah album in the world, the opening song annoys me. Loverboy (which is based on a Cameo sample) is one of the most awkward pop songs that was a hit. The melody is ...nice, I think. I don't know. I can't really tell because its masked up by 1,000 vocal layers of Mariah wheezy voice, guest spots from Da Brat and friends, and what I can just faintly make out as a generic beat. I remember the horrendous video: Mariah in a handkerchief bra and trying way too hard to appeal as sexy. Well, Mariah Carey is already very pretty; she doesn't need to be running around touching her breasts to prove a point. She's actually prettier when she's being subtle about it. But hey, people honest, I actually enjoyed Mariah more than I have here than on her other albums. What I didn't enjoy was all the random featured artists. This is a Mariah Carey record; I don't want to listen to Cameo.
I guess it's always darkest before the dawn, because Glitter proves that Mariah Carey is capable of making decent music. I can't think about a worse omen than having your record be released on what would become the most tragic event to happen in post-Pearl Harbor America. I think that this record got a bad rap for this, as well as for having it be paired with an apparently horrible movie (that I've yet to see). That said, I don't think she can hide behind the mask of 9/11. This album isn't free of blemishes, but I hope she can keep it up, because Charmbracelet is up next.
Loverboy (Remix) (2 Stars)
Lead the Way (3 Stars)
If We (4.5 Stars)
Didn't Mean to Turn You On (5 Stars)
Don't Stop (Funkin' 4 Jamaica) (3.5 Stars)
All My Life (3 Stars)
Reflections (Care Enough) (2 Stars)
Last Night A DJ Saved My Life (4 Stars)
Want You (3 Stars)
Never Too Far (2 Stars)
Twister (2 Stars)
Loverboy (2 Stars)
OVERALL SCORE: 3 STARS (Even)