Friday, April 18, 2008

Mariah Carey: E=MC²

Pop icon Mariah Carey is back with her long awaited 11th studio album. Unfortunately, she continues her unimpressive streak with E=MC², another RnB, hip-hop, dance hybrid with too many duds.

It's disappointing that Mariah still seems to be grasping for what's hot right now instead of being true to herself. While she will continue to sell (some) records and keep the mainstream interested with marketable hits such as "Touch My Body," she seems to be merely playing the part of hip and current pop star rather than committing to the inspired songwriting she's capable of.

The album opens with "Migrate," a beat-heavy track from producer-of-the-moment Danja. It falls flat even with T-Pain's help on the last verse (I know, it's hard to believe). Mariah is capable of making the urban sound work, as she proved with 1997's Butterfly, arguably her best album to date. However, the majority of her hip-hop collaborations in recent years have come off sounding contrived and unoriginal. That trend continues on this album, though "Side Effects" with Young Jeezy stands out.

Jermaine Dupri's signature Island/Def Jam production is stamped all over the album. Not surprisingly, it (still) doesn't work. His beats get repetitive while similar-sounding songs tend to bleed into each other; you'll quickly grow tired of the same uninteresting boom-boom-clapping found on most tracks.

Just when you think there is not much salvagable here, Mariah's true talent resurfaces at the close of the album. She ends doing what she does best; "I Wish You Well," a soulful piano ballad with a heavy gospel sound, showcases Mariah's vocals. She knows she can't sing with the power and range she brought in the 90s, but she tactfully relies on her vocal control and restraint with success here.

The magic is still there somewhere, buried underneath the gimmicks and the Glitter, but there is too much mediocrity on Mariah's latest effort to earn a satisfactory grade.

Mariah, forget about street cred, ditch JD, and get back to the piano. To quote The Pipettes, "baby, just be yourself!" Until then, let us take comfort in the fact that for every "Touch My Body," there's a "Hero."

--Jessy Bartlett

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