I immediately concede that this review will be unfair to Mariah Carey, in that I’ve been steeping in real music. After spending the last month immersed in a real singer like KD Lang, and a just plain real human being like June Carter Cash, how could I talk myself into liking an empty corporate whore such as Mariah Carey? I admit that I’m not equal to that task.
Further furthering my unfairness, the title of her huge runaway hit single “We Belong Together” has me listening to the drop dead classic Rickie Lee Jones song of the same name from Pirates.
“Corporate whore” seems like exactly the right words to describe Carey. In her classic incarnation a decade ago, she came on very much like the faux hysterics of a prostitute. She came on with the athleticism, and the squealing away in a high register with patently fake waves of vocal orgasms. She might as well just name an album Oh Baby, It’s So Big!
Crikey, what kind of idiots thought this cheap whoring was music? For awhile there though, they couldn’t print her crap up fast enough. Looking at her hits album now though, I can’t remember a single one of those huge utterly forgettable hits. That stuff just wasn’t even well done whoring.
But far worse yet, who’s buying this NEW and far worse crap?
After a couple of flops and waning popularity, The Emancipation of Mimi is a big fat multi-platinum hit. Most particularly, “We Belong Together” is undeniably the biggest hit single of the year by any objective measure. It was #1 a couple of months ago, has lingered, and now returned all the way to #1 in Billboard. Why utterly escapes me, but this is 10x more popular than the Rickie Lee Jones record ever was.
Yet it’s even far worse than her crass early work. She’s toned down her vocal attack quite a bit, drawing it down a notch in the whole melodic approach. She’s not squealing away with silly a-ah-a-ah-a-ah-ah-ah stuff. You might theoretically say that this is an improvement, as that whorish squealing was pretty cheesy. A good singer with some style and something to say might well benefit from dialing it down.
Mariah Carey, however, has nothing to say beyond “buy my album.” What of interest would Jenna Jameson have to say other than squealing her pre-programmed orgasms? The empty vocal gymnastics were the most distinctive part of her art. Take that away, and what have you got left?
The Emancipation of Mimi is a big pile of nothing. Even Snoop Dogg can’t inject any personality into this focus-grouped r&b food product. For starters, the whole album runs 90+% on drum machines, the most flavorless drum machine programming ever. I’m at a loss to understand how they could create 50 minutes of these musical tracks without the least hint of personality sneaking in the back door. You’d think they’d try to do something interesting in a few tracks just to stave off their own boredom.
Listening closely and repeatedly to this album may have been good penance for my sins, but it has not revealed to me even ONE decent hook- much less interesting melodic development, interesting lyrics, or even just a guitar solo. Even 50 Cent manages to conjure up a few basic simple hooks. With her money and backing, surely she could hire someone to write at least a half-memorable song. I’d be hard pressed to think of another multi-platinum album with less memorable songwriting.
“We Belong Together” particularly puzzles me by its popularity. Besides being mundane lyrically and instrumentally, I’m still having trouble remembering how the song goes even while I’m listening to it. In theory, I can maybe a little bit see how there’s a certain skill in making those big flows of meaningless words work out on the beats and such, but it’s like praising the skillful application of condiments on a poopie sandwich. It’d take a lot more than some Grey Poupon to make this turdburger taste good.
As I’ve found myself saying frequently lately, back in my day even the crap was better. Olivia Newton John also made shallow breakup songs for silly teenage girls, but unlike “We Belong Together” -much less the even less distinguished songs on the rest of Emancipation- at least “Please Mr Please” had a memorable tune. It was pretty shallow, but at least it was catchy.
She’s got a couple of workaday vanilla dance floor call outs, “It’s Like That” and the imaginatively titled “To the Floor.” There are a couple of characterless breakup songs, such as “We Belong Together.” There are a couple of pedestrian hookup songs.
She’s pretty much just laying there. She can’t even fake being interested in the trick. Come on, now. You’re on the clock here.
As her bought time draws to a close, she tries to throw in a little bit of her old school histrionics, but it’s too late. It just ain’t happening.
Your money’s on the dresser, baby. I’m done with you.