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Mariah Carey emancipates the benjamins with The Emancipation of Mimi

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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.

About Gadfly

  • Joel

    wow that is really harsh but one thing I gotta say let the lady live her life as long as she is not hurting anyone.

  • Paul

    Ofcourse Mariah is a corporate entity. There is a formula to music by its very nature. She is certainly not the corporate entity on the scale of Madonna or J Lo who have no disernable musical talent and have been sucsessful as a result of buisness savy. She has an exceptional singing voice and I think that it fairly clear. Technically so even if you do not like it personally.

    Being a ‘corporate entity’ or being popular to the masses is no mean feat. Your implied assertion that the masses are stupid and your not is bizarre. Its like the mentality of a scitzophrenic who thinks their the only saine one.

    I find KD Lang a much more offensive artist. Her completely pretentious, meladramic, nosense. THe occasional cresendo because she really feals her pain. Even if Mariah is failing at least she is trying to be relevent.

    If Mariah is a coroprate entity she’s Pepsi. Globally popular, largely due do excellent promotion, and really quite good (although too much and you vomit). If you like tap water go ahead, its cheap transparent and we only need it make us thankful for things that don’t taste like it.

  • Al Barger

    Paul, not to put too fine a point on it, but are you out of your tree, man? Do NOT disrespect KD Lang. How in hell does a MARIAH CAREY fan come up saying that KD is “pretensious” or “meladramic” (melodramatic?).

    I’m all pro-capitalist, and I don’t mind someone harnessing the power of a corporation to sell some product- if the product is something worthwhile to start with. Thus, I will somewhat defend Madonna. It’s been most of 20 years since she wrote a real song, but The Immaculate Collection is pretty good. In her prime, she did conjure up some outstanding pop songs.

    I’d just as quick listen to a new Mariah album as a new Madonna album at this point, but you really can’t deny the quality of “Papa Don’t Preach” or “Like a Prayer,” silly MTV shenanigans aside.

  • elle

    I think this is an unfair and extremely biased review. So what you don’t like Mariah Carey. I don’t like KD Lang, but you don’t see me dissing KD Lang. You need to have respect for artists, particularly one as talented as Mariah (who actually writes and produces most of her own songs). Perhaps if we were all a little less narrow minded, we would be able to see past the slightly slutty outfits and appreciate Mariah for the amazing singer that she is.

    ps she is not a whore at all

  • matt

    in response to #204..

    johnny cash’s lyrics are set at as a bloody narrative! you would have to be a pretty darn awful lyricist to NOT be able to “paint a vivid picture” when you are so blatantly narrating to mindless guitar-strumming (no offense to cash: he was a legend).

    indeed, painting a picture WITHOUT step-by-step instruction is (one of) the art/s of lyric-writing.

    even if one doesn’t like mariah’s voice, one should at least acknowledge she is a bloody good lyricist. “my all” from “butterfly” would have to be one of the most melodically, HARMONICALLY and lyrically perfect songs i’ve ever heard. if it weren’t for the fact it were in the style of a “spanish” ballad it could almost be said to be ABBA-esque in its perfection (now i’m not really an ABBA fan but it has been said on more than one occasion that the music they wrote was almost perfect in melody and harmony.. i think this derives from the predictability and simplicity of the music.. everything sounds “right”).

    a FYI, loverboy (glitter) was the only single to be jacked-down in price to 49c or whatever it was. no others. niente. nada. zilch.

    that’s it for now until i get worked up again.

  • Chris.

    Saying Mariah Carey is crap doesn’t make it true.

  • timo

    your critique lacks any substance. you give no concrete opinions about WHY the 3 songs u mentioned sucked u jst said they did.. first of all we belong together has an AMAZING melody.. all the critics said so, even those hu bashed her for not having enough melody before. n plus it spent 14 weeks on no 1 so im guessing ppl disagree with you n there are GREAT songs on that album : circles, mine again, stay the night, fly like a bird, n many others… her vocals on that album were th best since rainbow in my opinion.. this is an AWFUL review.. plain AWFUL!!!