Discographically speaking: Mariah Carey
Now entering her third (!) decade of record making, Mariah Carey (who appears at Constitution Hall on Wednesday) tends to make the same album pretty much every time: Ballads, R&B tracks, hip-hop/pop numbers and PG-13 rappers all fight for space with each other and, usually, a random ‘80s cover or two.
Carey's never boring, just consistent, and her albums provide temporary employment opportunities for dozens of R&B and hip-hop artists (Joe, Mystikal, Da Brat, Dru Hill) history might have otherwise forgotten.
Her finest (and otherwise) moments, ranked from worst to best, after the jump.
11. “Rainbow” - 1999
Lots of collaborations, with everyone from Jay-Z (who shows up on the great “Heartbreaker”) to Usher to Missy Elliott. It’s her least-drippy, least ballad-heavy disc, and, due in part to its emphasis on of-their-time hip-hop stars like Master P, one of her most dated. Obligatory ‘80s cover: “Against All Odds.”
10. “Charmbracelet” - 2002
Otherwise known as the post-“Glitter” comeback disc that wasn’t. Carey followed her de rigueur formula: M.O.R. R&B, mild hip-hop (Jay-Z shows up, again) and ballads about how she, Mariah, has bravely overcome adversity (“Through the Rain”), this time with diminishing results. Obligatory ‘80s cover: “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.”
9. “Emotions” - 1991
Carey’s commercially disappointing sophomore effort featured too much of everything: too many genres (jazz, ballads, disco), too much ululating. Too much Carey, basically: In what would become standard practice, she’s credited with co-writing and producing every song.
8. “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel” - 2009
Carey’s latest is one of her in-between releases: not memorable, but not terrible, and lacking one truly memorable breakout track. Obligatory ‘80s cover: “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
7. “Glitter” (soundtrack) - 2001
A lot less awful than the movie from whence it came, this Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis-co-produced disc featured Carey in full-on ‘80s nostalgia mode, channeling old-school R&B, disco and dance pop. There’s a great, if odd, cover of “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life,” and rappers like Nate Dogg and Carey constant Da Brat show up, too. Other obligatory ‘80s cover: “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On.”
6. “E=MC2” - 2008
The usual formula, nicely done. Despite some questionable choices (“I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time”), it features just the right ratio of bangers (“Touch My Body,” “Migrate”) to ballads (“Thanx 4 Nothin’”).
5. “Daydream” - 1995
This would be Carey’s last release before her divorce from record exec husband Tommy Mottola, and its emphasis on hip-hop (a genre to which Mottola was famously resistant) was, at the time, regarded as daring. And sure, it contains behemoth hits like “Fantasy” and the Boyz II Men collabo “One Sweet Day,” but they pale next to the horror/awesomeness that is Carey’s little-heralded cover of Journey’s “Open Arms.”
4. “Music Box” - 1993
One of Carey’s all-time most successful discs, this is where her still-extant formula, based on a mix of non-threatening urban R&B (“Dreamlover”) and soaring anthems (“Hero”) begins to bear dividends.
3. “Mariah Carey” - 1990
The simplest and least adventurous of Carey’s albums, her debut featured many of the churchy, roof-rattling ballads for which the singer, like Whitney Houston before her, would come to be known. Highlight: the still-great “Vision of Love.”
2. ”The Emancipation of Mimi” - 2005
Carey’s super-soulful, comparatively mellow comeback-from-her-comeback disc. With higher caliber collaborators (the Neptunes, Kanye West) and material (“We Belong Together”) than her last few outings, it was Carey’s best disc of the ‘00s.
1. “Butterfly” - 1997
Carey’s divorce album, “Butterfly” contains one classic song (the Diddy-driven “Honey”), a bumper crop of dancefloor fillers and more erotic imagery than all of her past albums combined. Her most assured disc ever, and the one with the least clunkers.
January 27, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories: Discographically speaking | Tags: Mariah Carey
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