In 1992 a Madonna-vs-Mariah binary existed, believe me. At that point it was clear her heart was in the plush ballads that climbed the charts when Whitney Houston was in the studio and Celine Dion was powerless to be born — I figured “Make It Happen” and “Someday” were exceptions. When rockists would decry the state of the charts and point fingers at Mariah Carey, we’d agree, like Truman and Arthur Vandenberg did about fighting the Soviets. Then “Fantasy,” “Honey,” and “Butterfly” showed how mercenary instincts — she knew the direction in which the pop charts had been swinging — inspires artists to make whoopee.
Still, I gave her little thought even after scoring one of the great pop comebacks of the last twenty years in 2005. Did you know The Emancipation of Mimi is certified sextuple platinum? Damn. This was the period when The New Yorker published serious re-assessments of her career. She deserved it, too late, I might add — Janet Jackson didn’t get the scowls that Carey earned for stripping several layers of clothes. Always there hovered the assumption, spoken in my circles, that she was a dingbat.
Stuck in another fallow stage, perhaps for eternity, Carey can count on two generations of good will. Her songs haven’t gone away: this week alone I heard the flatulent “Love Takes Time” and the endearing “Always Be My Baby” on A/C radio. The best thing she’s done since 2008 is the Miguel collaboration “#Beautiful,” which only did okay business on the Hot 100 but is still one of the few convincing star duets of recent years.
Her attraction to and weakness for pleasure is the most likable thing about her.
1. Make It Happen
2. Someday (Single Remix)
3. We Belong Together
4. Fantasy (Bad Boy) Featuring O.D.B
5. I’m That Chick
6. Always Be My Baby
7. My All
9. Shake It Off
11. Vision of Love
12. Touch My Body
13. All I Want for Christmas is You
14. Don’t Forget About Us
15. Heartbreaker ft. Jay Z