Monday, April 07, 2008

I brings that levity

I mentioned a few days ago that I know almost no Mariah Carey songs, so keep that in mind when reading my thoughts on her new album--I don't have much frame of reference.

Edit: I just noticed Paul posted a review of the album--I'm off to read it, but I imagine it's definitely worth a read!

The quick way to sum up Mariah Carey's new album, the brilliantly titled E=MC², is this: half amazing, half forgettable. The album contains a series of slow jams that you'll be hard-pressed to remember or distinguish from each other only moments after they've stopped playing, but with the rise of iTunes and mp3 players (or, more old school, with the existence of the skip button), that's no reason you should avoid the E=MC² material entirely.

The album opens with "Migrate," a club banger of sorts--it's not an urban stomper in the vein of something like Usher's "Yeah!", but instead takes its cues from the slinky, seductive, sometimes haunting urban clubby songs that we've heard recently. With its finger snaps and whistle-like effects (and in fact actual whistle note to open the song) and its willingness to use processed vocals, it's a great catchy song that totally manages to get away with its somewhat odd metaphor.

"Migrate" is also one of the four best songs on the album. We run into the second of those four at track five. "Side Effects" is a dark electro-R&B-pop song with some '80's riffs and, though it's not an incredibly huge sounding song, it definitely packs a punch; in a just world it'd be a smash. The lyrics (surprisingly personal and touching, they find Mariah dealing with the fact that "I finally built up the strength to walk away/Don't regret it, but I still live with the side effects") may not register on your first or second listen, but that's not necessary, given that they're only the icing on the delicious-sounding musical backing--an icing that ensures the song holds up to even more plays.

"I'm That Chick," the next song, is easily another of the album's highlights. Upbeat R&B-pop-disco with the drum beat we've come to expect from singers like Ne-Yo, it's a sweet light-hearted girly pop song that sounds meant for sunshine-filled days. Pure pop joy.

Possibly the very best song on the album comes two tracks later, though. Did I just use the phrase "pure pop joy" to describe "I'm That Chick"? Scratch that and move it to here--you could imagine possibly getting sick of "I'm That Chick" if you heard it and too many of its four four drumbeat compatriots over and over again, but it's hard to ever imagine getting sick of the breezy upbeat "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time." Thank goodness for the album's best track coming as late on the album as it does, though (eighth), because the second half of the fourteen-track-long E=MC² is in desperate need of some perking up. "For The Record," the song used in the commercials for Mariah's perfume, luckily proves itself to be much better than that commercial made it sound; it's not quite as amazing as those top four tracks, but it's a great song and a worthy member of the second tier. The more uptempo "O.O.C." is another track from the second half of the album worthy of a listen, and not just for the comedy language-switching. Beyond those two songs, though, there's not much worthy of report past track eight.

To jump back to the first half of the album, "Cruise Control" and lead single "Touch My Body" are both enjoyable second tier tracks (well, maybe slightly below second tier). "I Stay In Love" is fine, but by the time you reach the end of the album you've heard so many songs that sound like it--"Love Story," "Last Kiss," "Thanx 4 Nothin'," and arguably the two closing tracks "Bye Bye" and "I Wish You Well"--that you've begun to lose patience with all of them.

Let's not end on a down note, though: there are some fantastic songs on this album, and I'd very much urge anyone to give "Side Effects" (honestly, even if you don't usually listen to Mariah, give this song a chance), "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time," "I'm That Chick," and "Migrate" a listen and, even if I'll be trimming off a few tracks for my own personal playlist, I've found a lot to enjoy on E=MC², enough so that 1.) I may listen to the whole album enough that I could eventually maybe even remember what "Thanx 4 Nothin'" sounds like, and 2.) I hope it does really well for her...and that she manages to get at least two more number ones (and eventually three) with this material.

E=MC² comes out on April 15 in the U.S. and can be pre-ordered here.


Robpop said...

Oooh check out Always Be My Baby. Top Mariah moment. Also the Morales mix of My All. Personally, I mid-like her.

Yeah, nice to have in the background when revising if that makes any sense. BwO will distract. Dannii will make me pout. Clea will make me dance. Mariah will keep me in my books. I'll barely notice her. Its very close to elevator music. That isnt to attack her though. She just doesnt strike out musically. Perhaps Daydream, for me, was the last album she layered out thick pop melodies. Ever since she's being doing the same. She refuses to think outside of the box. And boy has that sold millions for her. So why break it? However, give me Janet jumping on planets, Britney with Robyn's backing vocals and Whitney's excellent odes to being nothing but fierce.

Great write up PPG!

From what it sounds like Mariah's new album is a turn for the better for her. A return to form. In the same week REM release their album-well last week actually-which is also heralded to be a celebration of their earlier works. It leads me to think that Mariah, REM, Madonna...all of them seem to be returning in some way or another. These big American acts with tons of money on their hands....are, to quote a Dusty track, goin' back.

And theres absolutely nothing wrong with that. However it makes ever more happy that there are so many acts/songwriters that constantly manage to refer to the past yet manage sprinkle their lineage of pop with wonderfully new and groundbreaking nuances.

Paul said...

I'm always worth a read :P But this was ace. Interesting to see differing opinions on the songs that I didn't like - particularly Migrate and Side Effects. Do give Bye Bye another chance its rather lovely... as for old tracks do hunt down Always Be My Baby, So Cold, ALl in Your Mind, Whenever You Call and Make It Happen. Pop purity.

Poster Girl said...

I do know--and love with all my heart!--"Always Be My Baby." Similar love for "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and the duet version of "Whenever You Call" (apparently there's a solo version of it? I haven't heard it). I don't know the Morales mix Rob mentioned or any of the other songs Paul mentioned, so I'm off to iTunes/YouTube them--well, as soon as I finish this comment ;)

Robpop, I do know what you mean--she's got a certain style. I think maybe for me, somehow NOT having ever really been exposed to that music while growing up or even once I "came into my own" in regards to my music taste means in an odd way her music is what is "different" for me--not that that makes it outside of the box, though (though "Side Effects" kind of is here), but it's a break from my flirtations with calling-you-to-the-dancefloor Swedish pop or McFly boys and their guitars, etc. etc. ;) Interesting comment--it does make me wish that I had better background knowledge and could actually engage with/react to your thoughts as opposed to just being able to say "interesting"!

I will give it another chance, Paul, just for you ;) It really is--it can be difficult to, say, read a really negative review about an album you like, but reading the thoughts of a reviewer who liked an album when you liked it but for different reasons or with different highlights is completely FASCINATING for me.

Adem With An E said...

I read Paul's review and now yours. I've only listened to the record once and, as I said on Paul's site, found it to be generally meh; good in places, but overall just okay. I do recall being in quite the mood that day though so am planning on giving the album another spin before bed tonight.

I'm loving the cover art now; I hated it before. I do also think the title is quite genius.

Yuяi said...

"Bye Bye" hit me after a couple of listens. So there is emegence from the meh on the album/slower tracks. Not sure if that happens on listen #4 or #14 but it happened for me.

I had a big ole laugh when I saw that you and I both had the same reaction("what was the name of that track again?") just seconds after some of the songs ended!

I do love "I'm That Chick" and "I'll be Loving U Long Time" (too beaucoup, too beaucoup!) too..!

Poster Girl said...

The title is great. I'm glad I didn't have to review this in any sort of official capacity, though, because I'm not sure how much my review is a guide to whether or not other people should buy the album. I'm increasingly in love with "Side Effects," though, even the lyrics--to such an extent that I just want to copy and paste them up on the site!

Ha ha, yeah! I am giving "Bye Bye" a few more spins to see what happens. And yup, "I'm That Chick" and "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time" are just great lighthearted pop fun.