Mariah is currently immersed in yet another comeback with her compact and refreshingly experimental 15th studio album – “Caution.”
It is her best since 2005’s Grammy nominated masterpiece, “The Emancipation Of Mimi.” Emancipation was also a return to greatness following some down years after her “breakdown” and widely panned film – “All That Glitters” accompanied by the soundtrack that happened to be released on Sept. 11. That album very recently hit number one on iTunes - 17 years after its release - fueled by her loyal fan base (Lambs) with the hashtag #JusticeForGlitter. I mean, who does something like that? Mariah. Always the trailblazer.
Vocally speaking, in her more recent live performances, the minuscule amount that Mariah may have lost in clarity and confidence, she has gained in grit and character. Is she as good as she was in say 1996, when she could step on stage and effortlessly and clear as a bell belt out her classics, “Emotions,” “Love Takes Time,” “Hero,” or “One Sweet Day?”
That is up for debate.
Does it matter though? She is still one of the best singers and songwriters alive and has nothing left to prove. When it comes to songwriting, it is like Mariah goes in once in a while and mines her mind and returns with precious gems. This year she was thankfully finally nominated for the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Recently, Mariah had been the brunt of a lot of negative press due to abruptly ending her performance on New Year’s Eve 2016 and before that there was the debacle that was “American Idol,” which probably wasn’t the best career choice.
Many have questioned whether she can still sing, because of a string of performances where she was accused of lip synching. But, she redeemed herself last New Year’s Eve by bravely returning to the scene of the “crime,” with no tea no less, and performed live in 9 degree weather proving that - yes she can still sing. One thing constant about Mariah is that she does not give up.
On “Caution,” we have 10 new songs that by the end left me wanting more. On the bop “A No No” she informs an unfortunate that, “I ain't even mad, no not like before. Off with your head, now slither out the door. Snakes in the grass it's time to cut the lawn,” as her voice criss-crosses like a musical ninja, octave to octave, note to note. When it comes to “the voice,” if Mariah were a roller coaster, she would be the world’s tallest, and fastest and most thrilling.
Personal favorites include the sensual mystery of “Caution,” the experimental darkness of “Giving Me Life” featuring Slick Rick and Blood Orange, the deepness of “The Distance” ft. Ty Dolla $ign/produced by Skrillex and of course another downtempo bop - “With You.”
The most introspective song on the album - “Portrait" - is the closing track and probably the best on the album and chord wise reminds of something that would fit in on Stevie Wonder’s classic album “Innervisions.” In it she asks longingly “Where do I go from here?”
We can only hope there will be much more to come from this great artist. “Caution” is one of the best albums of the year.
John Bata is a local DJ/music producer, writer, artist, photographer. He currently lives in Wilton Manors.