Iconic musician Stevie Wonder turns 70 today. He’s definitely one of those artists who created the soundtrack to our lives. I first discovered him in the 80s with “I Just Called to Say I Love You”. The song, from the movie The Woman in Red, was everywhere in 1984. It topped several Billboard charts and won the Oscar for Best Original Song. People, including me, just love Stevie.
In 2001, Mariah Carey suffered a series of career setbacks. She had a well-publicized breakdown. Her movie, Glitter, bombed and the accompanying soundtrack went down with it. Plus, she was dropped by her record label after just being signed. It was a bleak period. She tried to bounce back the next year with a new album, but that failed to take off as well. People in the music industry wrote her off and said she’d never recover. They were wrong. In 2005, Mariah released The Emancipation of Mimi and everything turned around. It sold 10 million records and won three Grammys. For the album’s 15th anniversary, we’re celebrating this momentous (Mariah loves a moment) album by raking its fourteen tracks.
14. To the Floor
There’s not really a bad song on Mimi, but To the Floor comes close. It doesn’t make me want to rush to the dance floor and Nelly’s weak rap is forgettable.
13. Mine Again
The problem with Mine Again is that it’s very shouty. I like when Mariah sings in full voice, but it sounds likes she’s trying to project across a football stadium here. Dial it back, sister.
12. One and Only
A sluggish sleepy track. The best thing about it is Twista. He kicks things up a notch with his crazy fast flow.
11. Joy Ride
She hits a fantastic extended note at the end of the song that is a joy ride in itself.
10. Stay the Night
Mariah worked with Kanye West (back when he was tolerable) for the first time with this track. Her voice and his production style are a nice match.
9. How I Wish You Only Knew
This could have appeared on a Diana Ross album in the 70s. The live band, background vocals, and spoken word mid-song are very much of that era.
8. Your Girl
Another one that sounds like a throwback, this time to girl groups of the 60s. But it’s modern at the same time.
7. Say Somethin’
Mariah and The Neptunes are a good combo. Throw in Snoop Dogg and you have a party. It feels like a fresh evolution of her sound.
6. Fly Like a Bird
I always enjoy when Mariah goes gospel. Here she sings an inspirational ballad with a full choir and an appearance from her minister. She brought the whole church to the studio.
5. Get Your Number
After years apart Mariah reunited with Jermaine Dupri, her longtime friend and collaborator, on this album. The results were great songs like Get Your Number. It’s a fun and flirty track that makes good use of an 80s sample from the British group, Imagination. Oh, damn.
4. It’s Like That
Mariah announced her return with this cool party single, moving away from the stress and drama of the last few years. There’s also a great shady line, “Them chickens is ash and I’m lotion”. Who wouldn’t want to be lotion?
A beautifully written song about trying to move on after a breakup while still feeling crushed. From the opening verse, “Ever since you left me, I’ve been trying to hide the pain. Painting on a smile with lipstick, putting on a big charade,” you’re caught up in the sadness with her.
2. Shake It Off
Mariah sings about shaking off her cheating boyfriend here. She’s packing up her Louis Vuitton and moving on. It makes you wanna bounce and not just because Jermaine tells you to in the opening.
1. We Belong Together
This is one of her best. Period. A lush midtempo song that never ages. It cemented her comeback by going to #1 (her sweet 16th) and staying there for 14 weeks. Billboard named it the Song of the Decade and the naysayers learned you should never count Mariah out.
After the initial success of Mimi, the record label re-released it with a couple of new songs and remixes. The standout being Don’t Forget About Us. It was similar to WBT, but amazing in its own right. So much so, that it went to number one on the charts (her 17th if you’re keeping track).
In 1978, Rose Royce came out with “Wishing on a Star”, the third single off their album Full Bloom. The ballad wasn’t a big hit for them, but the r&b group had many other memorable singles, like “Car Wash”. Flash forward to 1992, when the appropriately named The Cover Girls released their cover of “Star”. It went to #9 on the Billboard 100 and was the 49th biggest single of the year.
Each version of the song is a product of its time. Rose Royce’s original is a soulful 70s ballad with lead singer Gwen Dickey’s rich vocals and the live band accompanying her. The Cover Girls’ rendition is very produced, which was common in the 90s. It also has more sass.
I actually heard TCG’s “Star” first when I was growing up. I distinctly remember it playing in the background of an episode of Beverly Hills 90210, so it feels closer to my nostalgic heart. But if I have to pick the best version of the song, I’ll go with Rose Royce. Gwen’s voice is better and I like RR’s subtly.
Mariah Carey isn’t a fan of birthdays so instead she chooses to celebrate anniversaries. Why? Because she’s a diva and she can. In honor of the occasion, here’s the video for a classic MC track, “Honey”. Wouldn’t we all like to dive into a pool, race away on a jet ski, and do a little dance number with a bunch of sailors right about now? Happy Anniversary!
On this day in 1992, En Vogue released “My Lovin (You’re Never Gonna Get It)”, the first single off their Funky Divas album. To put it in 90s terms, this song was bangin’! You had the perfect harmonies of Dawn, Terry, Maxine, and Cindy, a heavy James Brown sample, and some New Jack swing. It was a recipe for success, peaking at #2 on the Billboard 100. The sassy 60s meets 90s music video also captured the fun dynamic of the group and won them a couple of VMAs. Woah woah woah woaaah!
Christmas came early this year. Mariah Carey’s holiday classic, “All I Want for Christmas is You” hit no. 1 on this week’s Billboard Hot 100 chart. It’s an amazing feat considering the song came out in 1994. Every year it has grown in popularity, landing at no. 3 last season. It was only a matter of time before it would get to the top spot. Even better, this is Mariah’s 19th number 1, more than any other solo artist and one less than The Beatles. She has also headed the chart in three different decades now. She truly is an amazing artist. And some may say the Queen of Christmas.
Donna Summer ruled the music charts in the 1970s, turning out hit after hit. She and her longtime producer, Giorgio Moroder, had perfected the formula for dance music of that era. In November 1979, they came out with “On the Radio”. The track was written for the Jodie Foster movie Foxes. It’s used throughout, sometimes with Donna’s vocals, other times with just the gorgeous melody providing the film’s score. In the song, her ex-boyfriend writes her a letter, but he loses it before it can be delivered. Luckily, someone finds it and reads it on the radio. Sure, why not. Donna instantly knows it’s from her ex. She’s been pining for him ever since they broke up and this opens up the door for a reconciliation. That’s the power of the radio. The lyrics aren’t really the important part here. It’s more about the feelings that Donna conveys. The song starts off slow like a ballad. Her voice is relaxed and subdued, pulling you in. Then the beat drops and you’re elated as her soaring vocals take you to the dance floor. It’s a fantastic mix of emotions. “Radio” went on to become Donna’s tenth top ten single on the Billboard 100, further cementing her status as the Queen of Disco. “Whoa, oh, oh…”
Another day, another Mariah anniversary. On November 2, 1999
she released her seventh studio album, Rainbow. It followed in the
footsteps of the Butterfly album in terms of leaning towards a more
r&b and hip hop sound. But she still retained the pop and the ballads. Rainbow
would be her last recording with Columbia Records. It produced two #1 hits,
her 14th and 15th. A nice way to exit a record label.
Here are its twelve songs ranked.
12. Did I Do That?
The question should be why did you do that. As in, why did
you make this horribly janky song? She sings about the lousy guy she once dated
and how she regrets the relationship. She should regret the lame lyrics, bad
sample, and adding Mystikal and Master P to the production. Much like that
ex-boyfriend, this song is not worth your time.
11. How Much
In theory, a Mariah/Usher collaboration sounds like a good
idea. In reality, it’s lackluster. Their voices don’t mix well together and the
song never goes anywhere. Not even the Tupac “Me and My Girlfriend” sample can
10. Against All Odds
A fairly lazy remake. Not much has changed from the original
Phil Collins song except for some unnecessary over-singing. The word “now”
doesn’t need multiple syllables.
9. Thank God I Found You
TGIFY was Mariah’s 15th number one. However, this syrupy
love ballad is one of her weakest. I don’t know why boy band 98 Degrees was
featured. They’re nothing more than backup singers here. The remix with Joe and
Nas is much better.
One of Mariah’s vocal strengths is her whistle note. It’s
best, though, when it’s used sparingly. So, singing the entire chorus of “on
and on” via whistle is a bit much. She could have used a lower register and
still achieved the sexy mood she was going for.
7. After Tonight
This is a little too similar to “My All” from Butterfly. Both
are ballads that rely on a Spanish guitar. We’ve been down this road before.
But it’s a pretty song with great layered vocals that make it seem like she’s duetting
Mariah laments that she’s searched for security with the
wrong people. A marriage to a patriarchal figure that was never going to work
or friends who ended up selling her out. It’s a beautifully sad record. But
there’s hope because she tells us that she’ll recover at the end.
A stalker ex-girlfriend won’t leave Mariah and her man alone.
She keeps calling and hanging up and has even been pestering the dude’s mom.
Mariah dismisses her with some signature shade, “Hey x-girlfriend, it’s too bad
when you had him ya’ll thing didn’t work. But he’s all mine now so stop pursuing
him before you get your feelings hurt”. She co-wrote this track with She’kspere
and Kandi Burruss, the team behind TLC’s “No Scrubs”. X has a similar sound,
but manages to stand on its own.
Mariah is crying over a breakup and unable to sleep, even
though she has a new guy in bed next to her. Diva problems. This is a cool mix
of r&b, hip hop, and a tiny bit of a jazz on top. Snoop Dogg pops up to
deliver a smooth verse, tying it all together.
3. Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme)
Every true steadfast Mariah fan, including myself, has a
story about how her music got them through a difficult time. She often writes
songs about persevering, overcoming an obstacle, and believing in yourself.
CTTA is one of those. She sings about people telling her she doesn’t matter at
all, trying to break her down. But she won’t let them snuff out the light that
she has inside her. It’s a message that resonated with me at the time and
continues to inspire today.
Heartbreaker is a fun pop song with a dash of hip hop
courtesy of Jay-Z. I especially like his “Want a piece of paper, scribble down
I hate ya” line. Mariah easily built a bridge between the pop and rap worlds in
the 90s. These days it’s commonplace for pop stars to feature a rapper on their
songs. But she was one of the pioneers.
1. Heartbreaker (Remix)
As much as I love the original, the remix of Heartbreaker
took the song to the next level. Mariah recruited Da Brat and Missy Elliott to
add a new flavor. Brat kicks things off with her line, “Guess who’s back in the
motherfucking house, with two big tig ol’ bitties for your mouth”. And Missy
raps/sings about how she has “that good thang”. All this is done over a sample
of Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun”. Once again Mariah takes elements of hip hop and
makes it her own. That’s why she’s often imitated, but never duplicated.
Is November 1st too early to start listening to Christmas
music? Apparently, Columbia Records didn’t think so when they released Mariah
Carey’s Merry Christmas on this day 25 years ago. They didn’t even let
people have Thanksgiving dinner before hitting them with the jingle bells.
Mariah was apprehensive about doing the project at all. Back then a Christmas
album was something older artists did at the end of their careers. At the time,
she was 24 and had only racked up four years in the music business. Releasing MC
turned out to be a smart move in the end since it went on to become one of the
best-selling Christmas albums of all-time. So, put on your Santa hat and slide
down this ranking of the album’s ten songs.
10. Jesus Born on this Day
I can’t get behind a children’s choir. I get the sentiment and why someone thought it would be cute, but their little voices make this track sound cheesy. This isn’t Barney’s Christmas album.
9. Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child
Mariah goes for a more traditional gospel feel with this one.
The results are boring. It’s the song you would fall asleep to in the middle of
a church service.
8. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
Eh. Santa didn’t need come to town this time.
7. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
This is a perfectly fine cover, but the song is so associated
with singer Darlene Love that nobody else should attempt it. Not even Mariah.
6. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)
Short and sweet, but still very pretty. Hark, indeed.
5. Silent Night
A beautiful traditional track. It’s the song you put on while
sitting by a cozy fire.
4. Joy to the World
A rousing rendition that actually exudes joy. Even better is
the live performance from 1994, where Mariah really breaks it down with an
enthusiastic choir. Feel, feel feel it!
3. Miss You Most at Christmas Time
The second-best original song on the album. It finds Mariah
pining for her guy during the holiday season. Typically, Christmas music
focuses on the happier, joyous side of life. But I like a sadder song too. The holidays
can be a melancholy reflective time for some. Why not wallow in you egg nog for
a little bit.
2. O Holy Night
I’m not one for traditional religious Christmas music, but
this version of OHN has always won me over. Her vocal here is gorgeous. Deep,
rich, and moving. The backup singers add to the fullness of the track. And the
high note near the end always makes me happy.
1. All I Want for Christmas is You
The moment you hear the first music box-like notes on that
keyboard, you know Christmas is coming. Literally. Then Mariah’s kinda-a
capella vocal comes in, followed by those loud booms. It really sound s like
something that came out of the 60s/Phil Specotr/wall of sound era. At the same
time, it’s fresh and modern. So, the song can appeal to anyone. That’s why it
has lasted so long and is still relevant. Last year it made it to the #3 spot
on the Billboard 100. Hopefully it goes to #1 for this year’s anniversary. That
would be quite festive.
Posted at 11:21 pm by Geoff, on September 26, 2019
In 2009, Mariah Carey released her twelfth studio album, Memoirs
of an Imperfect Angel. I’m a huge Mariah fan. HUGE. I’ll get into that more
in another post. Despite my devotion, though, I can be honest and appropriately
critical. This isn’t one of my favorite albums in her catalogue. However, there
are still some gems worth re-examing.
14. The Impossible
A dreary little song that Mariah wrote about her then husband
Nick Cannon. It’s just…ugh. Two slow, boring, and vocally dry. I never liked
Nick, so an ode to him wouldn’t win me over. Luckily, they divorced.
13. Standing O
This doesn’t get a standing ovation from me. It’s basically
a “he did me wrong song”, which she has done better on so many other occasions.
Throw in some overly written, yet unimaginative lyrics and you have a very blah
12. Angels Cry
A perfectly fine ballad about the end of a relationship.
That’s all, just fine. I can’t say anything bad about it. On the other hand, I
can’t say it’s a song I play very often. The big note at the end is nice
11. Candy Bling
This one is all about throwbacks. Mariah reminisces about
young love while sampling from Ahmad’s “Back in the Day”. Normally I’d love a song
full of nostalgia, but this drowsy number doesn’t do it for me. It could have
been much livelier. If you want a better Mimi nostalgia-filled song, listen to
10. I Want to Know What Love Is
Ever since she scored a #1 hit with her cover of the Jackson
5’s “I’ll Be There”, Mariah has typically had a cover song on every album. Some
work very well and others don’t. Foreigner’s IWTKWLI falls into the latter
category. This seems like she threw in a cover just because. She doesn’t really
change the song up much aside from adding a gospel choir. It’s a bit lazy
Hate U stands for “having a typical emotional upset”.
Basically, Mariah has broken up with her man and she can’t wait to get to the
part where she hates him. Right now, she’s in the “I’m hurt, but I still love
you phase”. This track is just alright. Pretty vocals, especially the whistle
notes, but overall, it’s nothing terribly memorable.
8. More Than Just Friends
The sample really makes “Friends” pop. Here we have
Notorious B.IG.’s “One More Chance”. Adding Mariah to the mix makes for a good
Mariah’s guy has her wrapped up like a gift with a bow on
it. The imagery could use some work, but the hip-hop beat and her smooth vocals
go well together.
This may be a short interlude, however it’s still one of the
best tracks on Memoirs. Mariah loves to include an emotionally stirring
song on her albums, usually near the end. Languishing is a very simple yet
incredibly powerful piece of poetry.
Mariah and her boyfriend have broken up and it’s a given
that they’ll get back together. One of them needs to stop being stubborn and
pick up their damn phone. A smooth sexy track that you can’t help but your nod
your head to. It contains interpolations of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”,
which add a nice element.
4. Betcha Gon’ Know
The opener to the album. It’s unusual for Mariah in terms of
the tone, pace, and structure. And that’s what makes it interesting. She sings
about catching her man cheating. He doesn’t know she knows, so she has plenty
of time to plot her revenge. And she’s gonna lalalalaugh in his face. For real,
3. It’s a Wrap
This is a modern-day doo-wop song. It begins with a gorgeous
high note played over a dreamy melody and continues with an explanation of why she’s
done with her trifling man. Mariah is known for throwing big words into her
songs. Here it’s “acquiescent”. I’m sure some fans had to look it up. To put
that into a verse along with a threat to “call Maury Povich” is delightful
2. Up Out My Face
The second-best kiss-off song on the album. Mariah reads her
ex within an inch of his life. She tells him that she should have had another
mechanic another her hood, orders him to quit calling her from his mama’s
house, and claims the Harvard class of 2010 couldn’t even figure out a way to
put them back together. Oh, and she cc’d all of his friends about his lame ass.
Email burn. The kicker is the reprise with a marching band getting into the
“I was like, why are you so Obsessed with me?” And with that
Mean Girls quote, we have the #1 track. The lead single off the album, Mariah wrote
this after Eminem was running to the tabloids saying they’d hooked up. No, Slim
Shady, it never happened. She hit back with a song talking about a lame douche
bag who’s obsessed with her. The shade in this song is amazing. “You a mom
& pop, I’m a corporation. I’m a press conference, you a conversation.”
Aside from the lyrics, the beat, overlapping vocals, and feel good vibe make
this the standout entry of Memoirs.