Arguably boasting some of Carey’s best work in recent years, the record’s standouts are exceptional. Album-opener ‘Migrate’, with its Southern, gritty production (courtesy of Danja) and killer bass-line, exemplifies Carey’s most revered quality in today’s uncertain music climate – her ability to ride over just about any beat effortlessly. Man of the moment, T-Pain (vocoder in tow), features on this future Urban smash.
Elsewhere, the brainchildren behind the some of Carey’s biggest hits, Jermaine Dupri and Bryan Michael Cox, reunite with the songstress – serving up more of their winning formula. With ‘Thanx 4 Nothin’’, Carey and Dupri recapture the raw R&B sound that made 1997’s ‘Butterfly’ such a delight. It’s the Cox produced ‘For The Record’, however, that stands as the album’s most prominent highlight. The confessional track, which sees Carey remind a past lover not to “let go of us”, is a worthy successor to the ‘We Belong Together’s’ and ‘Don’t Forget About Us’’ that came before it. On the production front, the song has a darker edge to the aforementioned, yet evokes the same emotion that made them so relatable. By the time Carey belts out that last chorus, enlisting her trademark whistle note in the process, a new layer of authenticity is added to the song’s lyrics. Flawless.
For all its goodness, the Damian Marley assisted ‘Cruise Control’, is worth a listen, if only to hear Carey’s laugh-inducing attempt at Jamaican Patois. Thankfully, for Carey, the very deliberate nature of the ‘tongue- swap’ is conveyed by the laughs and “you crazy” which follow by the song’s producer Jermaine Dupri. The album’s light, playful mood is also evoked on the infectious first single ‘Touch My Body’, which is a lot stronger than oft given credit for.
Despite its highlights, the album, save for a few select tracks, comprises a collection of mediocre songs engineered to be radio-ready. Gone are the showy ballads in the vein of ‘Mine Again’ and ‘Circles’ that drove home its predecessor ‘Mimi’s’ tagline – ‘The Return of The Voice’. In its place an uncharacteristically vocally-restrained Carey, sails though the set list – sounding not far removed from vocalists she’s long been placed well above – only showcasing ‘The Voice’ sporadically on tracks such as the inspirational ‘I Wish You Well’.
Though Mariah’s partnership with JD yields great results on parts of the album, cuts such as ‘Last Kiss’ and the cheesier than cheese ‘Love Story’ do very little to further the legacy of their creative partnership. Arguably, serving as more of a detriment than anything else. The Cox produced ‘I Stay In Love’ falls flat also.
Dupri’s contribution to the record isn’t the only hit and miss affair on album. Famed Norwegian producers Stargate seem a little lost on their efforts; for Carey’s current single ‘Bye Bye’ relies too heavily on their same formulaic sound heard on just about every song on the radio these days. The anthem-like ballad only hits a home-run following the bridge, whereby Carey belts her heart out – still, sounding, somewhat restrained. On the other hand, with the funky-fresh ‘I’m That Chick’; it’s the slick production that compensates for the downright terrible lyrics. Often priding herself on her ability as a song writer, Carey, who is credited as a writer on the song, serves up lines such as ‘You know this what it be, I’m like the lottery”. Ok then…
As with Stargate, Carey’s enlisting of producers she hadn’t worked with prior, though a bold move, leaves a lot to be desired. Aside from the solid DJ Toomp produced ‘I’ll Be Loving You Long Time’, her collaborations with Swizz Beats on ‘O.O.C (Out Of Control) and Scott Storch – ‘Side Effects’ – disappoint. ‘’Effects’, though lyrically intriguing, due to Carey opening up about her failed marriage to Tommy Mottola, doesn’t instil the desire to listen again.
For an album billing itself as the 2nd instalment of such a stellar piece, it was always going to be a tough task to top it musically – a task it falls short of by quite a margin. Hook-laden and ready to be served to radio, you’ll likely be humming along to many of the tracks by the end of the CD’s running time. How many of those songs you remember come a year from now, however, will be a true testament to the album’s (lack of) longevity.