Oh, yes she can! The singles may have fallen short, but her album once again proves that Mariah Carey is a star.
When you’ve scored 18 No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 – more than any solo artiste, and any act in history aside from The Beatles – and you miss the chart’s upper reaches with the tracks leading up to a new album, eyebrows get raised.
Thus when Mariah Carey’s You’re Mine (Eternal) peaked at No. 88 in early March, there was some clucking about prospects for Me. I Am Mariah … The Elusive Chanteuse, her first album in five years.
Two previous songs, #Beautiful featuring Miguel (which topped out at No. 15) and the deluxe edition’s The Art Of Letting Go (which didn’t crack the charts), had also underperformed. Delays that pushed Chanteuse’s release date to last week did nothing to quell the speculation.
But when Chanteuse was unveiled in a stream on iTunes Radio two weeks ago, it was greeted with some of the most affirming notices of Carey’s 25-year career. Jim Farber gave it four out of five stars in the New York Daily News, noting that the album “returns her to the type of grand balladry, and formal melodies, that first made her a star.”
Us Weekly entertainment director Ian Drew (who was an intern at Carey’s Sony imprint Crave Records back in the late 1990s) agrees that Chanteuse marks a return to form. While the album “doesn’t have the gargantuan hooks” that distinguished Carey’s blockbuster hits, it reinforces her reputation “as a singer’s singer, in a time where a lot of pop stars don’t actually sing,” says Drew.
He characterises the songs as “real R&B,” in contrast to the “R&B mixed with EDM” that dominates the charts now.
Carey’s longtime collaborator Jermaine Dupri, who served as a co-songwriter/producer on Chanteuse, suggests that was the idea, citing Letting Go as an example.
“That was a tone-setter,” says Dupri of the track. “We wanted to give fans a glimpse of what the album is about. Her voice is directly in your face, more than it’s been in a long time. It’s not a super-uptempo dance record. She’s not doing what everyone else is doing – she’s doing what made you fall in love with her in the first place.”
Thirsty, dangled two weeks ago as a focus track (an official new single has yet to be chosen), is a bit more groove-driven. But Keith Caulfield, associate director of charts/sales at Billboard, says Chanteuse’s ultimate success may depend less on chart numbers than on Carey “getting creative with promotion. She’s always a hoot on TV, and that’s a good way to let people know the album’s out.”
Caulfield predicts that Carey “will have a decent first week,” though he adds she’s “not a lock” for No. 1: Chanteuse is out a week after Coldplay’s new Ghost Stories album, “which is going to be huge.”
But he advises that no one count Carey out: She “went through an incredible down period,” he notes, during the critical and commercial failure of 2001’s Glitter.
“Then she came back with We Belong Together” in 2005, Caulfield points out – “probably the biggest hit of her career.” – USA Today/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services