ARTIST OF THE MONTH: MARIAH CAREY
Mariah Carey released her fifteenth studio album, "Caution," on November 16, 2018. This was the first record she released in four years and finds Carey calm and strong, restrained when she needs to be unpredictable enough to experiment and effervescent without coming off as too try-hard. "Caution" is a more cohesive, controlled take on Carey’s hip-hop-infused pop, conveying a level of maturity that can only come from existing as a hit-making recording artist for nearly three decades.
Mariah Carey starts her 15th album insisting that she has no time for the BS, not even enough time to spell it out for you. "GTFO," the lead single and first track from the album, features a typically resolute Mimi, gently demanding an unworthy soon-to-be-ex perform the (spoken-out) titular action. Laying her signature sing-sigh over a moaning, Porter Robinson-sampling shuffle from producer Nineteen85 (and frequent Drake collaborator). For most of "Caution," it is a relatively mid-tempo album, and its pacing reflects that as the set's ten tracks have no obvious peaks or valleys and little in the way of unexpected left-turns to break up the vibing. The set boasts an impressive roster of producers as timely as Nineteen85 -- including DJ Mustard, No ID, Blood Orange, and even Skrillex.
“GTFO,” “With You,” and “Caution” are strong opening numbers of R&B bangers. But it’s in the middle of the record where it gets the most unpredictable, and Carey shines brightest. “No No No” features a slinky flip of a Lil Kim beat, and “The Distance,” using cheerleader chants as a refrain. Whether it’s the bleepy ringtone sounds of “8th Grade” and “Stay Long Love You” or the unexpected sampling of "Trading Places," we’re constantly looking back to the last century. The icing on the cake on the album is the Prince-like opus “Giving Me Life” with a feature from Slick Rick and Blood Orange, who also produced it. It is a warm, alluring track that highlights Carey’s lower vocal range.
"Caution" is an appropriate title for the album by a longtime diva like Mariah as there's an obstacle course's worth of inaccuracy set out by industry expectations, by pop-star ego, even by fans themselves, and it's fairly easy to get caught up in it all. The return to the far-flung reaches of Carey’s earlier, open-ended soul-pop nor does it come close to surpassing "Butterfly," What Caution does do is reestablish Mariah Carey as someone in complete command of her artistic capabilities and well-deserving of her just critical due,