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Mariah Carey – Caution album review

The elusive chanteuse releases a lean album full of midtempo earworms.

Mariah Carey - Caution
Credit: RCA
Mariah Carey - Caution

Credit: Epic Records

Four long years have passed since Mariah Carey released her last studio album Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse. The album picked up plenty of critical acclaim but it didn’t manage to launch Carey back to the top of the charts. A messy release strategy saw the record unjustly under-perform. Since that release Carey had a false start with 2017 single I Don’t (feat. YG), changed management, went through a relationship breakup before love with her dancer Bryan Tanaka, dipped her toe into reality TV, established herself a big attraction in Las Vegas and committed to touring across the globe like never before.

In September Carey dropped buzz track GTFO produced by Ninteen85. The dreamy slow-jam saw Carey delivering a whispery vocal while giving a lover the ultimate kiss-off. It caught people off-guard and put the focus firmly back on the star’s music. The track also paved the way for lead single With You, a midtempo love song that’s reminiscent of E=MC2 single I Stay in Love. With You has yet to make an impact on the Billboard Chart but it seems that Carey is aiming for album success rather than singles now that the entire music landscape has changed, focusing on digital which tends to penalise artists with an older fanbase.

Ahead of the release of Caution, Carey released the soaring The Distance, produced by Skrillex and Poo Bear and featuring Ty Dolla $ign, and showcased her feisty side once again with the Crush on You sampling A No No. The tracks caused plenty of excitement and had people talking about Carey again, thanks in part to a handful of well-received live performances. Now Caution is here, we can finally find out if the album lives up to the promise of the teaser tracks and thankfully it does.

At only 10 tracks long, Caution is the leanest album Carey has released in a while. It’s also both musically and vocally something a bit different from the singer. The singing, for the most part, stays in Carey’s lower and whisper ranges. There are belts and whistles to be found, but they are used sparingly throughout the record. Caution is a contemporary R&B record that keeps Carey current while pleasing her fanbase (known as the Lambily). The title track is shimmering mid-tempo R&B cut that sees Carey using her whisper range to change-up her lyric delivery as she varies speeds and keeps things pretty low key. In the song’s final minute the belt and power notes come, and Carey sounds magnificent.

Elsewhere on the album Giving Me Life featuring Slick Rick and Blood Orange is a 6-minute hip-hop rooted jam that brings to mind Butterfly classic The Roof, Timbaland assists on the surprisingly soft jam 8th Grade and Stay Long Love You featuring Gunna is a delicious throwback that could easily sit alongside some of Carey’s best hip-hop collaborations. One Mo’ Gen is the one song on the album that took a little time to work its magic. The title is a little clumsy but the vocal arrangement and harmonies are superb.

Caution comes to a close with Portrait and it’s the only track here that harks back to the classic Carey sound we know and love. In the spirit of Petals and Close My Eyes, Portrait is a confessional piano-ballad and the only track that Carey reverts back to her usual singing style. She moves from her upper to her lower range with ease and the power belts kick in towards the end. It’s the perfect way to finish an album that keeps Carey relevant but stays true to who she is as an artist.

Caution is getting some of the best reviews Carey has had in a long time and it’s not surprising. As it looks increasingly unlikely that she’s going to add any more number ones to her incredible tally, thanks to the way streaming now dominates the charts, Carey has shifted her focus on making the best album for her at this time. She pulls it off and delivers a playful record that plays to her strengths, switches things up just enough but won’t alienate her long-term fans.

Track list: 1. GTFO 2. With You 3. Caution 4. A No No 5. The Distance (feat. Ty Dolla $ign) 6. Giving Me Life (feat. Slick Rick and Blood Orange) 7. One Mo’ Gen 8. 8th Grade 9. Stay Long Love You (feat. Gunna) 10. Portrait Released by: RCA Release date: 16th November 2018 Buy Caution

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