She was queen of the charts in the 90s, gathering up 18 #1s since 1990, second only to the Beatles. But she’s also queen of the in-the-moment, forgotten-about songs. How many of her hits can most people remember, much less name? Her comeback in 2005 came as a surprise, even to me, following her legendary flop Glitter. But despite that, even Mariah could beat the odds and come out on top again.
She’s only had a few hits since that comeback and, as usual, nothing that has stood the test of time. She has an incredible, recognizable voice and songs that could trigger an “oh yeah! I remember that song,” but other than that, her contributions to the music world have been minimal. She was never an innovator but rather almost always worked with the hottest of-the-day producers and collaborators for her records, with a legacy mostly for her pitch-perfect vocals and five-octave range rather than her songs.
On Mariah’s new single #Beautiful, she repeats that cycle but this time with a slightly different approach. Her collaborator is relative newcomer Miguel, who is one of the hottest names in R&B music but whose mainstream recognition is mostly limited to his Grammy performance of the Urban hit Adorn. The song is among the first to use the (soon-to-be-dated-in-song-titles) hashtag following the recently released will.i.am, Justin Bieber single #thatpower. The production style is left-of-mainstream, with a beat akin to something I’d expect from the next Frank Ocean record, combining R&B and pop with light rock influences. It’s the first time I heard something fresh from Mariah since the mid-90s!
Like last year’s terribly-dated single Triumphant, Mariah occupies less than half of the vocals. She doesn’t jump in until the 1 and a half minute mark. Unlike that song, which expectedly flopped, Mariah still shines in a song that she willingly offers the front seat to Miguel who doesn’t steal the spotlight but rather helps carry the song, and Mariah herself, to potential musical relevance for the first time since Always Be My Baby. Kudos to Mariah for finally not releasing a mild variation of the same single again, and also for not trying to recreate recent hits in the style of the current dance/pop trends. She may not be a trendsetter with #Beautiful but she has placed herself at the forefront of the next pop music trend.
Now she just needs to work on her music videos before she can truly be caught up.