Visions of love return

After the glitter comes gold


At her best, Mariah Carey’s voice combines the passion and range of 1970s songstress Minnie Ripperton with the tone and gospel fire of Whitney Houston. Unfortunately, writing and co-producing her own work has allowed far too many years of self-serving vocal histrionics that seem to speak only of a monster diva’s ego trying to take over the world with her trite lyrics and over-vamped Lolita image.

Good news here, though. Carey’s much publicized divorce and breakdown may have made her stop and take stock of who she is as a person; it certainly has made for a dramatic shift in her art. After the critical and commercial flop of her movie and soundtrack Glitter, Mariah the artist is back just in time to save herself from the oldies bin with the stellar and communicative collection of heartfelt songs, Charmbracelet.

Cleverly combining stripped down arrangements with actual songs rather than jeep jams, there is a scratch in her voice we have never heard before and it’s great to hear this control freak let it all loose. It’s as if Mariah is exorcizing her demons on the resplendent single “Through The Rain” which takes the listener on a giddy thrill ride from a whisper to a scream and doesn’t let go until well after the record is over.

The insipid hip hop material overcrowded with guest rappers like Common and Jay-Z and her multi-tracked whispered vocals are still here – Mariah will never have the grit and power of Mary J Blige, who she clearly admires. But this time Carey’s “wannabe ghetto” moves are balanced out by some of the strongest ballads of her career, like “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” and Mariah’s song for her recently deceased dad “Sunflowers For Alfred Roy.”

That little girl in the tight black dress who blew our minds singing “Vision Of Love” so many years ago is finally making music for adults again, and it is indeed a revelation to have Mariah Carey the soul singer back in the house.

CHARMBRACELET.

Mariah Carey.

Island. $17.99.

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