E=MC2


Band: Mariah Carey
Album: E=MC2
Best song: “Touch My Body” is a classic. “Migrate” isn’t bad.
Worst song: “I Wish You Well” has some biblical stuff in it. Which is very weird.

I’ve said it before, but I’m incredibly proud of my RS project. It’s too bad I never found the money to self-publish a book out of it.

Anyway, the pride is more than the marathon-ness of the project than any actual insight I discovered in listening to all those records. I’m not a particularly insightful or smart guy. I mostly just gathered some interesting information about the good records and tried to humorously shit on the bad ones. Ultimately, I improved my writing and I learned a lot about music.

One of the few recommendations I had for the list was the suggestion that Mariah Carey be a part of the list. There is no excuse for Carey’s absence on the RS list, as it came out in 2003, eight albums into her career.

It’s simple. Carey’s voice, persona and music have been as influential as nearly any in the last 20 years. Take a look at the charts and you’ll see Carey’s influence everywhere.

Which brings up the question: Why was she left off the list? Obviously, sales is not the only category by which RS measured the artists on the list; Pavement, Robert Johnson and Massive Attack never sold a ton of records. And Garth Brooks (who should be), Hootie and the Blowfish, Celine Dion and Shania Twain (all of whom probably shouldn’t be) aren’t on the list. Still, sales does indicate a level of cultural integration that is nearly impossible to ignore.

Mariah Carey has the third-most number one albums for all female artists (behind Barbara Streisand and Madonna) and was the best-selling female artist of the 1990s. She has the most number one singles of any solo artist and the second-most of any band or artist (behind only the Beatles).

I’d call it racial (notice I didn’t say racist. Things can be racial without being racist.), but Someone is buying her records and it’s not just 13-year-old girls.

I think there’s a general disinterest by the RS people in two things:

  1. Music of a relatively recent vintage
  2. Urban pop music

(This is why R. Kelly is also left off the list. That and the peeing.)

Mariah Carey is the queen of urban pop music. She started as a quasi-innocent sugary tart of a singer (See “Emotions” and all those videos wherein she’s wearing a flannel shirt with curly hair.) with a ridiculous vocal range. She turned into a more sexualized woman after splitting with Tommy Mottola and became something of an urban diva, with a reputation for being difficult, flighty and talented.

She spent an entire episode of MTV Cribs changing outfits for each new room — decidedly that show’s nadir. She was the first time I can remember an artist suffering from “exhaustion,” as in, she was drunk and passed out at a club. She starred in Glitter, a movie that’s up there with the worst movies I’ve ever seen. She got married last year in secrecy to a guy 15 years her junior. They are, according to Carey, “Soulmates.”

Awesome.

The RS editors don’t spend time with young girls aspiring to be singers, because the girls my age and younger that grew up with Carey as a role model are all now dominating the charts. Rihanna? Cites Mariah Carey as an influence. Christina Aguilera? Stole the squeaky/powerful sustained note stuff straight from Carey. Beyonce? A better-looking Carey clone with a more powerful diva streak.

Carey is as influential as Janet Jackson, who has two albums on the list.

Carey’s last album is actually really pleasant. While other artists seem to have overtaken her in the public’s heart, Carey’s five-octave range — an instrument she is too quick to show off, by the way — remains a wonder. Her devotion to more hip hop-influenced R&B pop music is evident. On E=MC2, Carey’s recent tendency toward such music is picture perfect. First single “Touch My Body” is vintage Carey; it is a romantic smooth jam asking her man to give her “what I deserve” and to “feel on” her “curves.” It’s not raunchy, but sexy. Though I want Young Jeezy to be punched in the head, but Carey’s work on “Side Effects” — from the stutter-quick verses to the smooth verses — is among her best. “I’m That Chick” has an almost disco feel to it and has Carey’s sexiest voice at the ready, double-tracked and fun. “Love Story” tells a nice, though dumb, story over a melody that Carey’s voice is perfect for. “Migrate” features a T-Pain guest and, for some reason, Carey’s vocals through an auto-tune effect; it works because Carey’s voice is so good for the song. The song’s odyssey from the car to the club to wherever is a neat sorta dance narrative and fits Carey’s new persona well.

“Bye Bye” isn’t anything special and “I Wish You Well” are just OK. “Love Story” is a mediocre Jermaine Dupree track (though, I’d say that’s a pretty repetitive phrase). Carey’s attempt at reggae (“Cruise Control”) doesn’t really work.

But, generally, E=MC2 is a nice record by an amazing artist.

Sadly, the idiots at Universal won’t let me embed the official (brilliant) video for “Touch My Body,” so, you’ll have to click here for the it.

Let me say this, too: Mariah Carey is a drop-dead gorgeous woman. She’s clearly nuts and has a weird utlra feminity — like Pamela Anderson, Carey almost seems like what a cross-dressing man thinks women should look like — that turns me off (I’m straight, but that super feminine stuff — prissy nonsense like dangly earrings, big updo hair, mani/pedi and the like — really turns me off.). But, she’s outstandingly good-looking and her body — bought or not — is amazing, even at 39. I’ll quote a pretty old Bill Simmons column with which I agree:

And nothing drives a woman crazier than hearing a guy say, “I think Mariah Carey is hot” — you might as well just say that women shouldn’t have the right to vote. She’s the best. I will defend her lunatic sexiness to the death.

Almost every woman I know — save for one or two — thinks Mariah Carey sucks and is a weirdo or a whore or whatever. But, man, is she good-looking.

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