Urban Contemporary, 2002
When I first discovered the title of Mariah Carey’s CD, my first unkind thought was that her nervous breakdown must have reduced her into an infantile stage of development. Charmbracelet? Only Hello Kitty and Sparkly Hairbrush could be any worse as an album title.
I’m also not too keen on the fact that Ms Carey has stripped back the rent-a-rapper theatrics and goes back to a more pop-like sound for this one. Pop Tart Mariah has been the dullest of the various incarnations of hers. I adore Teflon-Wrap Mariah – Butterfly is still my favorite CD from her.
But to my pleasant surprise, Charmbracelet isn’t as dull as I expected. There are the usual anemic, substandard ballads like Through the Rain and I Only Wanted, filled with vapid lyrics and delivered with the emotional richness of dead wood. A note also about her voice: I hope it’s not damaged irrepairably, because she tends to wheeze here like a shrill pair of bellows instead of singing like she did in the old days.
But what keeps this CD from being a retread of the dull Music Box or Daydream is that there are several songs here that surprise me by being deeper than a typical Mariah Carey Power Ballad or Mariah and Rent-a-Rapper thing. Clown isn’t a great song as much as a great dis to Eminem – “Nobody cares when the tears of a clown falls down” is something I will never expect Ms Carey to sing in a song. Then there is Sunflowers for Alfred Roy, a track that sees Ms Carey recalling her father’s last days and the words here are actually heartfelt. This track is perhaps the most intimately she has ever exposed herself to her fans, and there is actually signs of emotions behind her delivery in this track. Finally Mariah Carey has demonstrated that she is not just a polished singing robot, and I wish she would keep this up in songs of lesser weight.
Irresistible (West Side Connection) isn’t deep or meaningful, but I must single out this track as one of the best summer fun tracks I’ve heard. And it’s a nice change from her usual east coast beats. Her cover of Def Leppard’s Bringin’ on the Heartbreak blows me away. I mean, seriously, wow – I’ve never realized how great a song this is until she cheerfully mutates it into a gospel rock operatic mayhem that is just… wow. The chorus is still as loud and singalong as ever as per the original version, but she coats the song with a playful,sultry, and even violent overtones that are noticeably absent in the outright male machismo affair that is the original. This is easily one of the best things that has ever come from Mariah Carey. It is probably unkind to speculate as to the reason she could pull this song of sadistic love affair so well, but she did it and not only that, she makes this her own anthem. Don’t let the PR hype fool you into believing that Through the Rain is the lead anthem of this CD, it’s Bringin’ on the Heartbreak. Ms Carey really brings on the heartbreak here. She is experiencing catharsis singing this baby, and it shows – marvelously, beautifully.
Overall, I like this album. On initial listening, Charmbracelet seems like another bland and boring Mariah Carey CD, but there are enough little moments here and there to surprise. And of course, Bringin’ on the Heartbreak. Welcome back, Mariah Carey, you adorable lil’ ice-cream wagon wheeling dingbat you.