Urban Contemporary, 1999
Oh dear, Mariah Carey looks like she has been run over by a truck that has wet rainbow paint on the wheels at the CD cover. Inside the CD sleeve, she says that this album is her most personal, a culmination of a really terrible and taxing year.
Well, not quite, despite Ms Carey’s best intention. Rainbow starts off with the really groovy Heartbreaker that, despite its Barbie doll lyrics, has me bobbing my head along. You can’t fault the singer for not being able to really groove in an uptempo rhythm. Unfortunately, this is followed by tepid, throwaway schmaltz like that Diane Warren collaboration Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme) (yes, it’s really stated to be her theme song) and After the Night. Songs that hits me in the head hard about love and love and even more love in really juvenile phrasing of words. And for those who can’t stand Mariah Carey in her kettle-on-boil mode, skip Bliss. She goes Eeeee-EEEEE-eeee-EEEEE for a solid three minutes plus for no reason. Maybe someone pinched her in her bum or something. Just when I thought things aren’t salvageable, comes X Girlfriend that has a really catchy chorus reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. Here, she rips into her boyfriend’s ex who is trying to get him back. Although the song is surprisingly not-catty and definitely not bitchy, X Girlfriend is smooth and good like thick hot chocolate.
There’s also a version of Phil Collin’s Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now), but she lacks the apparent sincerity in her delivery that lifts this song from schmaltz hell. That’s the main flaw with this album: Mariah Carey conveys little emotion in this album. She sings and sings but there’s little – if any – display of pain or disappointment or anger over the way she has been treated (villified) by the press and her many boyfriends in whole of 1998 and 1999.
She comes close in tracks Did I Do That? – where she sardonically and sarcastically reflects on her folly in loving the wrong man while ridiculing that jerk – and Petals, a surprisingly moving song where she recalls the events in her life. She hints at the reason of her marriage and divorce from Tommy Mottola, and she calmly offers peace and forgiveness to the people who has wronged her even as she mourns the precious little things lost in her life. It is on Petals that Ms Carey shines the brightest, and teases me with a glimpse of what she can really do should she give up her current “just sing” formula.
The album ends with a really wonderful and gaily Thank God I Found You, a gospel-tinged diet with Joe and backed by a small cast of guest stars like 98°. I love this song for its really beautiful melody and gentle croonings of life-reaffirming love. And the rousing chorus lifts my mood tremendously – I find myself shrieking off-key to the chorus. The wordings can sound inane, but the melody and gentle love that is the atmosphere more than makes up for it.
Mariah Carey isn’t exactly giving anyone a revelation of her soul on Rainbow (unless you count the baring of her… heart on the CD art), but she does offer a tantalizing glimpse here. That’s a promise of things to come, I hope.