1997, Music

Butterfly (1997) by Mariah Carey

I find myself increasingly in this position, while I listen to things outside my comfort zone for my podcast: I am not the target demographic for this music and I have a really hard time putting myself in the shoes of the target demographic.

What is that target demographic?

  • People who like this particular type of ’90s R&B, with its emphasis on hooks, particular tempos (lots of ballads, and the up-tempo numbers aren’t super up-tempo), noodling and “contemporary” production, using relatively cutting edge digital editing.
  • People who like vocal noodling.
  • Top 40 radio listeners who enjoy pop packaged in this vaguely R&B veneer. (I mean, this is pretty catchy record.)
  • People who like slow-dancing, or people who like to have a “slow jam” on while they have sex.

I am not in any of these groups. Moreover, this record is bereft of most, if not all, of the things that I like in music. Occasionally (very occasionally), it gets soulful enough that I can almost recognize something close to what I would like, but like so much R&B since the 1970s, this is so slick that the soul feels neutered.

Perhaps the best illustration of what is wrong, for me, with this type of music is the Carey/Dru Hill collaboration on the Prince cover. If you want to know whether or not you’ll like this album (in case you’ve somehow managed to never hear the title track or “Honey” in your life, which I can’t imagine), listen to Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” and then listen to the Mariah Carey/Dru Hill version. Aesthetically, they are on different planets, and I would much rather be on the Prince planet any day of the week.

Listen, this is not bad in any kind of sense: the music does what it sets out to do, the lyrics are not noticeably awful (most of the time) and the production is slick but very, very professional. But this is absolutely not for me and is, to my ears, nothing special.


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