1990, Music

Mariah Carey (1990)

“Whitney Houston but hotter.”

I didn’t say that, my girlfriend did. But, to me, it does a pretty good job of capturing Mariah’s debut. I’m more familiar with her later music so this album was a pretty big surprise in terms of how ’80s it is.

To Carey’s credit she is something Whitney was not: a songwriter. The songs aren’t great, and a real reason why I debated giving this record a lower rating. But she’s trying. She would get better. (Or, perhaps work with better collaborators?) But here, though a work in progress, it’s still impressive that someone with this kind of singing talent wants to write their own material. (And was allowed to on a debut!)

But the main draw is the voice: the greatest woman’s voice in 20th century pop music, to the best of my knowledge. Nobody knew that at the time but she does her best to let you know. (As she always does.) There are moments on a few songs here that just shocked me. Her upper register is just nuts. Just unbelievably nuts. She isn’t as creative with showing it off as she got later – at least to the extent that I’m familiar with her later career – so here it does feel gimmicky at times. But still, you have it, you should show it off. (And, to her credit, she doesn’t do it all the time.)

The production is really where I think this feels like a Whitney Houston album. It’s just so damn ’80s. I’ve only heard like mid to late ’90s Mariah (at least recently) and this sounds like it’s from another time. It’s dated enough that you really notice it. And that, plus the lack of songwriting, makes me think I should maybe rate it lower.

But that voice. It’s unmatched. (As I’ve said in other reviews of Mariah albums, I just wish she made cooler music.)

6/10 feels perhaps a titch charitable

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