Mariah Carey performs well in the underdog position. After a difficult period in her career, nobody expected her to make as big a comeback as she did in 2005 with the single ‘We Belong Together’ and album The Emancipation of Mimi. In recent years, most of the conversation around Mariah seemed to be about her worsening live vocals, diva antics and of course that one New Years performance. About time for Mimi to let the music speak for her again and that is exactly what she does on her brand new album Caution. A Bit of Pop Music talks you through the album with a track by track review!
‘GTFO’ is the opening track, as well as the first tune released from the album. It was presented as a promo track to start the buzz, but was not sent to radio as the first single. If they asked me, I would have definitely gone with this tune as the proper single, because it sounds fresh! On ‘GTFO’ she worked with producer Nineteen85, most famous for his work with Drake. He created a similar soundscape for Carey, which works magic for her soaring vocals. Her soft delivery, but the sharp as a knife lyrics make for an excellent passive-aggressive break up anthem!
02. With You
We go from break up anthem to sweet, romantic ballad with ‘With You’, the actual first single. The track perfectly fits into the smooth R&B sound she carved out for herself in recent years, with a contemporary sounding production. Her vocal delivery is sultry as ever and the way she hits the high note towards the chorus when she sings ‘yooooo’ is simply lush. Not as instant a single as ‘GTFO’ would have been, but a lovely ballad for the winter nonetheless.
On Caution, Carey is no way trying to reinvent the wheel. If anything, she is updating and perfecting her craft. The title track is a good example. The verses have a similar flow to her E=MC² album track ‘Side Effects’, be it with a way more lighthearted and sensual vibe. The chorus is a warning to her lover, telling him how to treat her well: “Proceed with caution, don’t be dishonest, I need you closer to love me harder.” You tell ’em, Mimi!
04. A No No
While most of the tracks on Caution show off how Mariah still nails the most contemporary R&B sounds without sounding like she is desperately chasing trends, ‘A No No’ is a massive throwback to R&B of different ages. She samples ‘Crush On You’ by Lil’ Kim, Notorious B.I.G. and Lil’ Cease, seems to have taken some inspiration from TLC hit ‘No Scrubs’ and even recycled some melodies from her own hit ‘Touch My Body’. We get a swinging, breezy and insanely catchy tune as a result!
05. The Distance (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
For ‘The Distance’, the third track released from the album, Mariah worked with producers Lido, Skrillex and Poo Bear, who gave her sound a slightly more adventurous yet understated twist. Vocally, Carey nails the bigger notes in the chorus (especially the last one of course) and the lyrics about a love that everyone else wants to see fail, but keeps going strong, are lovely. This sounds like a hit to me!
06. Giving Me Life (feat. Slick Rick & Blood Orange)
‘Giving Me Life’ is one of those tracks that sound familiar on first listen, because the chorus is good enough to immediately sound like a classic. It almost seems like it samples some iconic tune from the past, that is how memorable that hook is! The production is by Blood Orange and he went all out in the last two minutes of the over 6 minute long track. Both the vibe and pace change, while an electric guitar takes centre stage, with Mariah belting out some insanely high notes in the background. Look at Mariah being all experimental!
07. One Mo’ Gen
Now this is a slow jam! ‘One Mo’ Gen’ (for those of you who are not fimiliar with the slang, it means as much as ‘one more time’) is basically Mariah Carey telling her partner she wants to do it all over again. With lyrics like ‘Do you like when I put my lips there? ‘Cause I like when you’re kissing me everywhere’ we don’t really have to wonder what she is referring to. Queen of bedroom anthems!
08. 8th Grade
Mariah worked with legendary producer Timbaland on the track ‘8th Grade’. Nothing wrong with a bit of melancholic nostalgia in her lyrics! It is a touching little tune on which she belts out properly in the right moments. The chorus is undeniable and the outro offers some proper Timbaland’isms. He just took us back to 2006 for a split second! Also; we are 8 tracks in and still have not encountered any filler material!
09. Stay Long Love You (feat. Gunna)
Mimi decided to save the most instantly catchy tune to almost the end. ‘Stay Long Love You’ is a proper earworm. I keep hearing myself repeat the ‘you make me make wanna’ lines and I am not mad about it one bit. Just like all other rappers on the record, Gunna delivers a strong verse that has its place within the song, but never takes away too much from the Mariah show. Why not try and send this tune to radio? This has got some hit potential for sure!
Would a Mariah Carey album ever be complete without a proper ballad on it, especially as a closer? ‘Portrait’ does the job and then some! Carey belts her way through the piano and strings assisted track and as she announced on social media herself, this track ‘cuts deep’. This reflective song is the perfect way to close this already outstanding album!
Never underestimate Mariah Carey! When you least expect it, she drops her best work in at least 10 years. Caution is a short, but sweet and oh so cohesive R&B record with a contemporary vibe and zero filler material. If you can’t get enough of new Mariah, there is a Japanese bonustrack floating around with the title ‘Runway’ and it samples her hit single ‘Butterfly’!