First, the bad news: Mariah Carey‘s new offcuts compilation doesn’t contain anything from the secret alt-rock album she recorded at the peak of her imperial phase in 1995. The woman who once branded herself “the elusive chanteuse” has, however, shared a clip from that album on Twitter; it sounds like a pretty decent slab of Hole-lite – Cavity, if you will, or maybe Perforation?
Anyway, the good news is that ‘The Rarities’, released to coincide with the singer’s excellent new memoir The Meaning Of Mariah Carey, is no cobbled-together hodge-podge. Featuring B-sides, unreleased songs and alternative versions recorded between now and 1990 – when Carey scored the first of her 18 US Number One singles, a total topped only by The Beatles – it plays like an alternative history of her incredibly successful career. ‘Cool On You’, an unreleased R&B bop from 2007, even shows how quickly Carey regained her fabulous diva attitude after 2005’s brilliant ‘The Emancipation Of Mimi’ album returned her to the top of the charts. “So just go go go, you ain’t no damn VIP,” she tells a man who’s messed her about – the implication being, “But I am, mate”.
‘The Rarities’ traces Carey’s musical evolution from the syrupy Whitney-ish balladry of 1990’s ‘Can You Hear Me’ to 1995’s more sophisticated ‘Slipping Away’, which shows off her stunning vocal arrangements, and onto 2012’s ‘Mesmerized’, a slick throwback jam intended for Lee Daniels’ 2012 crime movie The Paperboy.
It’s telling that 2005’s old-fashioned ‘I Pray’ is actually a demo for another artist: then-12-year-old singer Lina Robins-Tamure. By this point in her career, it would have been far too earnest for Carey herself to perform. The album’s socially conscious penultimate track, ‘Save The Day’, written in 2011 but completed this year with a feature from Lauryn Hill, feels incredibly timely. “You got a right to your own opinion, but when it comes to the world we live in / Isn’t it time that we start rebuilding all of the things that have basically crumbled?” Carey sings pleadingly.
Sadly, ‘The Rarities’ goes heavier on Carey’s ballads than her edgier, hip-hop-influenced material of the late ‘90s onwards, but there’s a delicious sense of revenge being served cold in the inclusion of ‘Loverboy’ with its original sample.
In her memoir, Carey recalls that this effervescent club banger – the lead single from the soundtrack album for 2001 Mariah film musical Glitter – was supposed to include an excerpt from ‘Firecracker’ by Japanese electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra. However, Carey felt compelled to swap in a sample from Cameo’s ‘Candy’ after learning that another singer had decided to use ‘Firecracker’. Carey insinuates foul play from her ex-husband and Sony CEO Tommy Mottola. She writes tartly: “After hearing my new song, using the same sample I used, Sony rushed to make a single for another female entertainer on their label (whom I don’t know).” Zing!
The result: essential listening for members of the Lambily – Carey’s famously loyal fanbase – and an intriguing, sometimes fascinating artefact for everyone else.
Release date: October 2
Record label: Columbia / Legacy