Mariah Carey's ninth album has been touted as her comeback album, coming as it does after the belly flop that produced the overwrought soundtrack to her ill-fated film, Glitter. With Charmbracelet, Carey goes out of her way to fix all those aesthetic glitches, tempering the overblown vocals, simpering lyrics, and uninspired funk covers of her last album and returning to what she does best--showcasing her magnificent five-octave voice and pillaging her lift history for inspiration. After her breakup with superstar Luis Miguel, MTV meltdown, hospitalization for exhaustion, and the death of her father, Carey had a lot of emotional baggage to sift through. She has and, as a result, has created an inspired and diverse 15-song opus that finds her skipping from an impassioned Aretha Franklin-like gospel ("Saving Grace") to an impish cover of Def Leppard's power ballad "Bringin' on the Heartbreak." Though he's not mentioned by name, rapper Eminem is given a pointed drubbing on "Clowns" for hinting in the press and in his own song "Superman" of a relationship with Carey. There hasn't been such a compelling musical soap opera since Carly Simon's '70s roman à clef, "You're So Vain." However, the disc's most inspiring moment comes on "Sunflowers for Alfred Roy," a wistful elegy for her father that recounts his final days in his hospital room. This is a stunning return to form for Carey. --Jaan Uhelszki
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Andre S. Grindle | Brewer Maine | 01/12/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You'll get no denial that I've had my critical difficulties with Mariah Carey as an artist over the years. I've always been drawn to hear her but always left very wanting. That is,until lately. Not to say that many of my thoughts on her aren't still true: I still firmly hold that her music is uneven in a lot of key places and sometimes experimentation just isn't her friend. But despite her dogged tendancy to stick to certain types of sounds she actually has rised to the occasional on several occasions to let us know she developes artistically anyway. And there are also more than a few signs,especially here that she improves musically with time also. Her personel troubles of this 2001-02 period actually did a lot for her musically. A lot of the sometimes sickeningly sweet elements of her music were beginning to fall by the wayside by pretty huge degrees and she takes a cue from one of her better albums statements Butterfly to create something that lives up more to her musicianly and artistic sensabilities as opposed to everything being so obviously commercial. So yeah it has that "Mariah sound" written all over it,and she DOES have a "sound" as it were but she is refining it in some very key ways here. Even the slower songs with orchestrations are making more use of spaces and breaks and the result is an appealing realness and maturity to the production. Sure it had been coming but in retrospect that this was definately the step before The Emancipation of Mimi. The slower jams such as "Through The Rain",her late paternal dedication of "Sunflowers For Alfred Roy" and of course the really great "My Saving Grace" especially bring home the soul/gospel energy and release that would come to more of a fruitation on the next album and might really surprise lovers of Mariah's early 90's more adult contemporary style ballads. The more contemporary uptempo music such as "Boy","The One","You Got Me" and "Irresistable" showcase a more refined variation on the hip-hop/soul sound than she's previously commited to in that form that relies on a blend of loops,samples and live instrumentation that gives a bit more form to them. The last section of the album,to me anyway is the most appealing overall. "Lullaby" and "Subtle Invitation" showcase a strong, late 70's inspired sophistifunk sound-the latter song with a great horn section and both with great rhythm sections and basslines. "Bringin' On The Heartbreak" has a surprisingly effective pop/rock sound to it and serves as one of the more dramatic pieces here. One of the qualities that most people don't like about this album is to me one of it's most appealing. Mariah's exhausted sounding voice here has a yearning and crying sound that's set far apart from that bomastic,rangy style she tended to clobber most of her earlier music over with,offering something pretty close to vocal pathos for her. For people who tend to be highly critical,such as myself I suppose of Mariah's more over the top sound of some of her ohter music this points to a lot of growth for her not only on those terms but for stylistic range,stronger sense of groove and general atmosphere. Along with the other two albums I mentioned here this stands as one of her stronger overall releases."
rmcrae | Houston, Texas | 05/08/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wouldn't say I "hated" Charmbracelet when it first came out, but I certainly found it disappointing. The voice that shook hits like Vision of Love and My All had been whittled down to barely above a whisper. Mariah's used a quieter tone on songs like The Roof and Breakdown, but she still had power in her vocals. Not so much here. With time and a more open mind, this cd's grown on me. I'd easily list it in the top 5 of my favorite Mariah records, whispery vocals and all.
The ballad Through The Rain details the struggles she went through with the failure of Glitter and her heavily publicized breakdown. Lyrically it harkens back to Hero with it's "don't let the bad times get you down" message. I like Boy (I Need You), but it was a bad choice for a second single. The laidback "cautious about falling in love again" track The One would've been a wiser pick (I love that song!). "Finally found somebody that could be the one/But I promised myself that I wouldn't give in to love/And I'm scared/And I'm nervous/Don't wanna be hurt anymore/This is bad/Cuz I know that you're the one."
Yours is a bubbly, girly ode to the giddy thrills of falling in love. I'm glad Justin Timberlake's vocals were erased from the final mix since Mariah does just fine on her own. Now if Freeway's rap had been cut from You Got Me, it would've been perfect. It's still great with a dusky feel, guest flow from Jay Z, and the famous "chipmunk style" sampling. I Only Wanted completes the trilogy that began with My All and continued with After Tonight. Complete with a Spanish guitar and dripping water effects, Mariah mourns the end of an affair with a man who promised to always be there, but left her with a broken heart. Dramatic yet subtle.
The acoustic Clown is an excellent diss track against Eminem. As most of you know, Em claimed he and Mimi were "together" and slammed her in the media for denying it. She never once says his name, but she makes it crystal clear she's addressing him and gives him a taste of his own medicine. "Nobody cares when the tears of a clown fall down!" Amen to that! My Saving Grace is an Aretha inspired "thank you" to God for helping Mariah through the tough times. Great vocals! The West Coast flavored You Had Your Chance samples Dr. Dre's classic Ain't Nuthin' But A G Thang and brings images of bouncing Cadillacs to mind. To mine anyway.
The seductively mysterious Lullaby is a direct sequel to The Roof from the Butterfly album. After running into her former flame (Derek Jeter?), Mariah wonders if she should just move on, but then decides to revisit their romance one more time. "Yes I'll come home with you tonight." Sounds alot like Michael Jackson's Butterflies. Irresistible works just fine with Mariah's vocals and another sped up sample, but who in the world is The Westside Connection (I only recognize Ice Cube) and why are they wrecking this song with abrasive raps and horse braying (I'm not kidding)? Less is more, folks.
Subtle Invitation sets things right again. The jazz club setting is beautiful with Mariah promising her ex that she'll be there for him whenever he needs her. It's like a "grown folks" version of I'll Be There. Bringin' on the Heartbreak is a wonderful cover of the Def Leppard hit and Sunflowers For Alfred Roy is an emotional dedication to Mariah's father who died during the production of the album. Joe and Kelly Price join her for a gospel remix of Through The Rain. It takes you to church (Kelly's fiery vocals are fantastic!) without getting too bombastic.
Mariah's sound would furtherly improve on The Emancipation of Mimi, but Charmbracelet shouldn't be ignored. The vocals, while not as impressive as before, aren't as bad as people originally made them out to be and her whistle is still in tip-top shape. Some of Mariah's best writing can be found here. Give it a spin."