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Fairly inessential Mariah.
on June 20, 2012
Mariah Carey is arguably the best selling female artist in the world (a title that's hotly contested by her equally legendary peers, Madonna and Celine Dion), and the sheer depth of Ms. Carey's catalogue speaks to that. Since her debut in the spring of 1990, she has overtaken Elvis Presley's record of #1 hits on Billboard's Hot 100; the first fifteen of these chart-toppers released during her time at Sony BMG's imprint Columbia Records, and the latest #1 being the Island Def Jam single "Touch My Body".
It's at best a headscratcher, then, that her post-Sony output has been completely ignored by Columbia in favour of a retread of her Nineties back catalogue.
To add insult to injury, however, this 2CD collection also doubles as an inferior re-release of her 2001 collection, Greatest Hits. At least Greatest Hits had the excuse of trying to stem the tide of a dark period in Mariah's career -- a year plagued by anti-Glitter sentiments and the tabloid fodder of Mariah's alleged breakdown -- by reminding the public of her hitmaking past.
The Essential Mariah Carey has no such rationale. With her biggest misstep now more than a decade behind her, and her since having returned to form as an artist, it makes no sense to ignore her more recent releases.
And when I said that Essential is a double-dip of Greatest Hits, I wasn't exaggerating. The hits "Someday," "Forever" and "Sweetheart" were swapped for three non-commercial tracks ("Vanishing" from her 1990 self-titled debut, "Close My Eyes" from 1997's Butterfly and "Bliss" from 1999's Rainbow), the album versions of "Anytime You Need A Friend" and "Emotions" were replaced by their club mixes, and the cute bonus remix of "All I Want For Christmas Is You" was jettisoned for Ms. Carey's collaboration with Mobb Deep ("The Roof").
And.... well, that's it, really. The Mobb Deep track is the only item that hasn't been on a physical album proper, and was previously only available on the digital edition of The Ballads (also a second-rate collection, given the sheer volume of ballads and downtempo songs Mariah has churned out).
It's rather insulting that such a collection has been released. The existence of both Greatest Hits and 2003's The Remixes in Mariah's catalogue render The Essential Mariah Carey moot. And, as I said, her post-Sony catalogue has also been ignored.
You want to know how egregious that particular oversight is? Well then, here's a list of Mariah's US hits (major and minor) from 2001 to the present day:
1. Loverboy (#2 Hot 100, #1 R&B, - from 2001's Glitter)
2. Never Too Far (#17 AC - from 2001's Glitter)
3. Through The Rain (#1 Dance, #17 AC - from 2002's Charmbracelet)
4. I Know What You Want (#3 Hot 100 & Rap, #2 R&B - from 2003's The Remixes)
5. Bringin' On The Heartbreak (#5 Dance - from 2002's Charmbracelet)
6. U Make Me Wanna (#8 R&B, #9 Rap - from Jadakiss' 2004 album Kiss of Death)
7. It's Like That (#1 Dance, #16 Hot 100, #17 R&B - from 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi)
8. We Belong Together (#1 Hot 100, R&B, Dance, Pop, #3 AC - from 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi)
9. Shake It Off (#1 Pop, #2 Hot 100 & R&B - from 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi)
10. Don't Forget About Us (#1 Hot 100, Dance & R&B - from 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi)
11. Fly Like A Bird (#19 R&B - from 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi)
12. Say Somethin' (#1 Dance - from 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi)
13. Touch My Body (#1 Hot 100 & Dance, #2 R&B, #7 Pop - from 2008's E=MC2)
14. Bye Bye (#18 Pop, #19 Hot 100 - from 2008's E=MC2)
15. I Stay In Love (#1 Dance - from 2008's E=MC2)
16. Obsessed (#7 Hot 100, #1 Dance, #8 Pop, #12 R&B - from 2009's Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel)
17. I Want To Know What Love Is (#2 Dance, #10 AC - from 2009's Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel)
18. Oh Santa! (#1 AC, Holiday - from 2010's Merry Christmas II You)
True, there's not as many Top Tens as in her heyday, but they do exist, after all. At the very least, the three Hot 100 #1's ("We Belong Together," "Don't Forget About Us" and "Touch My Body") should have been included to round out the collection. At least The Remixes had the decency to include remixes of "Loverboy", "Through The Rain" and "The One," the radio edit of "I Know What You Want" and the track "Miss You."
But The Essential Mariah Carey extends no such courtesies, and thus fails to live up to its name.
This two-disc set could have been a far stronger retrospective of Mariah's chart-topping career but, as it stands, its narrow scope (and the fact that the discs are nowhere near their full capacity) merely makes it a weak echo of her more superior compilations. So, if you can, just find a copy of her Greatest Hits and, if you're into both her club music and her hip-hop collaborations, pick up The Remixes while you're at it. Both together will set you back about the same as (or perhaps even less than) The Essential Mariah Carey... but you'll have twice as much music.
P.S. If you also want an example of a double-disc anthology done right, give a listen to the late Donna Summer's Gold collection, released in 2005 and containing 34 of her greatest hits (a remarkable achievement in updating her previous Anthology, as Donna's catalogue is stretched out over more than 30 years and half a dozen different labels!).