Carey lost in freedom from Sony

September 11, 2001|By Jim Farber | Jim Farber,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

So what drove Mariah Carey to the brink?

Exhaustion, insomnia and commercial pressures have been listed as factors by her handlers and by armchair shrinks of the press. But with her new CD, Glitter, Mariah faces something that can be just as nerve-wracking: freedom.

The soundtrack from her debut movie finds pop's latest poster child for celebrity crackups liberated at last from what she views as the evil empire of Sony Music - ruled by her ex-husband and perceived nemesis Tommy Mottola.

She might as well have titled it Welcome to My Vanity Project.

Hip-hop influences are hardly new to Carey. But the generous space she gives the hip-hoppers on Glitter winds up only overwhelming her. Da Brat's rap in "Loverboy" cuts right through the mix, making Carey seem like a mere featured player. When Mystikal shoves his James Brown bark into "Don't Stop," he's far more in sync with the bass-heavy production than Carey.

The CD's best melodies are all cover versions. Since Mariah set the movie in the '80s, she revived songs like the vintage club staple "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life" and the 1988 smash "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On."

But Mariah has nothing to add to "Turn You On," and her production can't mine a deep enough groove to make "Last Night" the deejay fave it was meant to be.

With music so indifferent, a listener's only solace comes in trying to analyze the words. Do they offer any clue to Mariah's problems?

Only the final ballad, "Twister", offers a hint in lines like: "Feeling kinda fragile/ Cuz I've got a lot to handle/ But I guess this is my way of saying goodbye."

More alarming, perhaps, are Mariah's tortured phrasings, like her allusion to: "The closure that I optimally need."

Better clues to her current state may be found in lyrics of her past. Mariah has always viewed the world in the most brutal black-and-white terms. Her songs see acceptance as utter bliss and rejection as total devastation - a surefire formula for trouble.

Then again, you could chalk this up to bad writing. Either way, Mariah seems less fascinating as an artist than as a lurid headline no one can resist reading.

Glitter

Virgin Records

Sun score: * 1/2

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