Avatar Four Word Reviews – Music Box

Last month, Mariah Carey was cruelly denied the Christmas Number One yet again. In 1994, “All I Want for Christmas is You” was kept off the top spot by East 17’s “Stay Another Day”; in 2021 it actually reached number one the week before Christmas but was then bumped into second place by Ladbaby, whoever the hell they are. Hang in there, Mariah. You’ll do it one day. Until then, let’s set aside the best Christmas song ever recorded to spend some time with Music Box, Mariah’s third studio album, released in 1993.

I don’t think I need to introduce Mariah Carey. She’s one of the best selling female artists of all time, has a net worth in the vicinity of half a billion dollars, arguably influenced most of the vocalists you hear in the charts and every single person who has ever appeared on a TV talent show, and still retains such an air of mystery that Wikipedia doesn’t know what year she was born in.

Music Box is why we’re here, though, and it’s a slice of early 90s R&B soul pop, if that’s a genre. There are big synthy 90s beats, lots of oohs and aahs, lots of extraordinarily high pitched singing, and layer upon layer of gospel choir wherever you turn.

Let’s see how it breaks down.

TrackWord 1Word 2Word 3Word 4
1. DreamloverDoodoos,oohoohsandwhistles
2. HeroWasn’tthisCelineDion?
3. Anytime You Need a FriendUpliftinggospelwithscreaming
4. Music BoxSadbutsurprisinglytwinkly
5. Now That I KnowUnexpectedlyjiggywithclarinet
6. Never Forget YouLikeBoyzIIMen
7. Without YouBetterthantheoriginal
8. Just to Hold You Once AgainBreathysadnesswithchoir
9. I’ve Been Thinking About YouStraightbackto1989
10. All I’ve Ever WantedAnotherbreathyslowone
11. Everything Fades Away (Bonustrack)Evenslower.Endplease

In some ways – to a person who, for example, doesn’t listen to a lot of this music and has a very unsophisticated take on it – this album sounds quite similar to last month’s Four Word Review, The Colour of My Love by Celine Dion. It’s certainly very ballady and very vocally complex and quite mushy in places. The difference is that Mariah Carey got herself a much better crew, and this album, by comparison, is really nicely arranged and produced. I found myself enjoying the layers of band, orchestra, choir and Carey. You don’t have to be into it to appreciate a well-made thing when one comes along.

This being Mariah, all the songs use her trademark vocal style, which I summarised in my notes as “all the notes, all the time”. So many notes. It’s impressive but also sort of exhausting.

Most of the songs sound the way you expect – you know “Hero”, of course, and “Dreamlover”, and “Without You”. Quite a few of the others are like that: big love ballads with soaring vocals and crashing dramatic choruses. You know the thing. Others are a bit of a surprise. Track 9 was a bit like a Paula Abdul song from the late 80s and sounded a bit weird in the midst of an album whose sound has generally dated quite well.

In conclusion, then, it’s not an album I’ll be listening to again, but it goes into the relatively small group of Four Word Reviews albums that I genuinely didn’t mind. That, I suppose, is the power of something that’s done well. I don’t have to like it but I’d be a tool to pretend it was rubbish. It’s not rubbish, and I’m not a tool. Stop calling me that.

My favourite thing about this album was, without a doubt, loudly singing Ken Lee when “Without You” came on. My least favourite thing was Mariah Carey’s tendency to run two words together into one – dreamlover, anytime, bonustrack. I wonder why the album wasn’t called “Musicbox”.

7 comments on “Four Word Reviews – Music Box

  • We could and should all point the finger at her for making everyone believe that this is the correct way to sing. I suppose it wasn’t really her fault though, unless she’s a witch and can see the future and it was all part of her diabolical plan.

  • I’m afraid I simply don’t have the qualifications or expertise to be able to definitively tell you whether Mariah Carey can see the future. It’s certainly possible. Let’s rule nothing out.

  • You would think that with such perceptive powers she would have passed on the cameo from the eye-strainingly bad Adam Sandler film ‘You Don’t Mess with the Zohan’. Maybe she wanted to do it…

  • I’m only saying that we don’t know. But it would be foolish, in a world where nobody even knows Mariah Carey’s exact age, to pretend we can definitively say whether or not she can see into the future.

    Personally I think she can see into the future, and she knows where you live, and what you’ve done, and she’s sending illin’ vibes your way.

  • Ah man, it feels like I’ve been ‘illin’ for ages now. Can someone not tag me out?

    Kev mate, I know you only read the posts you’ve written but if you see this, do us a solid and take some of the ‘illin’ will you?

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