Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Album Review: Mariah Carey - Butterfly (1997, 4.5/5)
I've been craving Mariah lately, throughout the course of mid last week I've been playing random cuts from Music Box (1993) and Daydream (1995) a lot on my iPod, but the album I was most excited to rediscover was 1997s Butterly, which arguably, I think vergers on an urban masterpiece, it only makes sense for me to churn out a lengthy review of the album. Butterfly marked Mariah's departure from clean cut adult contemporary offerings, emerging into a more free indulgence in 90s R&B. Prior to this Mariah had experimented with urban sounds on 1995s Daydream notably on the track, "Long Ago" which carried a melodic eerie vibe. I find it hard to rank both albums Daydream and Butterfly as their both just as spectacular as each other --Daydream was solid adult contemporary pop and Butterfly is a mellow coddling in great R&B.
The album obtains a very delicate opening. "Honey", introduces the urban contemporary feeling to the album. The song begins with rhythmic clicks, ablibs and a catchy piano riff before breaking into a funky bassline accompanied by Mariah's mellow vocal work. What I love most about this song is the breezy chorus, admittedly at times her annunciation is very inaudible without the lyrics at hand, but this is made up for by the strong verses. The title track, "Butterfly" finds itself taken in a more traditional ballad moment – consisting of archetypal piano chords, drums and a large choir.
The best cut from the album has to be, "Breakdown" Featuring Hip-Hop group Bone Thugs 'N' Harmony. The song gratifies in a mellow rich, deep basslined R&B vibe – showing off the more determined urban cuts off the album. Bone Thugs add a sense of aggressiveness to the song. Their 1 minute or so verse in the song is very fulfilling. Melodically the chorus does it all, although it doesn't stick as well as it should, it is made up for by Mariah's crafty yet breezy vocal work – singing through her nose before breaking into random ablibs. This was lived out way too much on 2002s disaster Charmbracelet. "Babydoll", is another great cut, it follows up to, "Breakdown" complimenting it very well – carrying through a very sultry essence as well as adding in a hard hitting bassline with corny DJ scratches throughout portions of the song. The song is also very lyrically fueled (I don't generally notice these things) I particually like the line: "The I'll try and drink you out of my head."
"My All", is a spanish guitar backed number – breaking into some faint drums in the second half the song. "My All", was one of 2 U.S. #1s spawned from the album, following, "Honey". "The Roof", is the albums darkest moment – consisting of a very haunting but breezy chorus and a very melodic but spooky bridge. Mariah's infamous ablibing towards the end on most of her songs is non-existent which is a tad refreshing. The dark nature of the song was also experimented with on Daydream, on its closing song, "Looking In" which was more piano based.
Other cuts on the album aren't bad, just not as noteworthy. The cheery, "Fourth Of July" which takes the album in a nostalgic mood is a highlight. There's bird's chirping and faint bells ringing throughout the song, Mariah's whispery vocals on here does help carry through the fragile melodic vibe of the song. The introspective, "Close My Eyes" is another highlight, again very lyrically fueled as Mariah reminisces on her childhood, she says: "I feel like a child as I look at the moon, maybe I grew up a little too soon." Her duet with Brian McKnight on, "Whenever You Call" in general should be very good – but unfortunately I do find just a bit boring, but it is decent. Brian does a good job on his part, but its definitely no, "One Sweet Day".
The album takes an unusual twist on, "The Beautiful Ones" which is truly unlike anything I've heard before, aside from the fact that it lingers on for 7 long minutes – it features R&B group Dru Hill, which makes it even weirder because this sounds is such a massive departure from their normal music. The song features a freaky almost sci-fi theme, consisting of a recurring piano chord, which seems to be only one key and a paced drums. The song may be boring during the first half, but it does get more interesting as it approaches the halfway mark, it indulges in some intense vocal matches between Mariah and Dru Hill and the music gets more haunting and eery.
I love every song on here, but the albums only downfall is the pointless remix of, "Butterfly" retitled as "Fly Away (Butterfly Remix)." This could have been easily left off the album, it's pretty useless, since the album was indulging in a more urban feel, I think it should've been a R&B / Hip-Hop orientated remix and not a whimsical one. The album closes with a bang. "Outside" is one of my favorite Mariah ballads ever. I love the old school motown throwback vibe on the song – Mariah's ablibbing can get annoying, but it works wonders here, especially towards the end, the choir also help give the song a solid feel.
Overall, Butterfly is an almost faultless album, following up to Daydream perfectly, pursing a more edgier, darker R&B territory, it's flaws makes the album that much more enjoyable.
Best Tracks: Breakdown, Babydoll, Honey, Butterfly, My All, The Roof, Outside