|From New York Times (All rights reserved)
Mariah Carey Glides Into New Territory
VOLUPTUOUSLY ROMANTIC MAKE-OUT music is rarely taken seriously unless there is a cynical message buried inside it. That's why it would be easy to dismiss Mariah Carey's subtly innovative new album, "Daydream" (Columbia), whose best cuts bring pop candymaking to a new peak of textural refinement. At the same time, Ms. Carey's songwriting has taken a leap forward, becoming more relaxed, sexier and less reliant on thudding cliches.
With "Fantasy," Ms. Carey glides confidently into the territory where gospel-flavored pop-soul meets light hip-hop and recorded some of the most gorgeously spun choral music to be found on a contemporary album. On "One Sweet Day," the singer joins forces with Boyz II Men, those masters of pleading post-doo-wop vocal harmonies, for a tender eulogy that suggests that the singers have been personally touched by the AIDS crisis.
The song is a dialogue between lovers, one of whom has died, leaving the other full of regrets for things left unsaid. The uplifting chorus looks forward to a reunion that involves more than just two people: "And I know you're shining down on me from heaven/ Like so many friends we've lost along the way," it begins. Corny, perhaps, but touching in its faith and fervor.
In "Melt Away," a collaboration by Ms. Carey with the popmeister Babyface, their two voices wind around each other like bolts of chiffon in a lyric that describes exactly what their multitracked voices are doing: melting into each other with repeated avowals of love in a state of sweet surrender.
"Underneath the Stars," in which all the voices are Ms. Carey's, achieves the same dissolving synergy between a lyric and entwining vocal lines as she sings: "Beautifully and bittersweetly/ You were fading into me."
The album's fourth gem, its title song, is a hypnotic, playfully sexy dance tune that samples from the Tom Tom Club's 1982 hit, "Genius of Love." With its light, saucy vocal and instrumental squeaks and squeals, it feels like swinging jauntily on a star.
The rest of the album is more conventional. The songs include a sobbing remake of Journey's "Open Arms"; a big pop-gospel blowout, "I Am Free," and a 50's-style rock-and-roll ballad, "Forever." If Ms. Carey's voice is magnificent, she still has an occasional tendency to overdo the melismatic gymnastics.
In the last song, "Looking In," the singer paints a picture of herself as a lonely, misunderstood diva who "harbors adolescent fears" and "wades in insecurity." If this slow piano-and-voice ballad drags a bit, it finds Ms. Carey, who is still only 25, struggling to develop a more personal lyrical voice. Whether or not she succeeds almost doesn't matter so long as she continues to make pop music as deliciously enticing as the best moments of "Fantasy."
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Heroes of Mariah 2000