【review/rate】mariah carey / caution

released 2018, epic records.

Mariah Carey’s fifteenth studio album “Caution” arrives in style today and sees Carey at her most moody and introspective, a near perfect blend of modern takes on pop and RnB that faithfully maintain what makes Mariah’s music so unique.

Sporting a thrilling hodgepodge of current producers (Porter Robinson, Skrillex, Dev Hynes and Timbaland to name a few), “Caution” takes the MC formula and flips it here, there, and everywhere as the album experiments with directions not previously heard in Carey’s comfort zone.

“GTFO”, a breakup anthem that so casually croons “why don’t you get the fuck out?” over Porter Robinson’s classic Worlds closer “Goodbye to a World” is a bizarre choice for an opener, but considering “Caution” does not rely on upbeat numbers littered throughout, ultimately makes sense. Pay close attention to the ad-libs in the outro, they’re classic Mariah.

Lead single “With You” puzzled most of us lambs on initial release, as it seemed to be a little too formulaic following “GTFO”, but I’ve since warmed to it immensely. It works a lot more in the context of the album, and is easily the most recognizable and reminiscent of earlier established sounds in Mariah’s discography.

Title track “Caution” is a smooth warning statement, and the first song that picks the bpm up slightly. It’s a very laidback track that sets the standard for the rest of the album’s vibe.

“A No No” and “The Distance” are the remainder of tracks released leading up to the album’s release, and remain two of the standout offerings, especially the latter. Only Carey’s one-and-only brand of edge and sass elevates an otherwise standard upbeat rnb number in “A No No”, and “The Distance” is probably my favorite song of the year.

When I heard Dev Hynes would be a collaborator on “Caution”, I was firmly sat at the edge of my seat in anticipation for what masterpiece he would create for Mariah, and “Giving Me Life” did NOT let me down. A sprawling six minute epic featuring a spiffy Slick Rick verse, “Giving Me Life” is a foreboding mood piece, the lovechild of Mariah’s previous deep classics “The Roof” and “Lullaby”. The breakdown in the final minute is a fucking triumph.

“One Mo ‘Gen” is a cute little yearning love song, accompanied by a fluttery piano sample and trap beat galore, Mariah begs to “just get it in, one more ‘gen”.  I found the melodies in the song very addictive, and the song seems to be the proper follow up to “Make it Look Good” from the last album, though I prefer that song over this one still.

Mariah joins forces with Timbaland for the first time since sessions for 2009’s “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel” ended with Timb’s contribution to the album (the actually fabulous “Skydiving”) failing to make the final cut.  “8th Grade” is stunning.  “Don’t be ambivalent towards me” continues Mariah’s iconic trend of featuring fantabulous “Mariahcabulary” in her work, as I can safely say I don’t know another song I can sing with the word “ambivalent” in its lyrics.  The breakdown near the 3:30 mark is such a throwback to mid 2000s RnB. I love the bass effects, and Timbaland’s ad libs ushering in Mariah’s trademark whistles (which take a backseat in this album surprisingly) is one of the highlights of the record.

I couldn’t help but let “Stay Long Love You” sit on repeat for a bit, it’s a sublime bop, with a serviceable Gunna feature that I actually enjoyed (and i’m admittedly no Gunna fan).  “Stay Long…” has one of the catchiest hooks on top of earworm production that simply warrants repeat listens!

“Caution” comes to a close with “Portrait”, a stripped down ballad that harks back to previous closing tracks “Outside” and “Looking In” (from 97’s Butterfly and 95’s Daydream, respectively) while also maintaining the personal tone and immaculate quality of them.  It’s a dazzling song that left me breathless in that moment, and will truly be adored by long time fans.  “Haunted by those severed ties / Pushing past the parasites / Down but not demoralized / Unconfined, but don’t let go”, Carey wistfully delivers these deeply introspective and telling lyrics that so perfectly paint a portrait for the listener to gain insight into the journey Mariah’s been on.  “Portrait” brings the album’s final moments to a beautiful end with only Carey’s vocals, piano, and an emotionally stirring coda.

While “Caution” comes to an end for most countries with “Portrait”, the Japanese edition contains a bonus track that I personally think should have made the standard version! “Runway” is an uplifting piece that even samples Mariah herself (sample-ception maybe?), there’s also a version including a feature verse performed by KOHH (of “It G Ma” fame), and I don’t know whether it was a copy paste or not, but it definitely works and doesn’t detract from the song at all.  Both versions are quite good if you ask me.

At the end of the day, very few artists nowadays make it to the 15th studio album, much less a career spanning nearly THREE decades, and the fact that Mariah Carey did what many thought impossible and released an album that never once feels like it’s chasing a trend or trying to sound like the contemporaries of today is truly an accomplishment.  I hope she’s proud of this album,  because it easily stands tall next to some of her greatest work in quality.  None of “Caution” feels like it’s trying hard, and it fits in perfectly with 2018’s sound and aesthetic.

There are very few moments of the signature Mariah power belts or whistles that we’ve all come to expect, “Caution” instead offers another facet in its lush production, midtempos that all have a very ‘chill’ feeling, a feeling very of the time. While they’re all produced by various artists, Mariah is the throughline that brings it all together into one of the tightest offerings in her catalogue, a sleek ‘all killer/no filler’ album that never wears out its welcome.  Proceed with caution,  lest you lose your wig to the fierce slayage.

  1. GTFO ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  2. With You ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  3. Caution ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  4. A No No ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  5. The Distance (feat. Ty Dolla $ign) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  6. Giving Me Life (feat. Slick Rick & Blood Orange)⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  7. One Mo’ Gen ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  8. 8th Grade ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  9. Stay Long Love You (feat. Gunna) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  10. Portrait ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  11. Runway ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  12. Runway (feat. KOHH) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Must-Listen : The Distance, Giving Me Life, Portrait, 8th Grade
Skip : NONE

Purchase limited edition Caution bundles here.
Stream “Caution” on Apple Music and Spotify.

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