Welcome back to Head to Head with Edd, where yours truly goes toe-to-toe with the superfans of the game’s biggest artists. We’ll take a look at the selected artist’s biggest hits and misses and see where we can find common ground.
This time around, we welcome LaChele Wallace, a Day One Mariah fan. She’s followed MC’s career from the start and is ready to do battle with yours truly as we debate the legacy of one of R&B’s best. Strap in.
Name Mariah’s three best albums
3. The Emancipation of Mimi
Now, when it comes down to songs, these three albums have the best songs, lyrically and for vocal arrangements. Super strong material, overall. The most exciting records to date.
3. The Emancipation of Mimi
Here’s one thing that will be clear as we discuss Mariah today – she’s one of those rare artists who spanned several musical generations, so, in many cases, your entry point as a fan is what you gravitate toward the most. It’s why so many Gen Z/younger millennials have such love for The Emancipation of Mimi while Gen X/old head millennials swear by her debut. But to me, Mariah’s definitive album is Butterfly, the release that is the bridge between those two fanbases. LaChele ain’t wrong for going with Daydream – in many ways it feels like the spiritual predecessor to Butterfly, it’s very close.
And what’s her worst album?
LaChele: Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse
Whew, this album is so bad that it’s not even on my PC. The auto-tune vocals and runs drove me crazy. I don’t know the album and I intended to keep it that way. A disappointment through and through. Jesus.
I was NOT a fan of this album back in 2001. I’ve come around on it a bit since then but it still falls pretty short. Don’t get me wrong, Mariah doesn’t drop terrible albums so even this one has bright spots. There are definitely a couple of standouts here and the 80s Baby in me appreciates the throwback production but overall it’s an underwhelming experience.
What’s the first Mariah song that made you a fan?
LaChele: “Vision of Love“
When she hit and held that note on “ALL” near the end of the song and did that melisma, I was taken. That’s my part. I love everything about that song. I love seeing folks react to it whenever it comes on the radio. It’s always a warm response.
Edd: “Fantasy” Remix
OK, I gotta explain this one. Before the days where you could just pick and choose which songs you wanted to hear on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, etc., and build your own playlists, music fans were at the mercy of radio and video programming. And when it came to Mariah, pretty much all of her biggest hits were played endlessly. END. LESS. LEEEEEEEE. So yeah, while I appreciated songs like “Vision of Love,” “Emotions,” “Dreamlover,” etc., I INSTANTLY got sick of them because they were played into the ground. To this day I will run in the opposite direction when I hear “Hero,” I’m TIRED. But when Mariah teamed up with ODB of all people in 1995, that odd couple produced a song that didn’t wear me out by the 10323th listen. Mariah’s foray into hip-hop finally won me over for good, turning me from someone who simply appreciated her talents into a legit fan.
What’s Mariah’s best single?
LaChele: “Vision of Love”
This is the single that really introduced me to good singing. For such a simple melody, the vocal arrangements are intricate, complex and the writing is lovely. I believe this is her best single through and through.
Edd: “Vision of Love”
Younger fans likely will balk at this choice in the name of “We Belong Together” (yet another Mariah mega-hit that wore out its welcome – radio LOVED Mariah) but it’s hard to beat this classic. If you weren’t around in 1990 it’s hard to describe just how huge this song was. It’s a rare case of a debut single being so massive that it not only made the artist an instant superstar, but it created a wave that said superstar would ride for the next THIRTY YEARS.
And what’s her weakest single?
LaChele: “Up Out My Face” feat. Nicki Minaj
It’s a senseless single and nobody cares for it.
Edd: “Don’t Stop (Funkin’ 4 Jamaica)”
Um, LaChele … I … I cared for “Up Out My Face.” It’s one of only like three or four Nicki Minaj songs I can tolerate. “MY FLOW NUTS LIKE M&MS IN DA YELLOW BAG” is so hilariously bad that I can’t hate on it. But back to the matter at hand.
This might be the toughest question in the whole column. As mentioned earlier, Mariah doesn’t have her name attached to a lot of outright bad material. Her collabo with Mystikal from Glitter isn’t a disaster but it is a bit of a sound clash. His ADHD raps and her gentle cooing just don’t mesh here.
Name an album cut that should have been a single.
LaChele: “Till the End of Time”
This album cut could’ve worked work w/ the right promotion. She was singing her face off, especially near the middle area. It’s everything that I love about 1991.
Edd: “Melt Away”
Hot take: Babyface is a good songwriter. Shocking, I know. His pen is as mighty as ever on the gentle “Melt Away” and Mariah just nails it vocally. I know Daydream already had 50-leven singles but they should have made room for this one.
What’s Mariah’s most underrated album?
This is the “Is it safe to like Mariah again” album? The album cuts were better than the official singles. Perhaps this album was mishandled. “Lullaby” ended up being my favorite.
We don’t talk enough about E=MC2, and I understand why it’s overlooked. In some ways it feels a little too much like Mariah just hit CTRL-C on the Mimi album and popped this one out. Even the album title (which is an awesome pun, BTW) proves it’s a successor to Mimi. But hey, if you’re gonna steal, steal from one of the best. This one is filled with underrated album cuts and solid singles that didn’t get their just due. Of all her latter-day releases I probably revisit this one the most.
Mariah is the queen of the remix. Which remix is her best?
LaChele: “Anytime You Need a Friend” (Stringapella)
Whew, she was singing her entire face off on that song. She gave it 4 different versions, i.e., album, dance, soul and ‘stringapella.’ This is top choice from Music Box. Lovely melody and message.
Edd: “My All/Stay Awhile” (So So Def Remix)
YOOOOO I forgot about that stringapella remix! That was MUSIC right there! But y’all know me, I gotta show Hip-Hop Mimi some love. Her remixes with Jermaine Dupri always brought down the house. “My All/Stay Awhile” is absolutely nothing like the Latin-tinged original but it’s proof change is good. It may be my favorite Mariah record of all time.
Glitter: Great movie or godawful movie?
LaChele: Neither. It was tolerable. The final product would’ve been good for HBO or something. Definitely not for the big screen. The hype didn’t match or eclipse the final product.
Edd: Glitter was a little ahead of it’s time – and lord no, I’m not saying it’s because it boasted an intricate script or technology-pushing special effects. It’s one of those movies that is so ridiculous bad that it pulls a 180 and somehow becomes very entertaining. Trust me, if this thing dropped on Lifetime in 2020, the memes would be flying all over the place. It may have been labeled a disaster by 2001 standards but today’s self-depreciating Twitter weirdos would have eaten it up.
How many classic albums does Mariah have?
LaChele: S/T debut, Daydream, Butterfly and The Emancipation of Mimi.
S/T debut because that’s where it started and the vocals were pristine. “Alone in Love,” “Sent From Up Above” and “Vanishing” ended up being my favorite album cuts. “Alone in Love” could’ve worked on r&b radio. Now, the Daydream album is melody goals. Obviously, not the easiest melodies to sing, but for listening pleasure, whew! Excellent. The mood and colors she used on “Underneath the Stars” are primo. She became the ‘singer’s singer’ on the Butterfly album. Vocally, unmatched, but lyrically, she laid it all out on the line. All fans felt something on the final cut entitled “Outside.” The Emancipation of Mimi is the “We love Mariah again” album. Bought the import a week before it was officially released in the U.S. The album cuts are better than the singles. Excellent album.
Edd: Very few artists deserve having multiple classic albums attached to their resumes, but Mariah is one of those special cases. Butterfly and The Emancipation of Mimi are unquestionably classics – two incredible albums that set the standard for their eras and ushered in new generations of fans. And while you can make arguments against both, I don’t think LaChele is wrong to add Daydream and Mariah’s debut to the conversation as well. Both of those check the “classic boxes” on my personal scorecard. Two legit classics with at least two more in the convo? Your fave could never.
Is Mariah Carey the best vocalist of her generation?
LaChele: Absolutely not. Her live performances don’t match or eclipse her studio recordings. That’s her biggest problem. She’s done a few interviews stating that her songs are way too difficult to sing on a day to day basis and she shouldn’t have keyed them so high. There are plenty of better vocalists out there as she’s stated herself, as well.
Edd: Oooooh the stans gonna come for you, LaChele, but you’re not wrong. Great point about the difficulty of her keys – Mariah HERSELF has stated this many times. From a technical aspect, Mariah is unquestionably in the upper echelon of vocalists. I wouldn’t say she’s the absolute best but she’s definitely near the top of the heap – and she’s got the catalog to prove it.
Who do you agree with, LaChele or Edd? Let us know below.