Normally, in mid-November, all we hear from Mariah Carey is another renaissance of her legendary Christmas jingle. This year, not only is her cruelly underrated Glitter soundtrack flying high in the iTunes charts, but we have been gifted a new album, Caution, her first new material in over four years.
The last few years have not been without drama for the elusive chanteuse, so it’s particularly wonderful to hear her on such brilliant form. Caution kicks off with the instant internet meme classic GTFO, where an erstwhile wistful break up track weaves into a brutal diss. Some playful patois from Carey suggests she is more than over the worst.
This sets the tone for a neat album of only 10 tracks. We find her in life-admin mode, clearing out any dispensable trash that she no longer has time or the inclination for. A No No is a full on relentless fuck you anthem swiping at her ex-manager with the epic lyric “snakes in the grass, it’s time to cut the lawn”; use of the word irregardless could be a nod to Gretchen Wieners toppling queen of mean Regina George. Elsewhere, the title track finds Carey on the amber traffic light; she’s vulnerable and tentative, yet honest and hopeful about embarking on a new journey. With echoes of Destiny’s Child at their best, this is one of the album’s standouts.
There are some optimistic moments, with Carey seeing the rainbow at the end of the storm. With You is quite the shift from GTFO and celebrates a true and lasting love underpinned by gorgeous midtempo soft R&B and some achingly tender harmonies. The Distance is a divine and lofty throwback with slick support from Ty Dolla $ign. 8th Grade is tender and nostalgic with just the right amount of Timbaland, while One Mo’ Gen finds Carey at her most Samantha Jones with a throbbing bedroom anthem channeling ’90s R&B.
With production from Blood Orange on Giving Me Life, it is hardly surprising that this is the defining and most eclectic moment on the album. With echoes of The Roof and The Beautiful Ones from the iconic Butterfly album, the chorus is an immediate classic and the breakdown towards the end of the song is a stunning showcase of that vocal range against a backdrop of electric guitars.
The album closes with the slow burning and vintage Mariah ballad Portrait. We find her at her most ethereal and reflective, and the narrative focuses on the relationship Carey has with herself. The glorious vocals towards the end are truly magnificent and the track is a fitting and definitive end to such a cathartic and phenomenal album.
The message from Carey here is clear. You can come into her life, but make it count and do not throw caution to the wind. This is why her lambs are never silent in their perpetual adoration. Sublime.