Top critical review
Overrated - Not a very good overall CD
on July 13, 2004
If you look at each decade in music, there seems to be an artist that rises as the "Artist of the Decade". Although in some cases you can dispute it, you can make the argument that the following artists dominated their decade: Elvis Presley (1950s), The Beatles (1960s), The Bee Gees (1970s), and Michael Jackson (1980s). The 1990s was a more difficult decade to decide as it was a down decade in the music industry. If you take a look at commercial sales and #1 singles alone, Mariah Carey is one name that certainly comes to the top of the list for 90s artist of the decade. She had #1 songs in nearly every year of the decade and sold lots of albums. Her biggest selling album was her 1993 release entitled "Music Box". "Music Box" sold some 24 to 25 million copies and was a monster selling album. However, this is a case where I just don't get it because I don't believe this is a very good album.
There are several problems I have with "Music Box". First up, the sound is very familiar. The album definitely has a Whitney Houston feel to it - and haven't we had enough Whitney Houston in the 80s. I don't feel this album brings that much new to the table. One thing I will give Mariah credit for is that she plays a much more prevelant role in songwriting than Whitney Houston. Most of her #1 songs have been written by Carey herself. This brings me to the second point - the lyrics - in many cases (with on exception) I don't think the lyrics are all that strong and don't go very deep. Finally, the album just isn't very interesting. There are three good songs, but there isn't much more that is going to capture your interest.
There are three songs that really save this album. "Dreamlover" was a #1 song and is a catchy song with some catchy, but not necessarily deep lyrics. It has somehwat of an 80s feel to it since there is a heavy dose of keyboards and synthesizers in it. Carey herself wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the music and does a nice job. The background vocals are mixed in nicely - I believe they are done by Carey herself. Although "Dreamlover" doesn't go deep with the lyrics, the song "Hero" (another #1 song) does. Personally this is as good a song that Mariah Carey has done. Although it doesn't sound anything like a Dan Fogelberg song, Mariah Carey does something that Dan Fogelberg was a master of in his music - making use of music and lyrics to paint a picture. In this case Carey paints a picture of a Hero. Another analogy in this song is the "Air Supply" approach. The group Air Supply were masters at building a song up to a crescendo and in "Hero" builds up to a magnificent crescendo. Mariah also shows her trademark vocal range in this song. The third song that is worth listening to on the album is the song "Anytime You Need a Friend". This song doesn't get the attention that the #1 hits got on the song, but what really sets this song apart are the gospel-style background vocals in this song. It makes for something different and some enjoyable listening.
After those first three tracks things get boring and uninteresting. The title track "Music Box" doesn't really excite me that much. "Now That I Know", "Just to Hold You Again" , and "All I've Ever Wanted" are ok songs with nice Carey vocals, but sound almost like clones of Whitney Houston songs. "Never Forget You" has its moments, but isn't a song that I'm really going to want to hear. Babyface, who is the co-writer and background vocalist on "Never Forget You" really doesn't kindle any magic like he did when he collaborated with Eric Clapton. The remake of Nillson's "Without You" is helped by Mariah's vocals, but this really isn't one of the better remakes of this song. I don't think "I've Been Thinking About You" does much to stand out in my mind. This song is one of the weaker songwriting efforts by Carey as it seems like she forced the lyrics to work in many parts of this song.
All of the lyrics and credits for the musicians are included in the liner notes. Mariah includes a whole "panel" in the liner notes that has a bunch of "Thank Yous" to the various people whom she collaborated with. Her at the time husband, Sony Boss Tommy Mottola gets a huge thank you - and oh my,have things changed since this album was recorded back in 1992/3.
The Mariah Carey fan will probably like this album. The casual fan will definitely like the hit songs off this album, but I feel this album doesn't bring that much to the table. I do feel this is an example of an album that received a boost from some singles that got a lot of airplay and sales, but as a whole this album just isn't very good. I don't recommend it.