Years and years ago, I wrote a double review of Mariah Carey's Butterfly and Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope. My point then was that Carey and Jackson weren't all that different from each other, but after the review came out, a few people wanted to burn me in effigy. They were livid, enraged that I would even speak of that light-skinned corporate shill's name in the same breath as Ms. Janet. Jackson is an artist, they said, and Mariah couldn't hold a candle to her. Janet was taking chances; Mariah was nothing but a mulatto Celine Dion!
But be honest. As the years rolled on and the music of both ladies has evolved with time, hasn't it been a bitch telling them apart? Jackson's last album, the unfortunately formulaic (and aptly titled) All for You, found the once liberated and independent superstar breathily begging for a man, her music little more than an excuse to melodiously document her middle-aged hot flashes.
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As for Mariah, say what you will. She's nuts, she needs to put on clothes before she gets a chest cold, she couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. But from a musical standpoint, she never fell off as pitifully as Janet.
We always knew what we were getting with a gal like Mariah, whose name, as Michael Stipe once noted, rhymes with "pariah." She jumped into this thing striving to be the best gosh-darn pop star she could possibly be. And admit it, when she busted out with "Vision of Love" 13 or so years ago, you were feeling it when she hit that high note.
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands
Thursday, August 28; for more information, call 713-629-3700
True, she did go overboard with the rap star cameos. Ever since some smart son of a bitch had the idea to pair Carey up with Ol' Dirty Bastard on the 1995 song "Fantasy," she's found it to be a necessary tool, a way to stay in touch with that "urban" (read: Freddy vs. Jason-watching) audience. Since then, she's peppered her songs with the likes of Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy and Missy Elliott. She continues in that tradition on her latest, Charmbracelet, with guest shots from Cam'ron, Freeway and the Jigga Man once again.
At this show, we most likely won't be getting the pink hot pants-wearing Mariah, the one who rolls with rap royals. This will probably bring us pop princess Mariah, the Mariah with the high vocal range, the gold lamé dresses and the overweening desire for your adoration.