Throughout her 30-year career, Mariah Carey has gone by an array of monikers and conditions. She’s been Chick, Honey B. Fly, Bianca Storm and Mimi. She’s been a metaphorical butterfly, and she’s been emancipated — not once but twice! To coincide with the release of her memoir, “The Meaning of Mariah Carey,” the singer put out a new album, “The Rarities,” on Oct. 2 — a compilation album consisting of previously unreleased tracks, fan favorites and live recordings. With the album, Carey once again lets fans and critics into a glimpse of her true self, particularly the R&B siren that masqueraded as a tight-laced girl-next-door during her reign in the ‘90s. “The Rarities” is prime Mariah without the glitz, glamour or melodramatic flairs that shot her to fame.
The album chronicles almost the entirety of Carey’s career. Known for making saccharine pop ballads similar to that of Celine Dion, “The Rarities” exposes the woman that was always behind the facade — one who survived a childhood of abandonment and neglect, escaped a marriage of psychological and emotional abuse and channeled it all into song. Her hip-hop and R&B sensibilities may not have uncovered themselves until later in her career, but they were always there. The album shows the 26-year-old burgeoning diva who loved gritty, urban R&B with heavy basslines — see “Slipping Away” and “One Night” — as well as the full-grown veteran who can perfectly craft a hit that melds hip-hop, R&B and pop à la “Cool on You.”
The highlight on the album is the trio of “Do You Think of Me,” “Everything Fades Away” and “All I Live For,” all recorded in 1993 during the “Music Box” era. Despite its success — the album was certified Diamond for selling 10 million copies in the US — it stands as Mariah’s most impersonal album to date, filled with schmaltzy piano ballads. This trio is anything but schmaltzy. The songs are clear indicators of the magic Carey would go on to perform when creatively uninhibited and unbridled.
On “Do You Think of Me,” Carey delivers a sexy and sensual vocal performance elevated by her heady and wispy whisper vocals and lush background vocals. The track finds the then-married chanteuse pondering if her paramour thinks of her when he’s lying alone or when he “feels the touch of another love.”
“Everything Fades Away” is a haunting and soulful ballad. The song begins with a slow, pittering piano and drum. It culminates on the bridge where a male background singer pleads with Mariah to let him love her “one more time.” Mariah responds, rejecting his pleas with a resounding and melancholic vocal break questioning why her ex-lover won’t let their love just fade away.
The pièce de résistance of the trio is “All I Live For.” The song was previously unfinished until Mariah added new vocals for the release of “The Rarities.” It is a sickly sweet confection of a dance number that fits perfectly next to the likes of her contemporary, Toni Braxton’s “Another Sad Love Song.”
The second half of the album includes the full recording of Mariah’s infamous 1996 Tokyo Dome concert for her album “Daydream.” The recording pales in comparison to the unreleased tracks but is a testament to her vocal brilliance. Her voices melt like butter over the psychedelic and groovy performance of “Underneath the Stars.” On other performances, it soars to ear-piercing high notes, earth-shattering lows and everywhere else in between. Two short years after this concert, she would debut a new voice with a beautiful, dark, husky rasp. The vocal acrobatics were still there, but now it was clear she was making a concentrated effort to produce them. It is a true treat for her fans to hear in high quality what many consider her best live performances.
Outside of the genre revelations and live performances, the album shows the fragility behind the superstar. Carey covers “Out Here on my Own” from the movie “Fame” in the fashion of a sparse one-take piano ballad. Recorded shortly after her Rainbow World Tour in 2000 and right before the “Glitter” era that would be marked by sampling scandals, associations with terrorism and a hospitalization, the song is Mariah at her most vulnerable.
The LP ends with an acoustic version of her 1997 song “Close My Eyes,” in which Carey describes herself as a “wayward child” who holds the weight of the world deep inside herself. Twenty-three years later with the release of “The Meaning of Mariah Carey” and “The Rarities,” that wayward child is truly liberated for the world to see.
Possible Image if published: