Mariah Carey – Mariah Carey (1990): Review

Produced by Mariah Carey, Rhett Lawrence, Ric Wake, Narada Michael Walden, Ben Margulies, & Walter Afanasieff
Label – Columbia

When then President of Columbia Records Don Ienner triumphantly announced “For this particular time, she is my number one priority. We don’t look at her as a dance-pop artist. We look at her as a franchise.” there’s a sense that the teenage singer was about to be thrust into the market with little compromise to her own artistic integrity, and typically be used as a business opportunity and brand. At the time the record label had made it clear they were looking for an artist that would compete with Whitney Houston (Arista) and Madonna (Sire), and one only has to listen to the top selling single “There’s Got To Be A Way” to appreciate the intention. Musically, it’s a shallow pastiche of a signature song from each (Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, and Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”), and identifies the singer as a marketable commodity with a good look and the right connections (Columbia boss Tommy Mottola). Fortunately there is just enough conviction in Carey’s powerful voice to briefly pull one’s attention away from the awful production job and cliché ridden content, and in at least a couple of songs show a potential that would lead to further more satisfying pop records than this very ordinary debut.

Debut single “Vision Of Love” will have been the first introduction to the five octave singer from New York. Deliberately fashioned in R&B from the 60s, it is an astonishing and enchanting achievement and thoroughly deserved its Grammy award winning status. Carey’s voice rises, falls, from tenderness to rousing crescendo, and the much used melismatic melody she has employed all too often is for once force fully justified. The self produced “Vanishing” is another highlight as the singer delivers a convincing gospel styled piano ballad that shines brighter than any of the dreadfully over produced pap that makes up much of the remainder of the record. A host of “top” producers of the time smother the songs in a cheap veneer of synth blasts and processed rhythms. It would have been interesting to hear these songs in their demo form, co-written and performed with Ben Margulies, long before Mottola and the suits at Columbia put their corporate influence on the record.

A teenage starlet carefully monitored and mentored by men in conservative clothing, and whose idea of musical progress was purely measured by the sales graph. One wonders if Mariah Carey willingly played the game or was an unwitting part of it? One hint: she ended up marrying the record label boss. She’s surely no victim.


Track Listing
1 – Vision Of Love 9
2 – There’s Got To Be Away 4
3 – I Don’t Wanna Cry 5
4 – Someday 6
5 – Vanishing 8
6 – All In Your Mind 4
7 – Alone In Love 4
8 – You Need Me 5
9 – Sent From Up Above 6
10 – Prisoner 4
11 – Love Takes Time 5

Vision Of Love

There’s Got To Be A Way



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