Everyone’s got an opinion. If we’re lucky enough, we have the free will to express those opinions in public. That’s the appeal of social media platforms like Twitter, which serve as a conduit for mass dialogue spurred by opinions. It’s also the perfect place to make statements not backed by fact or nuance like blogger Perez Hilton did about Mariah Carey’s latest album.
On Friday, Carey released her 15th studio album Caution, a 10-track project that finds her working with talents like Jermaine Dupri, DJ Mustard, Blood Orange, and Timbaland. Called "pure hip-hop-leaning pop bliss" by Rolling Stone, the album illustrates Carey’s uncanny ability to write emotional lyrics coupled with uptempo production.
Caution delivers on Carey's indelible sass that we’ve come to expect from the 48-year-old with songs like “A No No” where she sings “Irregardless (yes, you read that non-word correct) of what transpired / It ain't even worthy of a slick reply / Even if I was the last woman alive / I would be like Ginger, you ain't Gilligan isle.” But also reminds us of her amazing ability to use nostalgia to capture the innocence of young love with songs like “8th Grade,” singing, “I'm that security when you're insecure / I'll be that baby girl when you're immature.”
Overall, Caution is a solid album. At its core, its rhythm and blues married with pop production—a combination Carey became the archetype for nearly three decades ago.
Soon after its release, Hilton tweeted his opinions of the album —having never listened to it. “In case you didn’t know, Mariah Carey has a new album out today,” he said to his 118,000 followers. “Sadly, she isn’t expected to debut in the top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.”
When told he was missing out on a “great R&B album” by a commenter, Hilton went on to say, “And another way she's not catering to her base! I've always preferred my Mariah pop. Her best work has consistently been her pop output,” followed by, “Pop music is vast. I'm not saying go for radio or go dance. I'm just saying that R&B Mariah is so played out. She's done that for over a decade now. I think many of her old fans miss the other kinds of songs.” Hilton went on to proclaim that Carey’s only major hits have been pop songs.
Hilton was wrong. And in fact, Carey's first hit singles foreshadowed an artist who was deeply connected to genres beyond pop.
In September of 1990, Carey had her first number one song on the Billboard charts with “Vision of Love.” The song off of her debut, self-titled album spent 22 weeks on the music charts and was considered contemporary R&B. Carey went on to have 17 additional number one hits and 34 Grammy nominations in R&B, pop, and gospel genres. Carey has sang alongside Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin but also made records with hip-hop talents Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, Diddy, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. As noted by Noisey, Beyoncé cites Carey’s runs on “Vision of Love” as her template for experimenting with the range of her own voice, Ariana Grande has said Carey was a “huge influence” to her career, and Carey is one of the best-selling female artists of all time.
To have lasted so long and garnered so many accolades, Carey had to have appeal beyond sticking to one genre alone for cross-cultural notoriety. Yes, she was a marketing dream when she first hit the scene having mainstream appeal as a biracial singer with an eight-octave range. But make no mistake—with Aretha Frankin, Gladys Knight, and the Clark Sisters as influences—Carey’s “base” has always been rooted in Black music that has heavily influenced several genres, including pop.
And while some may think her work has evolved in the wrong direction, Carey’s longevity and consistency in the music industry is exemplary—regardless of where this current album falls on the charts. Carey has done the work and it speaks for itself.
Before we jump on the internet and slander artists, it's critical to understand that music is a young person’s sport. Mass appeal tends to lean toward new, younger talent while maturing artists often struggle to stay relevant with sales, consequently, reflecting this preference. Carey’s legacy, which is firmly rooted in Black culture, cannot be minimized to one genre or one moment in time.