Mariah Carey is out with her 15th studio album (!) in time for the holidays with a major change in game plan for the best-selling female artist of all time. With Caution, she’s pulled back from vocal acrobatics and showy high notes — Mimi’s signatures — and moved on to something subtler, yet still grooving in a ’90s R&B fashion, for her five-octave range.
The flickering trap-funk of “A No No” — sampling Lil Kim’s famed “Crush on You” — and “Giving Me Life” [with old-school MC Slick Rick and new-school avant-garde soul man Blood Orange) are the two most delicious moments of ’90s recall on an album touched by nostalgia. The No I.D.–produced Caution is filled with sensual relationship demands (“I need you closer to love me harder”) and a jittery rhythm that would’ve felt at home on any Destiny’s Child album. That said, Caution isn’t stuck in time or good romance. The contemporary chord changes on the piano-driven “Portrait” sound wind-driven and propelled. The shouted-down “GTFO” has a bedrock groove and dreamy ambiance, and the spare, airy “The Distance” is slick electronic soul of the highest, most elegant order. She may be wonky on occasion, but never mess with Mimi when it comes to getting storming, sleek R&B right. -- A.D. Amorosi
Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.
Maybe the reunion with guitar monster James Iha, bringing three-fourths of the old magic back into the fold, and a tour promising only the old (good) stuff, was enough to make you check on Infowars-supporting, D’arcy Wretsky-gaslighting Billy Corgan in 2018. Because it sure wasn’t their album Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. Plus maybe even the concise, how-could-he-screw-it-up run time of 32 minutes. But these onetime, er, zeitgeist, heroes are still fully commandeered by Corgan, whose nasal drip is mixed terribly loud on “Marchin’ On” and who has no riffs nor thoughts left worth entertaining. Rick Rubin even-keels all the force out of Jimmy Chamberlin’s still-combustible drumming, and only the canned Pixies riffage of “Solara” approaches the intense old times on the worst-titled album in a career of contenders. And yet it’s fully listenable, even radio-ready, which some will term a success. But Corgan’s lying about the past, may have a point about his future, and could use a little sun. — Dan Weiss