Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Is a Little More Funk Too Much to Ask?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Is a Little More Funk Too Much to Ask?

Article excerpt

Mariah Carey

Daydream (Columbia)

Right now, Mariah Carey is the poor little rich girl of pop. She was warmly received when she made her debut, but now Carey must sing in a world where it's become fashionable to bash her. She attracted more scorn and skepticism when she married Tommy Mottola, head honcho of Sony Records. What better way for Carey to counter her critics than by launching a brave step in a different direction?

Alas, Mariah has other plans.

A first glance at the credits of her new CD turned up surprising and intriguing new names like Adrian Belew, Tina Weymouth and Babyface, so a bold artistic statement did seem possible. But Belew and Weymouth are merely sampled, and Babyface appears just once.

Carey's first single, "Fantasy," is currently burning up the pop charts but it's ultimately forgettable. It's noisy, irritating and turns Tom-Tom Club's "Genius of Love" into the same treacly bubblegum it once successfully parodied. "One Sweet Day" is a duet performed with and co-written by Boyz II Men. Beautiful voices abound, but they all are undone by the trite, cliche-ridden lyrics.

"Underneath The Stars" is the only Carey composition that really works here. It easily evokes a languid, dreamy sensuality, and its throbbing bass line and Carey's soft, confident vocals could make this a quiet-storm staple.

The best songs here are Carey's collaborations with Babyface and Jermaine Dupri, one of R&B's hottest producers. "Melt Away," written with Babyface, is a superior cut, highlighted by Babyface's trademark smoothness.

"Long Ago," a Dupri project, boasts a funky backbeat reminiscent of the best '70s soul music. It features a blacker, more rhythmic groove, the kind of sound that could rescue Carey from pop purgatory. She needs to pursue more collaborations that encourage her to get on the goodfoot, to favor funk over the predictable pap of pop.

Collaboration is the operative word here: Initially, Carey's insistence on penning all her lyrics herself was admirable, and helped distinguish her from similar-sounding singers such as Whitney Houston. Now, though, Carey's unchanging themes seem more like an excuse for self-indulgence. It's time for a change.

Jabari Asim

Nine Stories

Lisa Loeb (Geffen)

Those who grew misty-eyed over Lisa Loeb's treacly hit "Stay (I Missed You)" can now revel in that masterwork and a whole disc of similar Loeb-isms. Against a background of soft-rocking, semi-acoustic folk-pop, Loeb emerges as one of the great lyric poets of the age. In a little girl's voice, she spews forth such gobble-de-gook as "Sometimes you tell the truth like you're pulling taffy," and "Do you take plight on my tongue like lead?" and my personal favorite, "Are we still swimming to water that was wet?"

Hell if I know, Lisa. Do fish sneeze? Loeb's lyrics are so exquisitely bad they nearly rival the stupefying ramblings of the folk-punk duo the Murmurs, who win the idiot songwriter division only because there are two of them and only one of Loeb. It should be noted that both the Murmurs and Loeb emerged, in part, from the contemporary Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene, further proof that place has gone down the toilet since the halcyon days of Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs.

One last point on Loeb-on a purely aesthetic note, did the art department really think that a puke green color scheme for the cover art and disc would really be pleasing to the eye? On every count, this piece of twenty-nothing product leaves me illin'.

Chris Dickinson

All You Can Eat

k.d. lang (Warner Bros.)

k.d. lang continues to distance herself from her country background with this long-awaited follow-up to her pop breakthrough, "Ingenue." And, as on that 1992 release, the intimate songs on "All You Can Eat" are darkly atmospheric, mid-tempo or slow numbers best heard late at night with your crush nearby. …

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