One of her best, including some of her best vocals
The film “Glitter” wasn’t a catastrophe, but it is no more than a camp classic - a smart idea for a pseudo-biopic that veered off course and became mildly touching but inconsequential...it’s a highly watered-down “Purple Rain.”
But Mariah the songstress is a genius, and lush, sumptuous ballads such as “Lead the Way” and “Never Too Far” - two of her best songs of any album or era - underscore this perfectly. She has never sounded better, and her lyrics have never been stronger.
“Reflections” is a gorgeous, heartbreaking summation of her character Billie’s inner struggle to be loved, the Rick James-penned “All My Life” brings you right back to the final days of Studio 54 with orgasmic classic Mariah vocals and wobbly, frenetic 80s synthesizers. “Want You” is a sensuous, throbbing duet with the underrated Eric Benet that has more hooks than a tackle box.
“If We” with Nate Dogg and Ja Rule is irresistible - lore has it that Tommy Mottola heard it many months before the album’s release and borrowed liberally from its formula to confect “I’m Real” for Jennifer Lopez. (One could write an essay on how Jennifer’s career benefitted from intellectual property theft from Mariah during this era, but a Google search will do the trick - this is where their bad blood began. Imagine being Mariah and hearing your own unreleased song ideas playing on the radio sung by another singer.)
My personal favorite moment of the album is “Twister.” An achingly sad goodbye to Mariah’s friend Tonjua Twist who suddenly committed suicide while she was working on this project, “Twister” essentially takes a plaintive melody from the film score and puts a different lyric to it. Mariah makes you understand what this special woman was like and why her loss is so senseless, heartbreaking and all but impossible to accept. Her voice hangs naked and stark in the mix. She is at the apex of her artistry.
Mariah is, in a word, a genius. A tortured genius at that, who has suffered for it - hence the breakdown, and the coming out as bipolar. I call her the Van Gogh of Pop and R&B. “Glitter” as a soundtrack is long overdue for re-evaluation, and I’m so glad that’s finally happening, and of all times on the eve of a brand new album that appears to be the light at the end of a pretty dark tunnel that has lasted Mariah a few years. She at last seems to be content and happy again - something she richly deserves.
She is, in a word, a music industry legend. The general public seems to be finally catching on to that, and that’s a beautiful thing. Talent like this should never be taken for granted.