Mariah Carey – Vision of Love

First Hit #1: August 4, 1990

The Canadian band Stars recently released a song called A Song as a Weapon. If this is the case, what weapon would artists represent? Whitney Houston is probably a rocket-propelled grenade, even if she’s far off target she had enough power to make an impact. Keeping with the era, Janet Jackson would probably be a small handgun, effective when used properly, but not particularly powerful. Today’s subject, Mariah Carey, would have to be a sniper rifle. She’s got a lot of range, and she can be used effectively when someone knows what to do with that range, but when she’s off target it can be a disaster.

Vision of Love, for the most part, isn’t a disaster, but it is a case study of what is right, and what is wrong, with Mariah Carey overall. What is right is the majority of the song, she’s got a good voice, and when she’s showing some restraint she can connect to the vocal and even give it a bit of pathos that it might not otherwise have. She even does her own backing vocal, which is sufficiently different from the lead to give the song texture – Carey is great when layered, possibly because she has that impressive range. Overall, it’s nudging towards being over the top, but it’s a pretty good ballad in an early ’90s mold, at least for a little while. But, unfortunately, because she’s got that range, she’s got to show off, so at about the three minute mark she has to break off and sing all the notes. Now, instead of hitting the target she takes out the windows of city hall and accidentally wounds a passing cyclist.

Vision of Love is a great showcase of Carey’s voice, and also evidence that maybe someone should tell her she doesn’t need to use all of it all the time.

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One Response to Mariah Carey – Vision of Love

  1. RBerman says:

    She would have achieved Roxette-level fame just by standing in front of the camera and offering her smouldering pout in some inconsequential duet with Glenn Medeiros. But this was the opening of her first album, her debut to the world, so it also serves as a purpose statement for her career, like “Part of Your World” in The Little Mermaid, or “I’m Eighteen” by Alice Cooper. Thus she gives us samples from the whole Carey buffet: gospel melisma, whistle tones, octave jumps, everything. It’s like the overture of a musical that’s still going on 25 years later.

    It’s been a while since a gospel song (and a really long while since a 12/8 song) hit the top. Most of hers follow Ray Charles in redirecting the passion earthward, but occasionally (e.g. Make It Happen; When You Believe) her lyrics match the music instead of subverting it.

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