This morning, Mariah Carey released what is expected to be the lead single from her as-yet-untitled 14th studio album. Its title—"#Beautiful"—is a hashtag, and an indistinct one at that, but I guess #ReasonsWhyMariahIsAPrettyPrincess doesn't have the right pop ring.
"#Beautiful" is a wisely chosen duet with R&B darling Miguel that he co-produced to mimic a distorted '60s soul song. It's less obvious than a cookie-cutter Motown throwback, and the heaviness of the production nicely contrasts with the song's sweetness. Its hook steadily mounts in a way that make a midtempo R&B single feel exciting. Here it is:
You'll notice that until the 1:30 point, almost halfway through "#Beautiful," Mariah is the backup singer/vocal curlicue-maker/chuckler of her own song. Miguel, who has racked up several hits since Mariah's last (2009's "Obsessed"), sings the first verse. If you weren't paying attention to the semantics (check how the single cover above says that the song is "starring Mariah Carey"), you'd think it were his track.
Mariah made a similar, albeit more gratuitously absent, move last summer when she released "Triumphant (Get 'Em)," which featured Rick Ross and Meek Mill on the verses and her on the hook and short bridge. That song flopped, as did her solo single earlier this year from The Great and Powerful Oz, "Almost Home." Mariah was bred to be a hitmaker (her first five singles went to No. 1), her chart statistics as synonymous with her career as her signature high notes. When she isn't at the top, her career and the identity that comes with it is malfunctioning. After her music career took its first nosedive with 2001's Glitter project and 2002's less successful Charmbracelet, she returned to the U.S. Top 10 in 2003 by guesting on Busta Rhymes' "I Know What You Want."
Mariah needs a hit like a billionaire needs a third mansion. Here she's angling for chart domination by giving us less of her, reducing her presence for the sake of keeping up appearances. She is a self-obsessed diva like no other.