Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Diva-off: Mariah Carey vs JLo

album reviews

Their career trajectories may be entirely different, but American singers Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez have a lot in common. They’re both 44; they’ve both tried their hands at acting (to varying results); they’ve both been judges on American Idol. And it just so happens that they’ve both released new (and exceedingly mediocre) albums within weeks of each other.


Singer: Mariah Carey
Album: Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse

If first impressions were everything, then Mariah Carey’s new album would find itself at a severe disadvantage. Sure, the pop diva has never been best known for artistic album covers and catchy record titles, but things have reached a whole new level of ridiculous with her latest release, the absurdly titled Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse. But if you look past the photoshopped-beyond-recognition exterior and the fact that there is nothing “elusive” about this “chanteuse”, you are left with a set of songs that aren’t as shoddy as you would have expected at first, but neither are they adventurous or interesting in any way. The effort basically sounds both comfortable and stagnant at the same time.

Seemingly unconcerned with the latest trends that have taken over the musical landscape, Mariah stays within her comfort zone and doesn’t come up with anything particularly exciting. There is plenty of mid-tempo R&B on offer in this set which the singer co-produced with a host of collaborators (most prominently Bryan-Michael Cox and Jermaine Dupri). Nas, Miguel, Wale, and Fabolous are also on hand for guest appearances. The resulting material isn’t necessarily bad; it’s just unexceptional.

Mariah co-wrote all the songs on the album, with the exception of a gospel-tinged cover of George Michael’s ‘One More Try’, and there is an obvious desire to be self-reflective on the record. The attempts to be personal are most apparent on ‘Supernatural’, the ode to motherhood that excessively and gratingly samples her twins, Monroe and Moroccan. She seems relaxed in her delivery, and it is obviously no secret that the singer has an incredible vocal range, but the vocal gymnastics she often opts for aren’t always necessary; it’s the moments of balance that she finds between restraint and display that suit her best.

Highlights: ‘Thirsty’, ‘#Beautiful’
Rating: 2.5 out of 5


Singer: Jennifer Lopez
Album: A.K.A.

Jennifer Lopez may be the ultimate triple threat, but her career has been quite uneven. Between her many projects as an actor, singer, dancer, producer, and designer, her attention seems to be too scattered for her to excel in any of these fields. And that problem becomes painfully apparent when you listen to her new album, A.K.A., a banal collection of urban flavoured dance pop that yearns for commercial success but isn’t even trying to give the listeners anything special and memorable.

The record has been put together with the help of numerous collaborators. Guests including T.I. (‘A.K.A.’), French Montana (‘I Luh Ya Papi’), Iggy Azalea (‘Acting Like That’), Rick Ross (‘Worry No More’), and Pitbull (‘Booty’) add hip hop flavours to the proceedings. The innuendo laden lyrics range from tacky to downright ridiculous, although to be fair, you wouldn’t exactly choose a JLo album if you were looking for depth and substance in the first place. The material is more palatable when it is served with some EDM beats. When the tempo slows down, the shortcomings of her vocals become more obvious; ballads, like ‘Let It Be Me’, would have probably worked much better for someone with more vocal range.

Ultimately, it’s a shame that her charisma doesn’t translate to her albums. Even if all Jennifer Lopez wants to do is make something as throwaway as A.K.A., she’d be wise to stick to the tempo and sound that plays to her strengths, and add more playfulness and fun to the mix.

Highlights: ‘A.K.A’, ‘I Luh Ya Papi’
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 9th July, 2014 *

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