The Lowdown: While others were too busy sharing “I don’t know her” GIFS, roasting her New Year’s Eve performance fiasco, and considering the benefits of bathing in milk, Mariah Carey was preparing for the release of Caution, written with the haters and disbelievers in mind. The album is Carey’s first since 2014’s Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse, which, like its title, was lengthy and incohesive. Caution is a more concise, controlled take on Carey’s hip-hop-infused pop, conveying a level of maturity that can only come from existing as a hit-making recording artist for nearly three decades.
The Good: From Caution’s first track, “GTFO”, Carey insists that she has no time for the BS — not even enough time to spell it out for you. She maintains this attitude on “A No No”, sampling fellow legendary savage Lil Kim as she dishes out diss after diss, informing her doomed victim, “After everything I already been through/ I can’t waste no time, pay no attention to you.” Assisted by a cheerleading squad and Ty Dolla $ign on “The Distance”, Carey dismisses haters she’s never even met who doubted her relationship, declaring: “But the hate only made us get closer.”
Ever since 1997’s Butterfly, Carey has recruited up-and-coming musicians to add hip-hop grooves to her previously soul-pop sound. She continues this by including frequent Drake collaborator Nineteen85 and featuring rapper Gunna, who is best known for “Drip Too Hard”, a track he released this fall with Lil Baby. Carey balances these rising voices with the musicians of her own era, adding a verse from Slick Rick to “Giving Me Life”, a warm, alluring track produced by Blood Orange that highlights Carey’s lower vocal range.
The Bad: Although Carey mostly maintains a balance between the new and the old on Caution, her trendy word choice feels disingenuous at times. A profession of love is cheapened by the line “Damn I fucks with you,” and when she demands, “Take your things and be on your merry way” on “GTFO”, it’s difficult to tell if she’s serious. The latter half of Caution (“8th Grade”, “Stay Long Love You”) is mostly forgettable, lacking in the catchy choruses and drama-fueled lyricism that make the initial tracks so addictive.
The Verdict: It is not often that an artist’s fifteenth album can capture current trends in pop and hip-hop without sacrificing the ideas and talents that made their career so successful in the first place. Previously, Mariah Carey has made it clear that she’s been through too much to care what anyone else thinks, shrugging off critics and denying all drama. On Caution, Carey has channeled that energy into the music itself. She won’t let your opinions on her antics get to her, but she might end up turning them into a song.
Essential Tracks: “GTFO”, “A No No”, and “Giving Me Life”