If one ever doubts that money can buy a hit, look no further than Mariah Carey's first single for Virgin, Loverboy. The song, when released to radio, was critically slammed and received very little airplay, causing it to languish in the lower regions of the U.S. pop and R&B charts. Weeks later, when the single was finally released, the regular two-track single was aggressively priced at an unheard of 49 cents, causing the song to rocket to number one on the R&B charts and to number two on the pop charts. If ever a hit was bought, this is it, because, based on airplay alone, the song would have tanked. The original version of "Loverboy," which heavily samples Cameo's 1980s hit, "Candy" (in an era when sampling was quickly becoming passé), is nothing short of an absolute mess. The vocals are indecipherable, and the results barely equal a song. The hip-hop mix (track two on the maxi-single) is a little better due to charismatic raps courtesy of Da Brat, Ludacris, Shawnna, and Twenty II, and also because it relies less on the overbearing Cameo sample. Carey, however, always seems to float above the muck when it comes to dance mixes, and here she enlists MJ Cole to transform this half-song into a British two-step dance track, and the results are pretty good. The music is great, but when the song itself actually surfaces, it comes off sounding more like a nursery rhyme than anything else, highlighting the tune's obvious shortcomings. Still, it may have been wiser and more forward-thinking to have issued the MJ Cole version of "Loverboy" as the official single version -- at least that would have made for a musically adventurous choice on Carey's part. Besides a couple of fun MJ Cole dub versions, this single also includes a house remix of "Loverboy" (the "Club of Love Remix"), which, although not as engaging as earlier dance remixes of Carey hits such as "Fantasy," "Dreamlover," and "Honey," still ranks higher than the tepid single version (although at times the dance mix brings to mind a dying locomotive desperately trying to remain on track). After 11 years as a reigning pop queen, one would expect much more from Mariah Carey.
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AllMusic Review by Jose F. Promis