Mariah Carey

Triple Feature

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One of several collections which packages various Mariah Carey albums together, this 2010 Triple Feature compiles her 1993 sophomore Emotions, 1997's R&B reinvention Butterfly, and her last release via Sony/Columbia Records, 1999's Rainbow. While the decade they were recorded in might be the only apparent connection between the three, this value-for-money set still highlights the changing musical path of her '90s career, where she began as a squeaky-clean soul-pop balladeer and ended as a high-maintenance hip-hop diva. Second LP Emotions revealed that there was more to her than just a five-octave vocal range, as unlike her self-titled debut, she co-wrote and co-produced all of its ten tracks with the likes of Carole King (the gospel-fused "If It's Over"), Grammy Award-winner Walter Afanasieff (power ballad "And You Don't Remember"), and C&C Music Factory's Civilles & Cole (the funky "Make It Happen") on a highly polished affair which showcased her glass-shattering voice. Four albums later, and Butterfly saw her fully embrace her urban sensibilities, teaming up with the likes of Puff Daddy, Missy Elliott, and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony on a more R&B-flavored effort which was seen as a defiant two fingers up to the alleged controlling regime of former husband and manager Tommy Mottola, whom she'd recently separated from. Less bombastic than her previous output, it's a surprisingly restrained but effortlessly slick combination of seductive slow jams ( "Babydoll" ), introspective ballads ("Close My Eyes"), and smooth hip-hop ("Honey"), which also includes a sultry cover of Prince's "The Beautiful Ones" with Dru Hill, and the Elton John-sampling disco anthem "Fly Away (Butterfly Reprise)." But whereas Butterfly felt like a subtle natural progression, follow-up Rainbow went straight for the jugular, with a never-ending cast list of cameos from some of the era's biggest R&B stars, including Usher ("How Much"), Snoop Dogg ("Crybaby"), and Mystikal ("Did I Do That"). "Heartbreaker," the infectious Staci Lattisaw-sampling collaboration with Jay-Z, remains one of her best and most underrated singles, while "X-Girlfriend" is a convincing attempt at Destiny's Child-esque staccato-led R&B, but the whole project feels slightly more calculated and desperate than its predecessor, while the slushy ballads also return disappointedly on not just one, but two dreadful renditions of Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" and "Thank God I Found You" a sickly duet with 98 Degrees and Joe. If you're looking for her biggest hit-laden album (Music Box) or her most consistent (The Emancipation of Mimi), you should look elsewhere, but this Triple Feature contains more than enough material to justify her superstar reputation.

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