Time and again Mariah Carey has claimed she is "eternally twelve," but her most recent album, E=MC2 takes her fans back to 1989, when at the ingenue age of nineteen, her demos were up-tempo, her skirts were short, and figure was waify-- before Tommy and Sony got a hold of her and molded her into the ballad queen, putting her in high-necked but form-fitting dresses that made her look (and sound) much older than her years. The Mariah of E=MC2 is the not the sober, somber MC from "Close My Eyes," "Looking In," or "Outside;" she is fun, flirty, and seemingly the most comfortable in her own skin that she has ever been. "Touch My Body," then, a light-hearted, G-rated romp, was the perfect choice for the first single to showcase not only the place Mariah is in today but also to fit in nicely with the place radio is in today. It was no surprise that "Touch My Body" quickly soared to Number 1, making it Mariah's eighteenth hit, and officially crowning her the biggest selling female artist of all time. After surpassing Elvis, Mariah was on track to take on the Fab Four themselves, but unfortunately her deeply personal "Bye Bye" never reached those same heights, holding Mariah at bay from that coveted nineteen.
Where "Touch My Body" was tongue-in-cheek and kitschy, "Bye Bye" was a regression to her early nineties debut on the music scene. For the true lambs, this was Classic Mariah at her best: emotional and chock full of the powerhouse five-octave notes that made her a superstar. For newer listeners and the ones who wrote her off during the tumultuous 2001 escapades, though, "Bye Bye" was a little too old-school. Radio may be almost dead in its traditional sense, with MTV, VH1, and BET following suit (their line-up boasts so many reality shows now that their On-Demand channel doesn't even offer videos anymore!), but the Internet has busted open the music industry, introducing potential new fans to artists they might never have found without the aid of MySpace or iTunes. And unfortunately, the Internet is a very vapid, superficial place. With thirty second preview clips offered, there has to be a solid (usually fast-paced) hook to get "the kids" coming back, as most of them want light-hearted, at times comical, joints that they can bump in their cars just as they would in the clubs.
With a deep bass driving beat and equally deep romantic lyrics, Mariah's just-announced third single off E=MC2, "Love Story," stands a better shot than the death-laden "Bye Bye" at turning into her next Number 1. Both are stripped-down songs returning to reliance on the simplicity of a strong vocal-- even the video for "Bye Bye" features the normally glitter-glam Mariah in a simple pair of jeans and white tee. Returning to her roots as a storyteller, Mariah no longer uses a million and one metaphors (to this day most don't realize "Vision of Love" was about the power of God) to tell her stories. In "Love Story," she weaves a tale of a young couple as they come together after time just specific enough to raise eyebrows about her own relationship ("And then his friends/Said "it's too soon to settle down"/And then her friends/Said "he's a playa, slow it down...") and just general enough to create yet another one for the prom play list.
And that's what Mariah's lambs love most about her: the intricacy with which she can weave details of her own sagas into songs that really could be speaking to just about any (and every)one. Will that translate into widespread, mainstream success, though? For the casual listener, as long as they're entertained, they don't really care how, and in today's frenetic, ADD-laded society, what entertains is often only the flashy. "Love Story's" climb on the charts may rely very heavily on its video then, so though I never thought I'd say this, Mariah's camp would be well-advised to follow a little more in Bret Ratner's lead of "Touch My Body" than the home movie route of "Bye Bye."