Mariah Carey Sings the Prince Songbook

Posted by Al Barger on September 02, 2005 05:30 PM (See all posts by Al Barger)

Mariah Carey surely isn't any kind of critics favorite, but you can't deny her popularity with fans. As I write she's got the #1 AND #2 singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

Her omnipresence caused me to break down and actually give several close repeated listens to her smash The Emancipation of Mimi album. My perhaps somewhat harsh review drew forth a surprisingly strong response from Mariah's "lambs," some of whom are pretty vicious for gentle sheep.

Still, this resulted in a vigorous and partly useful discussion of the better and worse aspects of Ms Carey. Really, she does have a pretty impressive vocal instrument. Some fans make a big point of defending her also on the grounds that she writes her own songs, unlike some and such other pop singers.

But that's just the problem. She's surely got the instrument, and maybe she can sing- but it's hard telling because her songs just suck. Ray Charles Himself could not have sold me on these Mimi songs.

That's not really an indictment of Mariah Carey. Singing and songwriting are significantly different talents. Kris Kristofferson is one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, but he just cannot sing. He's writing absolute all time standards like "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Sunday Morning Coming Down," but still can't make a listenable album.

From the other side, pretty much everyone agrees that Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra were among the greatest singers in the history of recorded music. However, they weren't songwriters. If Sinatra had insisted on writing his own material instead of interpreting the works of master writers, he would probably have sucked.

Perhaps then it would behoove Mariah to recast herself at least for a minute as an interpreter of song. Put them fancy pipes to work on some real songs.

In the spirit of Ella's famous songbook series, then, Mariah might do some good and even improve her critical rep not just covering, but interpreting the Prince catalogue, the greatest r&b song roster of the modern era (or ever).

She's probably not going to be comfortable or have a natural fit for some of his more sexually explicit or otherwise outre songs. I don't see her singing "Sexy MF." The freaky religious stuff is probably out of her emotional range and commercial comfort zone. The more rock oriented stuff probably wouldn't work for her, so no "Let's Go Crazy." Plus, there are a couple of his songs with seeming definitive covers. Unless she's got some whole different take on them, it probably wouldn't behoove her to do "Nothing Compares 2U" or "I Feel for You."

However, she could probably do some good with the fluttery melodrama of "Condition of the Heart" or "Sometimes It Snows in April." It's a great song which I've never heard covered at all. Drama queen that she is, what about taking a pass at "When Doves Cry"?

One might just as soon puke as to hear "We Belong Together" one more time. Prince obviously has some much better breakup songs. "I Wish U Heaven" might come off much better, or "Anotherloverholenyohead."

The more far out religious sentiments of "7" are way out of range for Mariah, but if she were feeling a bit adventurous, she could do some good with "4 the Tears in Your Eyes" or, stretching it a bit, take a crack at "The Ladder."

She's been somewhat removed from the roots, seemingly due to commercial calculation, but she's from some branch of gospel singing. Thus, she could potentially do interesting things with Prince's non-religious gospel songs, starting with the obvious "Purple Rain."

She could use some good dance floor call-outs like the largely unheard "The Work, Pt 1." What might she do with "Elephants and Flowers" or "New Power Generation"?

Definitely, Prince has a lot of great r&b love ballads that would work really well for her. "Adore" for one has never gotten the proper respect.

By style both musical and fashion, you could definitely see her trying on that coat of "Pink Cashmere" in the video. Mmm. That starts to make me actually WANT to hear Mariah Carey sing. Likewise, it could work out interesting to see a slight lyrical recasting with her as the narrator wearing that "Raspberry Beret." Either way, "Diamonds and Pearls" would definitely go nicely with the outfit.

The X stuff is obviously out, but depending on her comfort level, think of her getting "Scandalous." Stylistically, "When 2R in Love" would work nicely. Not sure how she could do with the passions of it, but her technical skills would be well suited to the tricky melodic turns of the underappreciated stone classic buried album track "Joy in Repitition."

She likes to call her fans "lambs," thus seemingly casting herself as a shepherd. Like that other Great Shepherd, she might suffer the little children to come unto her singing the joyous and insanely catchy "Starfish and Coffee." Lacking the lascivious history of Mr Nelson, she could probably get this on Nickelodeon a la the White Stripes with "My Doorbell," thus hooking a new generation of fans young.

Here then is my modest proposal for an album of Mariah singing Prince.

Mariah Carey Sings the Prince Songbook
Diamonds and Pearls
The Work, Pt 1
Joy in Repitition
4 the Tears in Your Eyes
Purple Rain
When 2R in Love
New Power Generation
Pink Cashmere
Elephants and Flowers
Condition of the Heart
When Doves Cry
I Wish U Heaven
Sometimes It Snows in April
Another Lonely Christmas
Starfish and Coffee

nude Mariah Carey photo


Prince Rogers Nelson playing guitar


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