#1 To Eternity

Mariah Carey

Columbia/Epic/Legacy, 2015

http://www.mariahcarey.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/10/2015

At this point, one would expect a solid single-disc Mariah Carey collection on the market, but no such compilation exists. The two double-disc titles have the same tracklist and are just too much for most non-fans, while #1 came out in 1998 when Mariah was still very popular and served as a capstone for the first eight years of her career.

#1 To Eternity attempts the single-disc career definition but falls a bit short on several counts. First, 13 of the 19 songs were on the first collection because, well, they round up all the top hits exclusively, and it's not really worth buying an entirely new disc for six songs unless you're a big fan of those post-1998 hits. Second, the original collection rounded out its tracklist with a couple of new songs and personal favorites; taken with the big numbers, it presented a balanced, solid collection that proved Carey was among the best singers and divas of her generation. Here, all 18 songs were #1 hits, with the new song "Infinity" tacked on to entice fans.

The problem with this limited approach is that Carey's best songs weren't always the top hits, most notably the personal, soulful "Butterfly," the chunky multi-tracked "It's Like That," the early geeky dance-pop number "Make It Happen," the dub-inflected "Daydream Interlude" (an album cut, sure, but it's still good), Christmas favorite "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and the Whitney Houston duet "When You Believe." Any of these would have given this a little more personality than a strict diet of the top hits.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On the other hand, the packaging and notes take great pains to tell the audience that Carey has the most solo #1 hits of any artist in history, eclipsed only by the Beatles, and it's hard to argue with a collection that has all of them in one place. The early songs still sound like Houston-lite, showcasing a great talent in search of great material, and it wasn't until 1993’s Music Box that she came into her own with "Hero" and "Dreamlover." The Jackson 5 cover "I'll Be There" remains an early career highlight, the Boyz II Men duet "One Sweet Day" is one of the finest ballads of the ‘90s and "Always Be My Baby," "Honey" and "My All" showed Carey at the top her form as a songwriter and singer.

The material post-Butterfly is hit or miss; the Jay-Z duet "Heartbreaker" is fine, but "Thank God I Found You," "We Belong Together" and "Don't Forget About Us" are just more ballads in a career full of them. Plus, it was around this time that those whom Carey had influenced were starting to outshine her, as evidenced by her seeming desire to look and sing like Beyoncé around 2005 and the picture on the back of this disc which I thought, at first glance, was a glamour shot of J-Lo. As for the new song, "Infinity" doesn't offer anything new but shows off Carey's considerable, legendary vocal range, which is evidently back in full force after the toll that touring took on her in the early 2000s.

Caveat emptor, though: As with the original collection, the radio and album version of "Fantasy" that everyone knows and loves is replaced with the O.D.B. remix, which not only strips the song of its appeal but jumbles up the verses, chorus, and interludes in random orders. It's barely coherent as a song and there's no reason to include it over the much more beloved, much better original (also, for newcomers, the song is built on the old ‘80s Tom Tom Club song "Genius Of Love," in case you were wondering).

Released to coincide with Carey's Vegas appearance, #1 To Infinity is a fine choice for the casual Carey fan who just wants the biggest hits, but those seeking to really get the gist of her career should stick with the double-disc Essential to get the full picture.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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