Mariah Carey, “Caution”
What do you get when you cross early–2000s pop production with millennial slang? Mariah Carey’s fifteenth studio album, Caution. The project opens with Carey’s restrained vocals and soft, wavy synths in the dreamy cut “GTFO,” though it feels more like a tone-setting prologue than Chapter One: If you don’t love Mariah, “how about you get the fuck out?” The album’s groove picks up at the DJ Mustard–produced lead single “With You,” a sexy love ballad about tuning out relationship hurdles. Piano chords ease into the melody before a prominent kick drum and finger-snap beat carry the slow song.
The titular track, which is equal parts diva-esque confidence and physical yearning, maps out Carey’s romantic standards: It doesn’t matter how badly she wants you, she’ll leave you in the dust if you don’t approach her with caution. Unfortunately, it seems Carey chose to take the cautious route herself. The singer’s characteristic vocal range that marked throwback hits like “We Belong Together” and “Always Be My Baby” is substantially more subdued this time around. Carey’s sotto voce coos are soothing as ever, but it’s clear she played it safe.
At low points, excessively mawkish metaphors teeter the line between comical and cringy. In “Stay Long Love You,” the vocalist pleads, “I like the way you’re movin’ / Come fill me with your music.” Worse, in “One Mo’ Gen” Carey sings, “You give me that fever I keep tryna break.” Carey makes up for her less-than-perfect bars by sprucing up her pop with rappers who know how to spit; the rapped verses lend themselves nicely to Carey’s love- and sex-heavy storytelling, mimicking a conversation between the female chanteuse and her male admirers. Considering her decision to blend the old with the new, it also doesn’t come as a surprise that Caution samples the beat and Biggie’s verse from Lil Kim’s “Crush on You” (“A No No”), and features a seasoned emcee like Slick Rick (“Giving Me Life”) and twenty-five-year-old Gunna (“Stay Long Love You”).
While this project doesn’t compare to Carey’s standout albums—Butterfly and The Emancipation of Mimi, specifically—Caution proves she is still capable of assembling a decent collection of R&B–infused pop songs almost three decades into her career. Like a brisk walk around the block, Carey’s latest moves with ease.