Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The summer jam that's about to rewrite the Billboard record books

Posted By on 05.21.13 at 02:47 PM

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As with most pop stars, there is a multitude of personalities contained within the concept of Mariah Carey: the giddy ear-candy dispenser, the melismatic melodramatist, the self-obsessed wannabe movie star, the surprisingly capable prank caller. One of my favorite Mariahs is the one who's obsessed with old Brill Building pop, and who occasionally gets to take charge and release an unabashed tribute to the girl group era as a single. (And those occasionally become important parts of her catalog.)

That's the Mariah who just put out a song called "#Beautiful" with critically adored R&B singer, drugs liker, and animated gif star Miguel. With its echo-drenched backbeat, twanging guitars, and stacked backup vocals, despite the self-consciously modern title it's one of the most straightforwardly retro singles that Carey's ever released, and offers further proof that Amy Winehouse continues to have a stronger influence on contemporary R&B (not to mention hip-hop) than a lot of people are willing to give her credit for.

Carey can probably relate, as she's rarely appreciated for her talents outside of singing, looking pretty, and selling phenomenal amounts of records. I can imagine that it must be frustrating to have had a hand in writing and producing enough number one singles to beat Elvis Presley for second place in the Billboard record books and only be known as the person who sang them. By my count this is her 37th song to appear on the Hot 100, a collection of music representing a fantastically broad and deep range of music styles and textures, and it will no doubt be the 37th where the credit will be widely given to the faceless men who supposedly manipulate her like a big, platinum-selling puppet.

Lingering bitterness over a snobby and misogynistic popular misconception of Mariah aside, "#Beautiful" is about as perfectly enjoyable a song as an artist can drop in the anticipatory weeks before summer kicks in. It was released back on May 7 and underperformed at first, but every day that's brought us closer to Memorial Day it's done better. After a couple of weeks it finally made its debut on the Hot 100. Right now it's at number 24, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it climb with the temperature. If it cracks the Top 10 she'll be tied with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. And I wouldn't be surprised if it made it to number one, which would put her just one chart-topping single away from the Beatles. They'd be in great company.

Miles Raymer writes about what's on the charts on Tuesday.

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