Does Mariah Carey’s ‘Glitter’ Sparkle After All These Years?

Once described as “the pop equivalent of Chernobyl,” Mariah Carey’s soundtrack to Glitter has since been redeemed by fans who successfully campaigned for it to top the charts with a ten thousand percent sales increase earlier this month.

Speaking to Good Morning America, the Elusive Chanteuse thanked her “Lambily” for this unexpected revival of her most maligned work, grateful that #justiceforglitter had finally been won. During the interview, Mariah revealed that she stopped performing songs from Glitter because “it almost ruined my life,” but 17 years later, she can finally acknowledge that it was “actually a really good album.”

When the Glitter soundtrack was first released on September 11, 2001, the world wasn’t ready to celebrate much of anything, let alone the camp 80s excess that sparkled throughout Mariah’s first movie project. Unfortunately, the Imperfect Angel’s very public breakdown and the film’s subsequent box office failure further tainted the release of her eighth album.

Almost two decades later, Mariah’s finally ready to sing the praises of Glitter, but is it “actually a really good album” or are the fans just blinded by the shiny glare of a good redemption story?

“Loverboy”/ “Loverboy (Remix)” featuring Da Brat, Ludacris, Shawnna and Twenty II

Whichever version you’re listening to, there’s a lot going on in “Loverboy.” Behind the scenes, controversy loomed when Mariah’s ex-husband Tommy Mottola supposedly tried to sabotage its release and the remix crammed rappers into the song even more tightly then they crammed Mariah herself into those shorts for the video.

Somehow though, the Glitter star pulled it all together to create what would become the best selling song of 2001, proving that even at her supposed worst, Mariah was still better than everyone else.

Even without Da Brat’s killer bars or those almost inhuman whistle notes at the end, “Loverboy” will always remain Mariah’s most underrated lead single, thanks to the line “And when my sugar daddy takes me for a ride,” giving a whole new meaning to that sweet, sweet “Candy” sample.   

“Lead The Way”

We always knew that Mariah could sing, something that made the premise of Glitter itself tough to swallow. “Lead The Way” proves this point tenfold, more than any other song on the soundtrack, and while it might be one of Mariah’s more forgettable ballads, those runs around the three-minute mark onwards are anything but, gifting us with some of the best vocal runs that she’s produced this millennia. Who else but Mariah could hold a note for 21 seconds so effortlessly? Not bad for a Butterfly cast-off.

“If We” (featuring Ja Rule and Nate Dogg)

More than nuclear testing or global warming, the music industry’s faith in Ja Rule was perhaps humanity’s greatest mistake. Even at his peak during the early 2000s, his verses were mundane at best, and his work on this track fares even worse 17 years later.

Nothing about “If We” gels together or fits the theme of the album as a whole, which makes it even stranger that the song was included so early on in the track listing. Go check out “Crybaby” from the Rainbow album if you want to hear how a lullaby duet with rap’s elite should really sound.

“Didn’t Mean to Turn You On”

Four tracks in and Mariah finally lets her nostalgia flag fly with a cover of Cherrelle’s classic ’80s number, complete with the original instrumental helmed once again by producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Polished, assertive and sexy as hell, “Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” is Mariah at her most playful, scatting away over the chorus like an ’80s diva possessed.

“Don’t Stop (Funkin’ 4 Jamaica)” featuring Mystikal

We’re not sure how Mystikal slipped into the studio and just casually took over an entire song like this, but when it sounds so good, who are we to complain? Playing out like a number of her best hip-hop duets from this era, Mariah’s smooth hook strangely complements Mystikal’s brash delivery to create one of the album’s best singles. By the end of the video, even the other Mariahs are impressed too! It’s just a shame that “Don’t Stop” failed to chart at the time, proving once again that the general public doesn’t know a good song when they hear it.

“All My Life”

Given Mariah’s track record with men, the line “I have taken chances on romances once or twice” is perhaps the greatest understatement of our generation, but no matter. “All My Life” is still a sexy number nonetheless, which should have come as a surprise to no one considering that Rick James was heavily involved in the song’s creation, co-writing and producing the track with Mariah.

“Reflections (Care Enough)”

More than perhaps any other song on the album, “Reflections (Care Enough)” is directly tied to the story of Glitter, exploring the relationship that Mariah’s character shares with her mother in the film. However, it still stands tall as a beautiful, um, reflection of Mariah’s vocal talent for the most part. Just try to ignore the bit where it’s hinted that her character might have fared better if she’d been aborted in the womb. “A mother’s love / You could have had the decency / To give me up / Before you gave me life.” Yeesh.

“Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” featuring Busta Rhymes, Fabolous and DJ Clue

Both separately and together, Mariah Carey and Busta Rhymes are responsible for some of the greatest hip-hop collaborations ever recorded, but the inclusion of Bus-a-Bus here is entirely unnecessary. While Fabolous fits the groove of the song perfectly, Busta’s incessant shouting is far too distracting from Mariah’s seductive and tightly controlled vocals. It’s not easy to overshadow Ms. Carey at the best of times, and this might be why she’s usually so generous when it comes to guest features, but here Mariah would have shone far brighter alone.

“Want You” featuring Eric Benét

Although Eric Benét is better known as a Grammy-nominated singer and the ex-husband of one Ms. Halle Berry, he also made his acting debut in Glitter too, probably to his regret. One thing that he shouldn’t regret about his involvement in the project though is this duet, which seems to have been largely forgotten in the years since, despite the fact that its one of the smoothest out of all the ’80s inspired jams on the record.

“Never Too Far”

Never mind the ridiculous story that leads up to Mariah’s performance of “Never Too Far” in Glitter. Out of all the ballads featured in the soundtrack, this was supposed to be the signature one, but it unfairly flopped upon release thanks to Mariah’s breakdown and the subsequent lack of promotion. If there’s any song on Glitter that deserves justice and a whole new fan campaign of its very own, it’s “Never Too Far,” which deserves to be ranked up there with some of Mariah’s most timeless ballads.

“Twister”

By their very nature, soundtracks can often restrain artists by forcing them to stick to a script, but Mariah basically ignored everything that Glitter stood for with this final track, which served as a heartbreaking elegy to a fallen friend. Tonjua Twist was Mimi’s stylist for many years before she tragically took her own life in the spring of 2000, so it was vital that Mariah acknowledged her on this project, regardless of the overall theme.

The final verse would later take on even more significance in light of Mariah’s breakdown, which reveals her at her most vulnerable: “Yeah I’m feeling kind of fragile / And I’ve got a lot to handle / But I guess this is my way / Of saying goodbye.”

Glitter isn’t a perfect album by any means. Despite the fact that it was tied to a film of the same name, the record as a whole lacks focus, struggling to reconcile the ’80s vibe of the movie with the hip-hop sound of the early 2000s. Still, though, it’s actually far better than naysayers argued at the time, even if it doesn’t number among Mariah’s best.

Mariah told Elle that the decision to set Glitter in the ’80s was her idea and that she felt “strongly” about the concept, even though “Some of the executives were concerned that it was too soon.” Critics at the time might have rejected the Glitter soundtrack for the most part, but given how much ’80s nostalgia has since permeated pop culture, it just seems like Mariah was ahead of her time. It’s no wonder then that Glitter has finally found its audience, almost two decades later.

Just remember that if you don’t know Mariah at her least successful, then you don’t know her at all.

Glitter is available to download from iTunes.

Illustration by Bronwyn Lundberg


David Opie

David is a British journalist whose work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Highsnobiety, Little White Lies and Sleek Magazine. Passions include Xavier Dolan, 'Jessica Jones,' and endless re-runs of 'Call Me By Your Name.'

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