Picks and Pans Review: Music Box

updated 10/04/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/04/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey could make beautiful music singing from the Yellow Pages, but she should not have to. Unfortunately, as coproducer and cowriter of this, her first full-length album in two years (1992's Unplugged EP filled in the gaps between projects), the 24-year-old pop diva has only herself to blame. Music Box is a showcase for her artistic dilemma: great pipes, lame songs.

There are exceptions, like the current chart-topping single "Dream-lover." With its appealing girlish playfulness, it's the kind of breezy pop she excels at. Carey also shines on the gospel-tinged testimonial "Anytime You Need a Friend." And on a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Without You," she takes on a sensuality—in a lower register—that is often sacrificed for her "look Ma, no hands" vocal fireworks. But aside from these tracks and the taut "Never Forget You" (written with Babyface), the album's material is weak. The melodies lie limp and formless, waiting for the power of her fluid voice to give them shape. And lyrically Music Box may be the most insecure pop record in recent memory. Carey, who married Sony Music president Tommy Mottola last June, exudes a lack of self-esteem that's worthy of an Oprah! segment. Her lyrics ("I was afraid that it was all a masquerade/That I was only a plaything," "I thought I was just a diversion," "If you only lived for me the way I live for you," "I live and breathe for you") are not only adolescent but also regressive. Let's hope that the day will come when Carey's musical choices measure up to her talent. (Columbia)

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