Glitter is Carey’s new album and the soundtrack to the film of the same name, in which she plays an up-and-coming pop star in the ’80s. According to her website, the songs were ”carefully selected to reflect the time period.” That should have made the album (delayed, at press time, until Sept. 11) a camp classic, but with few exceptions — a respectable remake of ”Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” and a cheeseball, faux-Prince-sounding cover of ”I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” — very little of ”Glitter” suggests big hair, leggings, and headbands. Instead, it’s Mariah, business as usual: a few overemoted ballads, a few doses of lite-FM hip-hop, all of it as gauzy and shapeless as her previous work. (We’re subjected to not one but two versions of the threadbare ”Loverboy,” which continues the Mariah Minimalist Movement begun with 1999’s ”Heartbreaker.”) The dichotomy between her styles on ”Glitter” is further proof of her split madonna/whore musical complex: One minute she’s a wide-eyed innocent, the next minute she’s ”Wilma M. Holla,” as her party-girl persona is referred to on the album.
If you’re looking for intimations of her collapse within ”Glitter,” you’ll find only hints, just enough for one cow to chew on. Carey certainly sounds a tad unhinged, unleashing several avalanches of eardrum-puncturing wails and laughing in the middle of ”All My Life,” an innocuous collaboration with dubious role model Rick James. She laments the end of a relationship several times, most believably on ”Reflections (Care Enough)” — typical Mariah schlock sung with crushed-flower loneliness. Other times, she’s like her recent outfits — barely there. On several tracks, she’s reduced to cooing maniacally in the background while rappers like Ja Rule and Mystikal run with the ball. Then there’s ”Twister,” a ballad her handlers maintain was written about the recent suicide of her stylist. ”Feelin’ kinda fragile and I’ve got a lot to handle/But I guess this is my way of saying goodbye,” she exhales. ”Glitter” is a mess, but its shameless genre hopping (and Carey’s crash) makes it an unintentional concept album about the toll of relentless careerism.