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Mariah Carey

Rainbow

  • Columbia

On her recent albums, multi-platinum diva Mariah Carey has shied away from showcasing the distinctive and incredibly high-pitched squeal that was once such a vital part of her sound.

But in a throwback to yesteryear, those upper upper octave notes return in several places — most notably the lusty ballad “Bliss” — on this new studio set.

While that may be retro, most of Rainbow is marked by Carey's continued progression towards a more R&B sound. Case in point: The two versions of the infectious lead single “Heartbreaker.” In the first, she's complemented by Jay-Z's hip-hop lines, while a saucier remix has Carey matched with Da Brat and the ever-provocative Missy Elliott. Those new directions suit the singer well, as do other cuts like the seductive “Crybaby,” in which she's paired with Snoop Dogg.

With sales of 115 million and counting, Carey's not about to get too radical though, and there are plenty of her trademark lush and heavily layered ballads here. The spiritual-flavored “Thank God I Found You,” builds impressively. But the acoustic-guitar backed “After Tonight,” is less engaging, and a straight-ahead remake of Phil Collins' “ Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now)” is a total waste of space.

Kevin O'Hare