Review Summary: Mariah proves that less is more; not as many high notes as her previous work, but her first album to be consistently impressive all the way through.
Like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, R&B/Pop queen Mariah Carey has always been about the voice, no matter how much flavor she has, or how much she projects her now legendary five-octave range. On her third album, 1993's "Music Box," she makes her music both more tame and more powerful than ever before. The opening track, the #1 smash "Dreamlover," invites the listener to the kind of music exploration only a diva like Mariah can offer: an album where love is the main focus, and focused well. Because of this, the album may seem denser than its predecessor, the musical and lyrical free-for-all "Emotions," but Mariah has always been an artist where music and love intertwine to conquer all, and that is exactly what "Music Box" is all about. Since Mariah writes most of her own songs, she can explain the ups and downs of love in a more natural manner than her peers, or even some of the singers she inspired. This is nowhere more evident than the story of love lost in "Never Forget You" or a love that has yet to surface in "I've Been Thinking About You." Howver, this pop gem stalls in the middle, overtaken by its candy-coated youthful ideals of love. The title track is a less dynamic version of "Emotions'" best track, "Till the End of Time," but still easier to swallow. The overly-dramatic cover of "Without You" lacks Mariah's emotional connection to the listener, whether she didn't write it or she did, and "Just To Hold You Once Again" simply blends in with the rest of CD's quiet yet passionate style- nothing more, nothing less. While the upbeat "Now That I Know" gives belief that there is someone out there for everyone, "Music Box"'s best songs go beyond the idea of love as romance to faith in two of Mariah's best songs "Hero" and Anytime You Need A Friend." The closer "All I've Ever Wanted," is a near-perfect early 90's pop-soul ballad the way only Mariah can deliver it; it's also the most natural her voice has ever sounded, summing up the direction of the album. While not as cutting edge or genre-defying as her later releases, which has always been part of her image, "Music Box" is that one Mariah Carey album that truly displays the power and openness of her voice, which is what has continued to captivate a d inspire singers of all kinds.