Last week, Mariah Carey finally released her remix of “A No No,” one of her latest singles from her 15th studio album “Caution.” The song features British rapper Stefflon Don and is rumored to hint at feelings of aggression towards Stella Bulochnikov, Carey’s former manager, who split from the songstress after their relationship “was no longer beneficial,” according to Variety. While the original version received positive reviews all around, fans have expressed frustration due to a misconception that Lil’ Kim and Cardi B were supposed to be featured on the new track. But after the new British artist was given a chance, ratings have begun to increase.
Like the majority of Caution’s hits, “A No No” is dark and revealing, giving subtle excerpts on Carey’s life, including past and present struggles. It samples Lil’ Kim’s 1997 single “Crush on You,” even incorporating Notorious B.I.G.’s refrain, though faster in tempo. Unlike her earlier songs, which feature a wide use of vocabulary, Carey sings more colloquially here, explaining how she won’t give any more attention to someone who has wronged her. While the chorus repeats the same line “I said no, no,” she plays around with phrasings to make a simple yet catchy melody.
Stefflon’s part, on the other hand, is a little more explicit. She raps about the same sentiment of being judged but also uses the solo to advocate her strength as a woman and artist. That said, while her verse does fit within the vibe of the song, the remix seems largely copy and paste, without many new elements aside from small harmonies made from Stefflon. The two artists were unable to collaborate in the same studio, which may partly explain why the innovations are limited but given Carey’s previous history with remixes, I was left underwhelmed. Alternative versions of hits like “My All” and “We Belong Together” feature differences in articulation, tempo, and to some extent, genre, which all remain absent in “A No No” remix.
It’s not quite clear why this song needed a remix, however, as the original version thrives as is. Carey’s previous remixes built on R&B and pop songs, but “A No No” is predominantly hip-hop and doesn’t feature intense melisma that would be better accompanied with a secondary rap vocal part. The only song in the “Caution” album that features Carey’s technical skills is “Portrait,” but given its rather emotional nature, I don’t think a rap part would be appropriate.
Nonetheless, with 18 Billboard Hot 100 singles and a vast array of awards accumulating over nearly three decades, Carey’s success in the music industry is unbelievable. However, one must notice her rather peculiar evolution in genres. The innocent gospel ballads that dominated her debut albums seem a far cry from the dark R&B/hip hop collaborations she now presents, but in light of creative restraints imposed by former husband Tommy Mottola, a change in style ought to be expected once given complete songwriting freedom. That said, while Carey’s album does present her character in a new light, her everlasting attempts to stay at the top of the music game seem questionable.
As a fan of her music myself, I believe her ’90s and early 2000s albums showcase the best of her vocal ability, but her more recent albums seem contrived, expressive in lyrics but tight in execution. There are multiple factors to this, as her vocal nodules have been inhibiting her voice for years, but still, the changes in style are noticeably incongruous.
It appears she is facing a dilemma: To stick with her older hits and maintain her now adult fan base or continue developing new songs to appeal to a younger audience, risking some criticism in the process. Considering “All I Want For Christmas Is You” reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 this past December, a record high after 24 years, there is no doubt that Carey won’t be leaving the public eye anytime soon. Likewise, with a $500 million net worth, any further songs could be solely recreational, and her personal life would be unaffected.
If I were her, I would limit song production to singles going forth and dedicate more time with other pursuits. Her songwriting skills could effectively translate to poetry writing, where she could make her mark in another sphere of influence.
Evidently, there are multiple pathways to follow, and I hope Carey considers expanding her career in the future. While her “Caution” album may not be the strongest in her discography, she will always reign as one of the top singers and songwriters in music history. I look forward to see what she pursues next.