Mariah Carey has made a lot of headlines in the first half of 2013, most of which reference her war-of-the-divas "feud" with fellow American Idol judge Nicki Minaj. Now, Minaj has called Mimi everything from "insecure" to "bitter," but this is the singer America fell in love with in the 1990s. The one with 18 No. 1 hits (second only to The Beatles and more than any other solo artist). The one who topped the charts every year from 1990 to 2000 save one (1994). The one who's sold more than 200 million albums worldwide. (Madonna's the only female who's sold more.) The one currently tied with Elvis Presley for most cumulative weeks at No. 1: 79.
In short, it's Mariah's metaphorical musical taillights that Nicki Minaj will be staring at for some time to come, her feisty comments notwithstanding.
That alone is enough to trigger a rapid-response review of "#Beautiful," with it arriving more than five years after Mimi last ascended to the pop pinnacle with her steamy No. 1 hit "Touch My Body." Then add to the mix Mariah's teaming up with R&B newcomer Miguel to deliver a smoldering, Motown-esque love song that critics are already describing as the track to beat as this year's "song of the summer" contest heats up in earnest.
And then, from Plugged In's perspective, consider this: "#Beautiful" is a simple song … that's also lusty and vulgar. It's about a man who thinks his girl is smokin' hot and how "undressable" all that flirty attention makes her feel.
Miguel sings the first 90 seconds or so (with Mariah occasionally laughing in the background). After he tells his beautiful lady to "hop on the back of his bike," we hear, "With an a‑‑ like that, and a smile so bright/Oh, you're killing me, you know it ain't fair." The crudity here is partially censored for ready radio play, and it's not the only foul interjection to get that now-you-hear-it-now-you-don't treatment: The chorus includes a pair of f-words combined with a misuse of the Lord's name. We hear, "You're beautiful, and your mind is f‑‑‑ing beautiful/You're beautiful, good lord, you're f‑‑‑ing beautiful/And I can't pretend that that doesn't mean a thing to me, to me, yeah."
All that ogling and swearing works its magic on Mariah, who tells her man that it turns her on when he breaks the law: "I like it when you run red lights, don't stop 'til you thrill me, oh how you thrill me/Always in control, how you do it, I don't know/But I don't care, take me anywhere."
When they reach wherever anywhere is, Mimi hints that their clothes won't stay on very long. "'Cause it's beautiful, ooh, you make me feel undressable."
Then we get that not-so-classy chorus again.
Critics are raving that "#Beautiful" is the most "beautiful" thing Mariah's done in years, a song likely to propel her back to the top of the charts once more.
They're talking about her soaring voice and polished style. And we won't argue about that. But what about her dull and floundering lyrics?