http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/4e151f424ce124bfe63378b128d2e4a088c65ee5.jpg Rainbow

Mariah Carey


Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3 0
November 25, 1999

For a singer with such an impressive vocal range, Mariah Carey used to display a narrow understanding of her musical milieu — no amount of piercing coloratura could breathe life into singles that were nothing more than hit-radio vehicles. But with the hip-hop-lite makeover she initiated on the Ol' Dirty Bastard remix of "Fantasy" and continued on 1997's Butterfly, Carey traded a diva's timelessness for youthful relevance. She expands on that lesson with Rainbow. Her emotional stiffness is still evident, but the gamut of modern urban sounds and moods brought to these fourteen tracks by various guest vocalists and producers (including Jam and Lewis, Jermaine Dupri, Master P and Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs) makes Rainbow a sterling chronicle of the state of accessible hip-hop balladeering at the close of 1999.

On the first single, "Heartbreaker," which (like 1995's "Fantasy") owes its musical grounding to Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love," the singer is at her most insinuating: nasal, silken, declarative, riding the percolating beat. Her wronged- but-strong persona remains so consistent that on the midalbum reprise, guest stars Missy Elliott and Da Brat get all angry that good-girl Carey won't. She has good taste in fictional boyfriends — Jay-Z runs down a funny litany of her bad behavior on "Heartbreaker," and Snoop Dogg sounds fittingly careless on "Crybaby." On "How Much," Usher counterpoints and underscores the complicated rhythm, a menacing Timbaland-style stuttered beat. "X-Girlfriend" has the same stop-start bottom, frothed with synthesized retro sass. Rainbow's ballads are predictably banal; some of the originals, with their references to pride and dreams, are co-written by banal-ballad cash cow Diane Warren, while the one cover is the drippy Eighties power-pop hit "Against All Odds." But Jam and Lewis give gospel soar to "Thank God I Found You," while 98 Degrees help sweeten its vocal mix. Rainbow is at its best — and Carey at her most comfortable — when urbane hip-hop stylings and faux R&B coexist in smooth middle-of-the-road harmony.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Road to Nowhere”

    Talking Heads | 1985

    A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

    More Song Stories entries »