Caution (Mariah Carey album)

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Caution
A blue-tinted image of Carey, against a light-pink background.
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 16, 2018 (2018-11-16)
Studio
  • Cha Cha (Beverly Hills)
  • Chalice (Los Angeles)
  • Electric Lady (New York City)
  • Murray Soundlab (Kennesaw)
  • Sanctuary (Albany, Bahamas)
  • Studio at the Palms (Las Vegas)
  • Westlake (Los Angeles)
Genre
Length38:26
LabelEpic
Producer
Mariah Carey chronology
Japan Best
(2018)
Caution
(2018)
The Live Debut – 1990
(2020)
Singles from Caution
  1. "With You"
    Released: October 4, 2018
  2. "A No No"
    Released: March 4, 2019

Caution is the fifteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter and producer Mariah Carey. It was released on November 16, 2018, through Epic Records. Carey collaborated with Ty Dolla Sign, Slick Rick, Blood Orange and Gunna on the album's songs and worked with a variety of producers. Her first studio project in four years, Caution was acclaimed upon release and appeared on several year-end lists.

The album debuted at number five on the US Billboard 200 with 51,000 album-equivalent units, of which 43,000 were pure album sales. It was supported by the singles "With You" and "A No No", as well as several promotional singles. Carey promoted Caution through a series of public appearances and televised live performances. She embarked on her Caution World Tour in support of the album.

Background[edit]

On May 23, 2014, Carey's fourteenth studio album, Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse, was released. It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 with sales of 58,000 copies,[6] becoming her lowest opening for a non-holiday studio album since Nielsen SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991.[citation needed] In January 2015, the singer announced that she had signed a residency deal to perform at The Colosseum at the Caesars Palace hotel in Las Vegas in May and July 2015 (later extended into 2016 and 2017), stating that she would perform all 18 of her number-one hits. On May 18, 2015 she released #1 to Infinity, her sixth compilation album, in support of this, revising her first #1's compilation with an updated list of subsequent chart toppers.[citation needed] She later embarked on The Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour in 2016, which was heavily featured in the singer's docu-series Mariah's World, as well as the All the Hits Tour alongside Lionel Richie in 2017.[citation needed] On February 3, 2017, Carey released the single "I Don't" featuring YG. It peaked at number eighty-nine on the Billboard Hot 100.[7] In October 2017, Carey released a new soundtrack single, "The Star", for the movie of the same name.[8] It garnered Carey a nomination for Best Original Song at the 75th Golden Globe Awards and peaked at number twenty-eight on the US Adult Contemporary Chart.[9] Carey also developed an animated Christmas film, titled Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You, for which she recorded an original song called "Lil' Snowman". The film was released direct-to-video on November 14, 2017. By January 2018, Carey confirmed that she had begun work on a new album.[10]

In a March 2018 interview with Vanity Fair, Carey stated that she had recently begun work on the album.[11] Carey finished the album in August 2018 when she recorded the title track "Caution".[12][13] The track inspired Carey to change the record's original title "Portrait" to its official title "Caution"[12]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Sure there are love songs and moments of inward reflection, but the majority of the tracks are kiss-offs aimed at those who have doubted her or left her scorned... While big, emotional ballads were the groundwork of Carey’s early years, there is only one truly heavy moment on the album: final song “Portrait.” Following the lyrical curves, R&B coos and stellar production, it’s a starkly heavy moment that feels like a throwback to a bygone era of power ballads for vocalists of her calibre.

 — Brittany Spanos, Rolling Stone

Consisting of 10 songs and two additional tracks featured exclusively on its Japanese issue, Caution is an R&B,[1][2] hip hop[5] and pop[3][4] album that incorporates elements of EDM,[14] psychedelia[15] and Latin pop.[16] Jumi Akinfenwa from Clash Magazine views the album as a "homage to the sounds prevalent at different stages of her [Mariah's] career".[17] Mike Wass from Idolator hailed it as being "the new blueprint for legacy acts" such as Carey.[18]

Writing for NOW Magazine, Kevin Hegge remarked that "despite the variety of styles, the most notable element of the album was its succinctness".[19] Hegge further juxtaposed Carey's "collaborations with a handful of hot artists and producers" with the fact that she wasn't "pandering to trends" in her music. Similarly, Andrew Unterberger from Billboard summarized Caution as being "a resolutely mid tempo album", praising the production for being "uniform but not stagnant" in its "lush chillness and steady trending".[20] Within his review, Unterberger took note of the "incredible roster of producers" credited on the album, describing them as "bending their trademark sonics" to fit into Carey's "pop-n-B comfort zone". Winston Cook-Wilson from Spin described the album's production as being the apotheosis of "trends in contemporary R&B music, absent its glitchier, experimental tendencies";[21] he did cite the track "Giving Me Life" as a notable exception to this rule.

Thematically, Caution has been described as "a concept album about relationships", featuring "songs about them falling apart, bops about new love and others that celebrate something more lasting".[22] Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly similarly interpreted the album as being "a study in various degrees of incline".[15] Nick Smith from MusicOMH felt that Carey was "at her most ethereal and reflective"[23] on Caution, commenting that its overall narrative focused on the relationship the singer has with herself.[citation needed]

Composition[edit]

The album opens with "GTFO", described as a "ghostly, tender record with a magnetic rhythm".[24] Its EDM-influenced instrumentation is based around a sample of "Goodbye to a World" by Porter Robinson.[25] In the song, Carey focuses on the aftermath of "a doomed relationship", her vocal delivery adding "a gratifying edge to the song’s delightful kiss-off hook".[26] As noted by the critic Sal Cinquemani in a review for Slant Magazine, "beneath Mariah’s nonchalant delivery and kitschy patois... belies a heaviness that's perhaps informed by the song's apocalyptic source material".[27] "With You" is a "velvety" classic R&B/soul ballad "built from little more than gospel piano and booming 808s".[28] Its lyrics tell the story of a woman seeking safety and security in her potential partner's promises of unconditional love, with Carey viewing "romance with an open-eyed caginess".[29]

The title-track "Caution" is a "sleek, pop-R&B hybrid",[22] presenting Carey "on the amber traffic light; vulnerable and tentative, yet honest and hopeful about embarking on a new journey".[23] Within the song, she considers the ephemerality of her current relationship before warning her lover to "proceed with caution", conflating the triviality of factors such as "material possessions" with her desire for her lover to "commit" to being her "everything".[30] "A No No" is a "jagged, jazzy" hip hop track which "channels the spirit...and cadences...of TLC's "No Scrubs" while Carey exterminates "snakes in the grass" before musing on "the fact that no is the same across languages" in the song's bridge.[29] The track itself notably contains a sample from "Rain Dance" by the Jeff Lorber Fusion, and "Crush on You" by Lil' Kim featuring The Notorious B.I.G. and Lil Cease.[citation needed] "The Distance" featuring Ty Dolla Sign is described as being "sleek, slow funk", with Carey speaking out against the detractors who doubted her relationship with her lover would "go the distance", setting the song during the "warm days" and "cold nights" of "late October".[31]

"Giving Me Life", featuring Slick Rick and Blood Orange, is a psychedelia-inspired track that sees Carey admit that "a summertime love has her thinking back to being 17 and "feeling myself like I'm Norma Jeane".[32] Lasting six minutes and 8 seconds, "she entices a lover to follow her "on another tangent" within a "big, dusky [musical] landscape"[33] which eventually "dissolves into woozy, guitar-laced spaciousness"[32] towards the end of the song. "One Mo' Gen" is a "bedroom anthem" that "evokes 90's R&B without sounding dated";[34] it sees Carey "throb with desire" over her and her lover's sexual chemistry.[35] The Timbaland-produced "8th Grade" is an "old-school R&B"[34] song where Carey "coos over crisp digital fingersnaps and mentholated synths",[32] expressing an angst towards her lover's motivations.

The Gunna-assisted "Stay Long Love You" weaves "retro influences into a modern sound palette" containing heavy trap inflections, with Carey expressing desire through "a slightly quicker tempo and party vibe".[36] Album-closer "Portrait" has been described as a "slow burning and vintage Mariah ballad".[37] It sees the singer reveal "the inner emotional tension of having her own crosses to bear but wanting to keep them hidden from the world".[38]

Promotion[edit]

Carey during her Caution World Tour in Amsterdam, June 2019

Carey performed "GTFO" for the first time when she headlined the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival on September 21, 2018.[39] Later, she performed the album's lead single "With You" at the 2018 American Music Awards on October 9, 2018.[40] On November 16, 2018, Carey and American singer Ty Dolla Sign performed "The Distance" on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.[41] On November 19, 2018, Carey also performed "With You" on Good Morning America.[42] On May 1, 2019, Carey performed the album's second single "A No No" at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards along with a medley of "Always Be My Baby", "Emotions", "We Belong Together" and "Hero".[43]

To promote the album, Carey embarked on the Caution World Tour. It included 34 shows: twenty in the United States, three in Canada, ten in Europe, and one in Curaçao. The tour was met with rave reviews from music critics, many of whom praised Carey's vocal performances, as well as her overall stage presence.[44]

Singles[edit]

"With You" was released as the album's lead single on October 4, 2018.[45] Its music video, directed by Sarah McColgan, premiered on October 10, 2018, on her YouTube account. The song reached the top 10 in Hungary and became Carey's 23rd top 10 hit on the US Adult Contemporary chart, peaking at number seven.[46] Initially released as a promotional single on November 1, 2018,[47][48] "A No No" was serviced to rhythmic contemporary radio on March 4, 2019, serving as the album's second single.

"GTFO" was released as the first promotional single from Caution on September 13, 2018.[49] "The Distance", which features American singer Ty Dolla Sign, succeeded it as the second promotional single from the album on October 18, 2018.[50]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?7.5/10[51]
Metacritic82/100[52]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[1]
Clash8/10[53]
Consequence of SoundB-[54]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[55]
musicOMH5/5 stars[56]
Pitchfork7.5/10[57]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[4]
Slant Magazine3.5/5 stars[58]

Caution was met with critical acclaim. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, Caution received an average score of 82, based on nine reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[52] Maura Johnston from Pitchfork felt that the record represented a "celebration of the ultimate-diva status" of Carey's brand of music.[59] Brittany Spanos from Rolling Stone summarised the record as being "pure hip-hop-leaning pop bliss",[60] praising Carey's ability to deliver "an honest album, full of truths" through a "slow-burning R&B sound".

Reviewing the album for AllMusic, Andy Kellman wrote that Carey's [themes of] "flirtatious enticement, celebration, reminiscence, perseverance, rejection" were "highly energized".[61] MusicOMH gave it a score of all five stars and stated: "[Carey] is vulnerable and tentative, yet honest and hopeful about embarking on a new journey".[62] Spencer Kornhaber from The Atlantic stated that the album "shores up the idea of Carey the wit, the craftswoman, and the game player".[63]

The album also appeared on several year-end lists.[64] Bianca Gracie from Billboard stated that the record signposted Carey's "dominance as a chart fixture", as well as "a crafty songwriter and inimitable singer".[65] Ranking atop Paper magazine's year-end list, Michael Love Michael commented on the significance of Caution's "tales of passion and peace" in a "politically fraught 2018",[66] describing its ability to "resonate with women everywhere" through "the graceful pain of lived experience" as "a quiet, but nonetheless radical beauty".

Accolades[edit]

A summary of accolades by publication and rank
Publication Accolade Rank Ref.
Between the Lines The Best Albums of 2018 3 [67]
Billboard The 50 Best Albums of 2018: Critics' Picks 39 [68]
Billboard The 10 Best R&B Albums of 2018: Critics' Picks 3 [69]
City Pages The 5 Best Albums of 2018 5 [70]
Complex The Best Albums of 2018 48 [71]
Crack Magazine The Top Albums of 2018 49 [72]
Fact The 50 Best Albums of 2018 50 [73]
Idolator The 25 Best Albums of 2018 1 [74]
MuuMuse The Top 10 Albums of 2018 2 [75]
Now The Top 10 Best Albums of 2018 9 [76]
Okayplayer The Best Albums of 2018 10 [77]
Paper The 20 Best Albums of 2018 1 [78]
Rolling Stone The 20 Best Pop Albums of 2018 8 [3]
Slant The 25 Best Albums of 2018 12 [79]
Spin The 51 Best Albums of 2018 12 [80]
Thrillist The Best Albums of 2018 33 [81]
Vulture The 15 Best Albums of 2018 10 [82]

Commercial performance[edit]

Caution opened at number five on the US Billboard 200 with 51,000 album-equivalent units, which included 43,000 pure album sales, becoming Carey's eighteenth top-ten album in the United States.[83] In its second week, Caution sold 14,000 units in the US, moving from number five to number fifty-five on the Billboard 200, and moved from number one to eight on the Top R&B Albums chart, replacing it with her own Merry Christmas holiday album.[84]

In the United Kingdom, Caution debuted at number 40 on the UK Albums Chart before falling off the Top 100 in its second week.[85] On Australia's ARIA Albums Chart, it entered at number 15.[86]

Track listing[edit]

Caution – Standard edition
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."GTFO"
3:27
2."With You"
3:47
3."Caution"
3:15
4."A No No"3:07
5."The Distance" (featuring Ty Dolla Sign)3:27
6."Giving Me Life" (featuring Slick Rick and Blood Orange)
  • Carey
  • Hynes
6:08
7."One Mo' Gen"3:25
8."8th Grade"
4:48
9."Stay Long Love You" (featuring Gunna)3:01
10."Portrait"
  • Carey
  • Daniel Moore II
  • Carey
  • Moore II
4:01
Total length:38:26
Caution – Japanese CD and iTunes Store (bonus track)[87]
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
11."Runway"
  • Carey
  • Moore
  • Losnegård
  • Hamilton
Carey3:41
Total length:42:07
Caution – Japanese iTunes Store (bonus track)[88]
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
12."Runway" (featuring KOHH)
  • Carey
  • Moore
  • Losnegård
  • Hamilton
Carey3:41
Total length:45:48

Notes

  • ^a signifies a co-producer
  • ^b signifies additional production

Sample credits

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Tidal.[89]

Performance

Instrumentation

Production

Technical

Artwork and management

Charts[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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