As with most pop stars, there is a multitude of personalities contained within the concept of Mariah Carey: the giddy ear-candy dispenser, the melismatic melodramatist, the self-obsessed wannabe movie star, the surprisingly capable prank caller. One of my favorite Mariahs is the one who’s obsessed with old Brill Building pop, and who occasionally gets to take charge and release an unabashed tribute to the girl group era as a single. (And those occasionally become important parts of her catalog.)
That’s the Mariah who just put out a song called “#Beautiful” with critically adored R&B singer, drugs liker, and animated gif star Miguel. With its echo-drenched backbeat, twanging guitars, and stacked backup vocals, despite the self-consciously modern title it’s one of the most straightforwardly retro singles that Carey’s ever released, and offers further proof that Amy Winehouse continues to have a stronger influence on contemporary R&B (not to mention hip-hop) than a lot of people are willing to give her credit for.