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August 29, 1993|DENNIS HUNT


"Music Box"


* 1/2

If you have any affection for soul music, avoid this album. It'll make your blood boil. Carey's brand of soul is so homogenized and processed that its essence is gone.

The only good thing about Carey's fourth album is that she has toned down her vocal showboating, eliminating those extraneous passages that do nothing but show off her extensive range.

Still, you don't get much genuine emotion from any of these pop-soul songs, which were mostly written by Carey. Slickly produced and arranged, they're geared to the audience that worships Kenny G and Michael Bolton--listeners who like their soul whitewashed and in small doses.

Stodgy and ballad-heavy, "Music Box" approaches romance in a saccharine, crassly melodramatic fashion. You know an album is in trouble when a remake of Nilsson's 1972 cornball ballad hit, "Without You," is better than any of the original material.

Carey, who has a strong gospel-singing background, showed on her debut that she had the makings of a terrific soul singer. But since then she's retreated into a commercial shell and developed tunnel vision, cranking out pop pap that grows more soulless with each album.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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