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Record Rack

MARIAH CAREY "#1's" Columbia

November 08, 1998|Natalie Nichols

This collection--a testament to Carey's broad appeal among pop, R&B and adult-contemporary audiences--offers all 13 of the singer's No. 1 hits, plus four fresh tracks.

On upbeat numbers such as 1992's "Emotions" and the new, hip-hop-flavored "Sweetheart," Carey sounds sexier and more human than contemporaries Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. But with the exception of the 1996 dance single "Fantasy," which borrows its hook from the Tom Tom Club, none of these synthetic-sounding, slickly produced songs proves memorable.

The same cliched sentiments crop up again and again in the lyrics, which are usually co-written by Carey. Presented here in a previously unreleased live version, 1993's "Hero" foreshadows the have-faith-in-yourself exhortations of the new "When You Believe," a strenuously overwrought duet with Whitney Houston from the "Prince of Egypt" soundtrack on which the two divas are virtually undistinguishable. Similarly, the count-on-me devotion in her 1992 remake of "I'll Be There" is nearly identical to the romantic message of another new duet, "Whenever You Call," with Brian McKnight.

There's nothing terrible about singing hit songs that, however clumsily, express positive feelings and offer an emotional boost to listeners. But this homogenous presentation only emphasizes Carey's limitations.

*

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

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* Excerpts from these and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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