Mariah Carey seemingly makes the same best-selling album every year--radio-friendly, bubblegum-flavored dance-floor smashes and intricately arranged, over-the-top ballads, all delivered by a sweet but powerful voice sharp enough to shatter a shot-glass.
But despite the stupendous sales, Carey lacks the critical respect of a Whitney Houston or a Janet Jackson. She may be able to run from pristine diva to New Jack Swing dominatrix in the blink of an eye, but to her critics, she has the pipes without any creative water to rush through them.
"Daydream," however, has the material to silence her detractors. "Fantasy" has a hook that won't let go, with enough low-running bass and infectious energy for both the car system and the dance floor. Her dynamic but subtle performance on "Underneath the Stars" shows the full range of Carey's Minnie Riperton-influenced sound. "One Sweet Day," her teaming with Boyz II Men, and a remake of "Open Arms" are largely forgettable, but the album eventually regains focus, and Carey offers something for everybody while somehow remaining true to her essence.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).