Given all the attention on the superstar pop diva's recent emotional and physical problems, it's hard to just focus on her music. Especially since the material on "Glitter" (in stores Tuesday), her Virgin Records debut and the companion collection to the movie of the same name in which she stars, is nowhere near as dramatic as the juicy rumors.
The film follows Carey's troubled character through the nightclub world of 1982, so the singer-songwriter and her venerable co-executive producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, naturally let "Glitter" reflect the synth-driven robo-funk of that wretched decade.
At least they have the good sense to draw on the Prince school of rocked-up disco. But while the almost campy "Don't Stop (Funkin' 4 Jamaica)" is guilty fun, the Cameo-derived "Loverboy" (presented here in two mixes) is just a predictable celebration of boy-induced ecstasy.
She also tepidly remakes two New York dance-floor classics, Cherelle's "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" and In Deep's "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life." The latter is particularly pointless, with Carey's flaccid vocal only semi-disguised by rapping from Busta Rhymes, Fabolous and DJ Clue.
Her overly stylized warbling fares better on such ballads as the love song "Lead the Way," but all the acrobatics make such painfully sentimental numbers as the why-didn't-mama-love-me? lament "Reflections (Care Enough)" that much more overwrought.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.