Average User Score: 6.4Jul 30, 2012Charmbracelet is an acquired taste that will probably only be loved by her closest fans, though there are flashes of brilliance for everyoneCharmbracelet is an acquired taste that will probably only be loved by her closest fans, though there are flashes of brilliance for everyone to enjoy, from the final explosive chorus of "Through The Rain" to the rock-influenced drama of "Bringing On The Heartbreak". The album's biggest fallback is its insistence on undersinging, which is all the more infuriating coming from a woman known for her voice. Looking past that however, there melodies are solid, the lyrics are fresh, and the album works together well as a whole.… Expand
Average User Score: 5.9Jun 25, 2012After many years of sticking to the R&B route for her albums, Mariah Carey proves she can still rule adult contemporary with this satisfyingAfter many years of sticking to the R&B route for her albums, Mariah Carey proves she can still rule adult contemporary with this satisfying sequel to her 1994 classic "Merry Christmas". Cleverly titled "Merry Christmas II You" and released in 2010, the album sees Mariah covering many holiday standards, and, in typical Mariah fashion, delivering a few originals. The album kicks off with the up-tempo "Oh Santa!", which, thematically, is pretty much the sister to "All I Want for Christmas is You", her holiday perennial. But "Santa" offers an irresistible charm of its own, bouncing playfully from beginning to end with the aid of cheerleaders, chimes, whistle notes, and an attitude that feels more cheery and hopeful than that of its '94 counterpart. But then Mariah takes us to the fireplace with the light and dreamy "O Little Town of Bethlehem / Little Drummer Boy", fluctuating between soft, creamy singing and vocal dynamics that show Mariah sounding better than she has in years. Produced by Broadway composer Marc Shaiman, the next track - "Christmas Time Is in the Air Again" lifts us into a holiday waltz. We haven't heard Mariah sound this classy since the 1990s, yet she sounds as natural and inviting as if she'd been singing like this for the past decade. Keeping in the same relaxed, dreamy state, Mariah serenades us with another medley, this time "The First Noel/Born Is the King". The first part of the medley is arranged in traditional fashion, before seamlessly transitioning into the latter, R&B-driven "King". After soothing us with those three laid-back jingles, MC brings it home with "When Christmas Comes", a song that sounds instantly like a classic. The jazzy verses entice you to sway side to side before elevating into a fully-belted out-pour of choral magic. Of course, it can't be a Mariah Carey album if there's not a song that makes you want to shake your thang, even on a Christmas album. Mariah hits the dance floor with "Here Comes Santa Claus / Housetop Celebration", but instead of imagining a club, you totally get the feeling that it's the night before Christmas and you're partying around the house with your family and friends, and the warm, festive feelings set in.
Perhaps the only flaw in the album is the next track, Mariah's attempt at "Charlie Brown Christmas". There's nothing glaringly wrong with the song, but it feels incomplete, still in its demo version, and Mariah's singing somehow doesn't quite connect like in the other songs. That, and Mariah's decision to include a live recording of "O Holy Night" from a decade prior, which doesn't really add anything to the original version that is worth listening to.
Partly inspired by her pregnancy while recording the album, Mariah gets back to top form in the album's final new original, the made-for-children's-Christmas-performances "One Child". Elegantly sung, MC takes us to the true meaning of Christmas, telling the story and the impact of baby Jesus, but perhaps also indicating that her offspring will one day rule the world, so watch out.
How can you make a classic even better? Instead of tempering with the song itself, add a new beginning and ending and blend them effortlessly with the original. That's exactly the approach Mariah took with her new recording of "All I Want for Christmas", the penultimate track on the album. Shaiman is back, sprinkling his Broadway magic in a new instrumental introduction that kicks off the song from a new and equally exciting launch point. Mariah's singing then takes us onto a familiar but fresh-as-ever ride, sounding almost exactly the same as the original version except for layered vocals here and there. Mariah extends the ending of the song in this version, however it's a shame she didn't include the ending whistle notes she did in the 2011 version with Bieber (although that was the only good part about that duet).
Suddenly and effortlessly, Mariah's voice roars out of her chest in the final track "Auld Lang Syne", as if she's signaling the closure of a good show. Then it disappears behind a dance beat from the 90's and repeat background singing of the chorus. The song's carefree atmosphere is emphasized by Mariah stopping her singing to tease her listeners, saying "does anybody really know the words?" and laughing. Her first Christmas album, 1994's "Merry Christmas", may have spawned a classic, contained better vocals, and certainly the best songs on that album outweigh the best songs on this one -- still, "II You" is a stronger album overall, with all but two or three songs being constructed beautifully, sung passionately, and most importantly, evoking the emotional highs that are unique to the holiday season. It's also a testament to Mariah's artistry that her originals sound as good as the classics she covered.… Expand