“Letting go, letting go ain’t easy / oh, it’s just exceedingly hurtful / ‘cause somebody you used to know…watch, as you’re falling down…”
Those are the relatable, truthful lyrics that Mariah Carey sings on her ‘comeback’ single, “The Art of Letting Go”. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed “#Beautiful” featuring Miguel, but it didn’t sound as true to Carey’s best moments as her latest does. “The Art of Letting Go” doesn’t sound like it will be a number one hit to me, but it does find Carey doing what she does best, moving ballads. Whether she’s singing in her lower register or ascending to her upper register with every bit of her emotion, Carey compels the listener and makes us think of our own moments when we’ve struggled to let go.
The production catches the ear, but not like the dizzying synths of modern pop or contemporary R&B. While this particular track eschews a ‘throwback’ to retro-soul, there is still a hearkening back to the recent past, at least Carey’s heyday. After the needle is on the record, lush strings and accompanying piano serve as the soundscape supporting Carey’s thoughtful balladry. Never overproduced, the conservative approach to this number is appreciated and allows for Carey to be the star. Remember single “Triumphant Get ‘Em”? Carey was overshadowed by both her collaborators (Rick Ross and Meek Mill) as well as the hip-hop oriented production. The only touch of hip-hop here, when the drum groove locks things down during the bridge section. Even so, it’s nothing to crazy, which is a pro.
But there’s more to this tune than it’s production and timbre. “The Art of Letting Go” is filled with exceptional, memorable lyrical moments. On verse one, Carey establishes the tone from the jump: “I’m making a statement of my opinion / just a brief little reminder to help myself remember / I no longer live in your dominion… you’re just trifling, nothing more than a liability…” She follows up her most recent ‘emancipation’ with even more candidness on verse two in several instances including “Evidently your words were merely lies / reverberating in my ears / and the echo won’t subside / there’s a deep deep loss of hope…” and the penultimate line of the verse “Go to Mimi on your contacts, press delete”. Da-yum! She confirms on the bridge that “Baby letting go, baby letting go / ain’t easy…”.
So, is Carey back on her “Hero” and “Vision of Love” swag? Well, I can’t say yay or nay as of yet, but I do believe “The Art of Letting Go” is a step in the right musical direction for Carey. She’s likely to never reach her prime again or even manage a comeback as gargantuan as 2005 effort The Emancipation of Mimi, but Carey can still give her best and all, and revel in her veteran R&B/pop diva status. I personally believe she still has plenty to offer and certainly outperforms many if not all of her contemporaries. She’s still got it.
Mariah Carey | “The Art of Letting Go” (Single) | Island | US Release Date: November 11, 2013