From the hyperbole of Prince to the protestations of Christina Aguilera, the word “beautiful” has taken a bit of a bashing from chart-friendly pop music over the years. Seen on the cover of Mariah Carey’s newest single further chilled by the addition of a hashtag, the ™ of our age, it doesn’t exactly give any great hope for the creative direction that the pop giant’s taking on her newest album.
It takes about a minute and a half, but like with all great pop songs, once you know, you just know. It’s somewhere around the point where the music halts slightly to allow Mariah’s voice to swoon into the track, with cheesy strains of harmonised layered vocals trailing behind her every note. By this point, the chorus has really settled under your skin, and the nostalgic twangs that Miguel is so fond of are starting to really take hold. The crucial element is the totally effortless way in which Mariah kicks back into her role in this classic duet; she sounds as relaxed and as incredible as ever. Something about this track – its uncynical yet self-aware breeziness, its charming co-stars and the fact that it’s a mellow and retro bid for the summer anthem of 2013 in the midst of club bangers – just works.
The hook says it all. “You’re beautiful, and I can’t pretend that doesn’t mean a thing to me.” Even after all the appropriations and re-appropriations of “beautiful” in pop, #Beautiful has found a new way to say it. It’s speaking from an enlightened place, a place where we know that calling one another beautiful isn’t the best compliment you can pay, nor even an original one. But it’s embracing that total lack of originality, and accepting the things that are the most true aren’t always the most desirable. To get to the point, I didn’t want to love this song – it has a hashtag in its title, for crying out loud – but I just can’t pretend I don’t.