Friday, December 20th, 2019

Mariah The Scientist – Reminders

Zankee tells us about a potential Nobel winner…


Zankee: There’s something mesmerising about a well-produced R&B song with a good synthline, and “Reminders” is no different. Actually, it’s much more than mesmerising; it’s a four-minute long spiritual experience, if you will. Mariah’s murderous narrative is faint enough to be perceived as metaphor, and vague enough to be interpreted as anything between contemplation of murder or the afterthought of a woman that has killed her significant other and lives with it, which gives the song a lot of depth. Mariah The Scientist is one of the brightest new lights in R&B, and this song is just one exciting example of why.

Alfred Soto: As opening lines go, few I’ve heard this year have surpassed: “Every candlelight dinner, date night liquor, late-night visit/Reminds me of a killer, reminds me I should kill him.” The backing track — saxophone, sequencer, and drum machine — wouldn’t have scared Freddie Jackson in 1985. And Mariah sings as if she wants you to see the scissors in her hand.

Edward Okulicz: Had this come out in 1986, it would have been a genuinely subversive pop hit, using the romance of syn-drums and synth sax presets to smuggle in murder most sexual. In 2019, it’s just a great example of all the forms it essays — rough-smooth R&B and retro-pop — and makes The Weeknd sound like a damned hack by comparison. Mariah’s songwriting is as sharp as a murder weapon — “every home decor and hardware store/reminds me more of blood on your marble floors” is a novella in a couplet.

Katherine St Asaph: When I compared the antiseptic ’80s sound of the Weeknd’s “Heartless” to something out of an American Psycho monologue, that didn’t mean I wanted someone to come along and literalize it. Every circle of hell is sung and written out of “Reminders,” and there’s a sumptuous violin solo (R&B’s recent embrace of strings continues to be wonderful), but it would all be better without the overwhelming scent of hairspray, Giorgio (perfume, not Moroder, that it could use more of) and shrimp cocktail.

Kylo Nocom: Outrun as a signifier of stylistic cool is totally lame. Outrun as a piece of a self-contained drama, however — that’s where a song like “Reminders” proves the worth of the form. Finding out that this actually flipped an entire synthwave song first disappointed me, then later gave me reason to appreciate it more; I can’t complain about someone taking a meandering six-minute track and constructing a better tune half its length. Even then, Le Cassette’s cyber-noir funk would be tacky without Mariah’s sobering, ultraviolent lyrics: “reminds me I should kill him” distracts at first, something that could be passed off as a metaphor (which it is, albeit one that’s thankfully not handled poorly); “blood on your marble floors” and what comes after, though, explores the concept as a richer narrative, one that would impress SZA not just for being a murderous fantasy, but for how it considers self-loathing in the most minute details. Memories are brought into living color by the ghosts of dudebro retro-fetishism — every synth, sax, and gated drum suggests a piece of her past haunting her, her own voice seemingly the only thing not caught in the haze of nostalgia. The final “bittersweet defeat” concludes “Reminders” with a bit of a haunting aftertaste. Cat Zhang’s review of Master suggested the album was a continuous process of Mariah trying to reclaim control over herself. Here, it seems that she’s lost.

Isabel Cole: The conceit of taking unwelcome post-breakup nostalgia to a new extreme is a neat one, and there are some nice lines here; I like the use of “home decor and hardware store.” But although I know the endless vocal wandering is on purpose, it just grates on me.

Ryo Miyauchi: Mariah the Scientist sings about a haunting that I can’t help but be moved by whenever I hear it in breakup songs. The romance-specific rituals are obvious triggers that summon the ghost of an ex, but it’s the more mundane fixtures of intimacy that really cut deep. While her manner doesn’t fully bring the anguish the song calls for, the screwed-up electro-soul beat makes up for it by injecting a brooding ghastliness to the track.

Ian Mathers: There’s a well-used clinical harshness here that renders even “I know you didn’t mean it” disparaging, and an even more well-used ambiguity that means “Reminders” works equally well for ruefully looking back and vengefully looking forward. Is it speaking to the healthiest situation or mindset? Well, maybe not. But as long as there are bad men, it feels like a very necessary kind of evil.

Kayla Beardslee: It took me a few listens to warm up to “Reminders,” and I’m still lukewarm on the filtered, nasal quality of Mariah’s vocals, but I find the depth and skill of the songwriting and visuals fascinating. On their own, the lyrics seem to be about the narrator recovering from the trauma of an abusive relationship (“Reminds me of a killer / Reminds me I should kill him”; the second half sounds like it’s referring to the memories). However, the video makes Mariah into the callous, cold-blooded killer instead. I can’t stop thinking about the shot at 1:57 where she walks up to her boyfriend, patiently waiting with his hands clasped in front of him, and blocks the camera’s view with her hips as she shoots him in the head. What makes this analysis even more fascinating is that the video for “Reminders” was shot in the same mansion as Kesha’s “Raising Hell” (comparison shot 1 and 2), a song with a completely reversed villain vs victim dynamic — the lyrics demonstrate Kesha’s troublemaking force of personality, and the video is where she tries to overcome domestic violence by retaliating against her abuser. And both videos intercut the violence with their protagonists being filtered through the idealized medium of TV. There are also shots in the “Reminders” MV where the camera zooms in on Mariah from far away, like a cop on a stakeout collecting evidence, and the way she stares right at the lens implicates the viewer as well. Are we complicit, or are we the ones seeking justice? With the more sympathetic lyrics playing over the visuals, who is the justice even meant for? What does Mariah herself want?

Reader average: [8] (7 votes)

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