On the face of it, the idea of Mariah Carey remaking Foreigner’s 25-year-old cheesy (and we mean that in the best possible way) power ballad “I Want to Know What Love Is” sounds perfect. She’s covered other songs before to good effect, such as the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There,” which she took to No. 1.
It’s reasonably faithful to the original, down to the click track (which sound more like finger snaps and then claps here) and the choir — although her version opens with a solo piano intro and she’s added an echo that doesn’t serve her well. Like Foreigner’s then-lead singer Lou Gramm, Carey starts slow and subtle, singing in a lower register than we’re used to.
As she goes into the chorus, she sounds appropriately vulnerable, and, dare we say, like a little wounded lamb. Like Gramm’s, her performance builds emotionally and is bolstered by a choir (is there any song that isn’t made better by the addition of a choir?). She saves the vocal pyrotechnics until the end.
The production is grandiose (and a little retro, but that could be an an homage to the original). She even uses some of the same adlibs as Gramm, which I guess wouldn’t make them adlibs…
“I Want to Know What Love Is” is the second single from Carey’s Sept. 29 set, “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel,” and is a good counterpoint to first single, the Enimem-dis,”Obsessed.”
Here’s the original so you can compare for yourself. Which version do you like better?