Mariah Carey — “Almost Home”
(from Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful) —

The industry is (rightly) going nuts over Miss Mariah’s triumphant new collaboration with red-hot Grammy nominee Miguel, which is impacting top 40 radio in a big way this week, but I’m still scratching my head wondering what exactly happened with this delightful piffle. On the face of it, in terms of Oz-related film themes, attempting to follow up no less a universally beloved cultural touchstone than Judy Garland’s pristine “Over the Rainbow” just seems like pure folly, the least enviable task in the whole of modern music history. Smartly, Carey and company — including a mystifying five (!) co-writers — chose to flip the script, delivering a soaring, thoroughly harmless uptempo anthem which instantly re-establishes her as a relevant pop star. (True, “Home” is loaded with those trademark vocal trills that made Carey an icon two decades and change ago, but with the surprising electronica-inspired flourishes — courtesy of Norwegian production team Stargate, best known for their Grammy-winning work with the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna, and countless other pop tarts — buried deep within the music’s mainframe, this tune wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place on radio playlists next to Tegan and Sara — who have most probably already locked up tight this year’s single of the year derby with their fabulously fun breakthrough smash “Closer” — as spring turned to summer.) I have no credible intel on if mainstream pop radio just turned this one down flat, or if Island Def Jam blocked Disney from pushing this, knowing they had the Miguel duet in their back pocket — and if someone out there reading this knows the whole story, please share it with me — but no matter: in the daunting Oz canon, there’s no song like “Home.” It’s a lovely, eminently listenable, (almost) brilliant gem.

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