April 21, 2005

Mariah Carey: The Emancipation of Mimi

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I only own one Mariah Carey album and that is her greatest hit-esque collection, appropriately titled #1’s, released way back in 1998 to be exact. It seemed that Mariah could do no wrong. She had consecutive hits and an amazing voice (to be trite), but also a fluid style that accommodated several genres and gave her a broad appeal. She even dominated Christmas songs! I mean, could you really deny the catchiness of “All I Want for Christmas is You?” But then came that dark age, where Mariah seemed to have suffered a nonstop torrent of bad luck, which resulted in fainting spells due to exhaustion, public acknowledgement of psychiatric help and the movie Glitter, among other disasters.

The Emancipation of Mimi marks the first real album that Mariah has released since 2002’s Charmbracelet (There was a remix album in 2003 but you don’t really remember that either, do you?). It’s being proclaimed as the “return of the voice,” where that particular bodily function lacking attribution is positioned as the centerpiece of a heavily disguised 14-song comeback. No one wants to say “comeback” because its use necessitates the admittance of a fall. Either way, a lot was riding on The Emancipation of Mimi and in a move similar to Jennifer Lopez’s nickname-changing-equates-to-innovation logic, Mariah decided to personalize her newest release.

Mimi (a nickname used only by Mariah’s family and friends) pulls out all the big guns on this 2005 release and it really shows. She’s got four collaborations with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Twista, Nelly and Jermaine Dupri. This name-dropping continues when you consider the album’s production, which features the efforts of the Neptunes and Kanye West among other powerhouses. Mariah has also been working that publicity machine since chances are you’ve heard the first single, “It’s Like That” even if the song’s generic title at first doesn’t ring a bell.

Well all that foundation-building has paid off and The Emancipation of Mimi does deliver a sound that is classic Mariah. To sum it up in one word, this latest effort from the best selling female artist of all time is merely very “blah.” The silvery voice and incredible range, the R&B love songs with a catchy beat and the characteristic vocalizations are all signature Mariah, but I guess I can’t really blame her for a lack of innovation.

It was the “return of the voice” and Mariah does return to her soulful roots on songs like “Fly Like A Bird.” For the old school fan, this is R&B like she used to do, but for those of us looking for growth in an artist, all we see is someone running back to the security of a foolproof formula.

Archived article by Tracy Zhang
Arts and Entertainment Editor