A solid collection of soulful ballads, heady r&b and addictive pop, Mariah Carey's "The Emancipation of Mimi" is by far the most viable release of her career. Her first to hit the summit of the Billboard albums chart since 1997's powerful "Butterfly," each of its fourteen tracks is an undisputed home run, marking new territory for the songbird while keeping true to what she has made her name with.
With the autobiographical "It's Like That" finally losing airplay power, the confessional "We Belong Together" has already usurped its place. However, the potential hits are limitless. Fine examples are "Stay the Night," which will have fans swooning at her pristine vocals, and the Neptunes-produced "Say Somethin'," which floats serenely, save for smart machine gun-style drumming that buoys the melody.
The singer/songwriter also articulates extreme insecurity with the likes of "I Wish You Knew" and "Circles," the latter of which would frighten American Idol contenders:
"Saturday I saw you/Holding hands with someone new/Somehow I kept my composure/Just like everything was cool/But inside I kept repeating/Don't you let them see you cry/So I casually turned my head/As the tears rolled down my eyes."
The bittersweet "Mine Again" finds Carey yearning to rekindle an old flame:
"I just can't accept the possibility/We weren't made for each other's arms/I know you're my destiny."
The ultimate highlight of the album, however, comes with the closing "Fly Like a Bird," an outstanding testament to the artist's faith in God which can be heard on gospel radio:
"Fly like a bird/Take to the sky/I need you now Lord/Carry me high/Don't let the world break me tonight/I need the strength of You by my side/Sometimes this life can be so cold/I pray You'll come and carry me home."
Further highlights include "To the Floor," a sizzling collaboration with Nelly, a humorous jibe at an ex with "Shake It Off," and the fun-loving "Your Girl," where the songstress confirms herself the only who could sing about putting "those naughty thoughts into your mind" and come off sounding absolutely adorable.
With "The Emancipation of Mimi," Carey has the hottest album of her storied career on her hands. For the greatest comeback story of our time, look no further.
The limited edition version includes better artwork, a digipak case and a fold-out poster with lyrics on the opposite side.