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Demanding divas deliver

Mariah Carey
The Emancipation of Mimi
Def Jam


Desperate for another hit single and hoping to reignite her career, Mariah Carey unveils her alternate persona, Mimi. When discussing Carey’s 15-year catalog, it can easily be divided into two categories: “old” Mariah and “new” Mariah.

Old Mariah set the tone for pop perfection in the 1990s with singles such as “Hero,” “Always Be My Baby” and “Love Takes Time.” The tunes crafted between ’90-97 were magnificently executed pieces of radio-friendly gems.

Then there’s new Mariah, whose voice has lost its power, and whose subsequent records such as Rainbow, Glitter and Charmbracelet, which were stuffed with a collection of sub-par pop tunes. The strength of The Emancipation of Mimi comes from its wide range of collaborators who manage to hide the flaws in new Mariah’s voice. The album is a who’s who list of hip-hop superstars, with Snoop Dogg, the Neptunes, Twista, Jermaine Dupri and Kanye West adding their own special touch to the troubled diva’s comeback.

“We Belong Together” is the closest listeners ever get to old Mariah. The song is a smooth R&B ballad of longing for the one that got away. “I can’t sleep at night / When you are on my mind / Bobby Womack’s on the radio / Singing to me, ‘If you think you’re lonely now’ / Wait a minute, this is too deep / I gotta change the station.” Meanwhile, Carey hits the clubs with “It’s Like That” and “Get Your Number.”

But Mimi’s weakest point, strangely enough, is in the ballad department, something Carey’s never had a problem nailing. “Fly Like a Bird” and “Mine Again” are bland attempts at winning over the mainstream pop audiences and conservative America; two very tasteless tracks.

Another standout track is the suave “Say Somethin’,” which pairs Carey’s sultry vocals with Snoop Dogg’s pimptastic rap guided by the Neptunes’ funky track. “Say Somethin'” ranks as the album’s most rewarding track. After numerous failed forays into hip-hop, Carey finally gets it all right.

The Emancipation of Mimi has been billed as “the return of the voice,” but the truth of the matter is this voice has lost a lot of its luster and is losing ground to copycats such as Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson and Kelly Clarkson. Mimi’s success will rely on whether the music industry will accept a 35-year-old woman still parading around as a pre-teen who names her albums after rainbows and butterflies.

The record is a mixed bag that manages to become new Mariah’s strongest album to date, but pales in comparison to old Mariah classics such as Daydream and Music Box. One positive that can be seen throughout the record is that the diva is striving to better her craft. Mimi is a masterpiece compared to the horrid Glitter, the soundtrack to Carey’s equally abominable film, and is more dynamic than the middle-of-the-road pop that drowned Charmbracelet.

Carey tries it all, from high notes to guest appearances from music’s hottest stars, but Mimi can’t recapture the magic of her earlier years.