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Record Rating: *****

Mariah Carey - The Emancipation Of Mimi - Universal Music Mariah Carey was America's biggest sweetheart of the 1990’s. She entered that decade with a bang, selling over 9 million copies of her debut album in the US alone, spawning four #1 singles, and nabbing two Grammy's at the same time. Since then she's topped the charts multiple times, racking up more accumulative weeks at number one on the charts and breaking more records than you can count.

But her music of late has been nothing to talk about. The mediocre Charmbracelet and the best-left-unsaid Glitter effort, sold only on the afterglow of her past successes instead of on sheer talent. And with her recent public breakdown, it was thought by many (including myself) that would be the last we hear from her. But Mariah has seemingly wholly redeemed herself on her 13th release, The Emancipation of Mimi. This new album is the album she’s been struggling the last few years to make and it proves to be the one most worth waiting for. After stumbling for a bit, she’s finally got the formula right. On this new one, she’s teamed up with the right producers, given her sound a more sleek and stylized R&B finish, with hip-hop edges, tightened up her songwriting, and reinforced it all with her once again exuberant and resilient voice. Hiring the likes of The Neptunes, Kanye West and Jermaine Dupri to produce the tracks, the result is that the fourteen tracks here bring her into the hip-hop/R&B world of 2005 gloriously.

The first single, the bouncy club-ready It's Like That is a case in point. The album itself debuted at #1 selling 404,000 copies in its first week. The highest ever debut for Mariah Carey. At this point the album remains #2 and shows no sign of slowing down. What sets this album apart from her others are the numerous up-tempos, as the ballads suddenly take a backseat, which I must admit is a nice change. But of course, a Mariah Carey album will not be complete without the big ballads, and there are plenty here. Sure to be a big hit is We Belong Together on which Mariah's vocals really soar. The other notable ballads include the soul workout Mine Again, the Whitney Houston styled Stay The Night and the gospel-tinged album closer Fly Like A Bird.

The bottom line – The Emancipation of Mimi - is Mariah Carey's most listenable album in years, rivaling early classics Music Box, Daydream and Butterfly. This is one of the must-have albums of the year. Not only is it Mariah's big comeback, it's Mariah Carey unlike you've heard her before - she sounds fully confident now, more grown-up, sexy and secure, and more importantly she's got full control of her voice - the power, the key, the breathing, the three octave gliding act. No wonder this album is being marketed as The Return of the Voice…

Read our other reviews:

Will Smith - Lost & Found       The Darkness - Permission To Land       Rock 2005 - Various Artists       Athlete - Tourist      


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