“The Emancipation of Mimi” is the tenth studio album released by American singer/songwriter Mariah Carey.
This album was one of the most important in Carey’s career given the commercial failures of the the previous two albums. With much being made of her personal wife and Carey being dismissed as an artist whose hit making days were behind her this album was a major comeback and something Carey has arguably been living off since.
What ‘Emancipation..’ has is something for everyone. She is able to give us songs which were contemporary, stand the test of time but also other tracks that are an ode to her previous ballad driven success of the 1990’s.
The album kicks off with “It’s Like That” with Jermaine Dupri and Fatman Scoop lending some vocals. Mariah delivers a vocal which isn’t what you would consider a powerful expression of her voice but at the same the whispery style she had taken on the previous two albums is not evident which is welcome.
This track is modern, catchy and was a perfect opener and first single.
Track 2 is undoubtedly the biggest song from the album. “We Belong Together” is a monster of a Mariah Carey track. The production is simple yet contemporary and the use of the piano throughout drives the song forward. Mariah sings about heart break and whilst the line “We Belong Together” itself is a tad cheesy the sentiment is just about fulfilled.
The second verse shows a bit of dramatic humor which I quite like:
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, too deep
I gotta change the station
The same style of production is evident on track 3 “Shake It Off”. It a mid tempo head nodder but lyrically it’s a little ugly with designer names and general quickly dated references making it a little shallow. It’s funny as I quite like the song but I like it in a way that it doesn’t offend me and if it’s on i’ll tap my feet and even sing along with the chorus.
“Mine Again” is a straight up Mariah Carey vintage track. It pull out all the odes to he ballad past. If you’re a fan of her early work then this track is for you. Lyrically it isn’t challenging in the slightest but then again I don’t think Mariah Carey is a remarkable song writer and her talent has always been her voice. And vocally whilst on this album the voice is a little thinner and not as robust as it once was this is a lovely song which she duly delivers.
“Say Somethin” is a Neptunes produced track with Snoop Dogg joining Mariah on the track. Despite this album being 11 years old at the time of writing it is a track like this which sounds extremely modern and not out of place listening to it now. I am still feeling this track now.
“Stay The Night” up to this point is the most soulful song on the album. The melody of this track is gorgeous and Carey uses her voice perfectly in the verse and chorus. There might be a few shouty moments but when she strips it back for the two verse she sounds convincing.
“Get Your Number” features producer Jermaine Dupri in the chorus on the most poppy song the album has to offer. I guarantee you will be singing the chorus after just a couple of listening. The production has this old school 90’s R&B feel and Mariah sounds brilliant on this cheeky not so serious song. The track features a sample from British group (the superb) ‘Imagination’ and their track “Just An Illusion”.
Track 8 “One and Only” is one of the less interesting tracks on this set. I like the bassline that is prevelent through the song which gives it a more relaxed vibe. I don’t care for the quick pace Mariah sings at as she is almost rapping. The song is a bit of mess and she is trying to show far too many technical demonstrations of her voice.
Luckily that was just a blip as “Circles” is for me the album’s finest moment. When she sings the lyrics “I just keep going round and round” there is a raspy element to her vocal which isn’t probably what some will like as they expect Mariah to be smooth and perfect but with the lyrical content it is almost as if she is exhausted and emotional by what she is singing about.
“Your Girl” is sadly dated and sounds like a track that should have been included on a previous album. It also sounds familiar to another song which I cannot put my finger on.
“I Wish I Knew” is a straight up soul song. It’s slow, atmospheric and Carey delivers a vocal performance which is one of the best on the set because she doesn’t stretch things and offers a more stripped back performance.
Track 12 is “Too The Floor”. Its a funk filled dancefloor number which feature rapper Nelly. What this track does is show that she can compete which any female out in the charts at the time with a modern and fresh track. I can’t deny that I love this song.
“Joy Ride” is track 13. Again it takes it’s musical style from the 90’s. I’m not too gone on the melodic structure of the track and Carey again offers little lyrically. As the track develops it gets better and the pre chorus makes things a little more interesting.
The album finishes with “Fly Like A Bird”. It’s a song that has the 70’s in mind with it’s production. The whole musical element to this song is sonically beautiful and has also those old school elements which I love as a soul music lover.
Carey delivers a brilliant vocal on this lovely track. The live performance feel about the music is perfect as Carey really sings her heart out. A wonderful way to end this album.
Lyrically the themes on “The Emancipation of Mimi” may be tired and done before but this album was exactly what Mariah Carey needed to resuscitate her career. This isn’t just a comeback album – this is one of the best R&B albums of this decades and will be remembered for that.