It's All About Mimi

CD Review: The Emancipation of Mimi (Island) by Mariah Carey

What's her story? Divas are complex, self destructive creatures. It's an occupational hazard if not a pre-requisite or defining factor. Mariah's rise was a classic rags-to-riches affair worthy of a feelgood Tinsel Town flick;  she overcame a “living hell” upbringing via her stupendous five-octave voice. After a decade of chart-topping success she went loopy, dressing like a hooker, refusing to “do stairs”, and babbling about conversing with Marilyn Monroe – through a piano.  Signed to Virgin for $80 million, she was dropped a year later. Breakdown and therapy followed.  Now she's back, re-branding herself as “Mimi” (move over, J-Lo).

Is she OK now? Er, well, she recently described herself as: “a 12-year-old who hasn’t stopped believing in Santa Claus” (move over, Jacko). As long as he comes, I guess that could be okay...

Is the album any good? It's an ably assisted step in the right direction.  Helping Mariah get back on track is an expensive coterie of collaborators, including Nelly, Snoop Dogg, and The Neptunes. Between them, they've come up with doses of urban hip-pop sass mixed with soaring soul, booty-shaking pop, and the odd belting lungful of power balladry.  It's true, her voice is no longer up to the gravity-defying gymnastics it used to perform; she's audibly more restrained these days – although still occasionally foisting that batty, canine-bothering, dolphin-squeak falsetto.  In an age where anodyne, groomed personality bypasses clog shows like Pop Idol, X-Factor et al on their smoothed passageways to the top of the charts, Carey makes for a genuinely interesting artist. And with proper divas on the decline, we’d be mad not to welcome her return.

Critical Quibbling

“Her sadly depleted voice is again propped up by multi-tracking, and the occasional dog-deafening shriek hardly proves she's recaptured her early acrobatic power” -- Los Angeles Times

“Mostly cool, focused and urban... shaping up to be Carey’s best album since her heyday... Not bad, 'Mimi'.” -- The Guardian

-- Published by In Residence magazine, 2005


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