New Mariah not on fi-ah

Andrew Hampp

Credit: Andrew Hampp

First it was Anne Heche and “Celestia.” Next it was Beyonce and “Sasha.”

Now Mariah Carey has become the latest Hollywood diva to unleash her alter ego onto the world, and hers even gets its own album title.

The Emancipation of Mimi, Carey’s tenth album proper, is better than 2002’s simply blah “comeback” disc Charmbracelet but a far cry from the career highs of Music Box and Daydream. The majority of the songs here are so disappointing, Carey would be wise to issue a statement saying, “It wasn’t me, it was Mimi!”

Opening track and lead single “It’s Like That,” however, is a surprisingly successful attempt at a midtempo club banger that plays to Carey’s vocal strengths but doesn’t overdo them. The Melisma Queen keeps things refreshingly restrained in the oversinging department, and instead leaves the cloying vocals to shrill-voiced DJ Fatman Scoop on a few “Let’s go now!”s at the song’s denouement.

Elsewhere, however, Carey unleashes her trademark finger-waving diva vocals, melismating and warbling all over tracks like “Mine Again,” “I Wish I Knew” and “Stay The Night.” MC seems to have forgotten where such oversinging is appropriate — on her early ‘90s pop shufflers like “Emotions” and “Someday,” for example — and where it’s just plain cloying.

But Mimi isn’t all lame retreads of album tracks that didn’t work before. “Circles” and “Fly Like A Bird” are a pair of ‘70s-inspired ballads that are both pleasing to the ears and competently written.

Even so, the only legacy The Emancipation of Mimi is likely to leave is that it finally marks Carey’s debut collaborations with both Kanye West and The Neptunes, whose contributions to the disc are hit-and-miss.

Kanye helms a duet between Mariah and Twista that perfectly matches the singer and rapper’s respective gifts for high-speed vocal syncopation. And one of the two Neptunes tracks, “Say Somethin’” (a duet with Snoop Dogg) succeeds in being Carey’s best club track in years.

Ultimately, listening to Mimi makes one wonder why Carey is still going at it. When her albums have depleted into two-hit affairs with 12 leftovers that accomplish nothing new thematically, lyrically or musically, couldn’t she easily give up on recording new material and take Mimi on the road for a two-woman show? Certainly Carey’s recent crazy antics would make for a more interesting affair than listening to the entirety of her latest album.

Contact Pop Arts reporter Andrew Hampp at [email protected].