The Emancipation of Mimi is Mariah Carey's 10th studio album that was released on April 12, 2005 by Island Def Jam.
- It's Like That 3:23
- We Belong Together 3:21
- Shake It Off 3:52
- Mine Again 4:01
- Say Somethin' (featuring Snoop Dogg) 3:44
- Stay The Night 3:57
- Get Your Number 3:15
- One And Only (featuring Twista) 3:14
- Circles 3:30
- Your Girl 2:46
- I Wish You Knew 3:34
- To The Floor (featuring Jermaine Dupri) 3:27
- Joy Ride 4:03
- Fly Like A Bird 3:53
After enduring three years of "carping" from critics, Carey planned her return to music.
On November 18, 2004, she revealed on her website that the name of the album would be "The Emancipation of Mimi."
While Carey was recording the album, Island Records executive L.A. Reid had learned that close friends referred to the singer as "Mimi".
He had told Carey: "I feel your spirit on this record. You should use that name in the title, because that's the fun side of you that people don't get to see – the side that can laugh at the diva jokes, laugh at the breakdown jokes, laugh at whatever they want to say about you and just live life and enjoy it."
Carey explained that Mimi is a "very personal nickname" only used by those in her inner circle, and thus the title meant she was letting her guard down and inviting her fans to be that much closer to her. She thought that naming her album The Emancipation of Mariah Carey would be "obnoxious."
Recording & Writing
During a visit to a recording studio, Carey was given a beat by The Legendary Traxster. On a later date, she met with rapper Twista backstage after a show.
When Carey mentioned the track, Twista told her that the beat had been originally intended for him, and that he had already written lyrics for it. They decided to collaborate on the track, which later was titled "One and Only".
In the following months, Carey wrote and co-produced several songs including "Say Somethin' (with Snoop Dogg and The Neptunes), "To the Floor" (with Nelly), and "Fly Like a Bird" with James "Big Jim" Wright.
By November, she felt that she had composed enough good material for "The Emancipation of Mimi". After Reid listened to the album; however, he suggested that Carey composes a few more "strong" singles to ensure the project's commercial success.
Based on his recommendation, Carey met with Jermaine Dupri in Atlanta for a brief studio session, since Reid felt she had written some of her best work with him.
During this two-day trip, Carey & Dupri wrote and produced "Shake It Off" and "Get Your Number", which were released as the album's third and fourth singles.
Following this recording session, "Shake It Off" was briefly selected as the album's lead single, replacing the other contenders, "Stay The Night" and "Say Somethin'".
Carey later returned to Atlanta for a second meeting with Dupri; they then penned the last two songs for the album: "We Belong Together" and "It's Like That".
In an interview for Billboard, Carey described her sentiments regarding "It's Like That" during the production stage: "I had the chills. I had a great feeling about it when we finished writing the song, and I was flying back from Atlanta at some crazy hour of the morning ... But we were listening to it on the plane ride on the way home, and even from the demo version, I really felt something very special."
Carey and her management then decided to release "It's Like That" as the album's lead single, calling it "the right fire-starter". She has praised Dupri for being "focused", and felt that together they had composed some of her favorite songs on the album.
She has told MTV: "The album is not about making the older executives happy by making a bring-down-the-house, tearjerker ballad, or [something] steeped in the media dramas of my life. What I tried to do was keep the sessions very sparse, underproduced, like in '70s soul music ... "
According to Reid, Carey intended for the album to feature a more unpolished sound than her previous releases. She had been frustrated with the overproduction on many of her previous records, due to the inclusion of what she considered unnecessary "bells and whistles".
Carey opted to record the majority of "The Emancipation of Mimi" live, alongside the band. Reid agreed with this decision and felt that the live vocals made the album sound more authentic.
"The Emancipation of Mimi" explores various genres; Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune felt that the album effectively combines "elements of hip-hop and rhythm and blues into pop songs that appeal to a broad cross-section of listeners."
Aside from the ballads and uptempo tracks, the album incorporates elements of soul and 1970s-inspired genres, evident on the gospel-tinged closing track, "Fly Like a Bird".
While most tracks derive instrumentation from live bands and musical instruments, some of the uptempo songs feature computerized arrangements and synthesizers.
Stylistically, critics considered the album Carey's most diverse record in years, and one that highlighted many different production choices and techniques.
"It's Like That" was written and produced by Carey and Jermaine Dupri. It features hand claps and whistles, as well as ad-libs and verses from Dupri and Fat Man Scoop. The song's bassline and chord progression are aligned with piano and string notes.
Its lyrics are arranged to portray the singer during a celebration: "I came to have a party / Open off that Bacardi ... Purple taking me higher / I'm lifted and I like it."
Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine praised its lyrics and beat, and felt the song prepares listeners for the album's "party theme."
Lyrically, "We Belong Together" was described as a "broken-hearted lament for love"; it features finger-snaps, kick drums, and a piano-driven melody.
Carey composed the gospel-influenced ballad "Fly Like a Bird" with James Wright. The lyrics are in the form of a prayer that conveys a message of unconditional love for God. The song features a verbal recording of Carey's pastor, Clarence Keaton, who reads two verses from the Bible.
Carey wrote the album's fifth cut "Say Somethin'", which features rap verses from Snoop Dogg and was produced by The Neptunes.
Vibe writer Dimitri Ehrlich described it as "a musical oddity", and characterized the production as "strange instrumentation, weird melodic shifts, hectic drum patterns and a bed of synths." Lyrically, the protagonist makes sexual advances to a romantic interest with the line "If it's worth your while, do something good to me."
When interpreting the lyrics in the female role, Cummings noted "a shy woman who doesn't need to say anything at all to get a man's attention."
Carey wrote "Mine Again" alongside producer James Poyser. The ballad has electronic keyboard notes, a rhythmic vinyl sound, and melodies from gospel and R&B genres.
"Stay the Night" was produced by Carey and Kanye West, and samples a piano loop from Ramsey Lewis's 1971 cover version of "Betcha by Golly, Wow". In the lyrics, the protagonist faces the dilemma of spending the night with an ex-lover, although he is in another relationship.
"Get Your Number" samples the hook from British band Imagination's 1982 single "Just an Illusion" and derives its production from "'80s-esque synthesizers" and computerized musical instruments.
Lawrence Ferber from the Windy City Times described "Shake It Off" as a "playful approach to bitterness—and, more specifically, a cheatin' bad apple", with lyrics such as "I gotta shake you off / Just like a Calgon commercial".
In an interview with Ferber, Carey described the track as her favorite from the album, saying: "'Shake It Off' can apply to anything. Whatever personal dramas we go through, put that song on and you lose the anxiety or intensity of the moment. I'll listen to that song when I've just come out of an annoying meeting. I gotta shake this off."
Jon Pareles from The New York Times felt that the album follows a formula that was most apparent on "Shake It Off": "On this album, the verses stay in a narrow range, the choruses glide higher, and at the ends of some songs, Ms. Carey gives herself a few of her old sky-high notes as a background flourish."
"The Emancipation of Mimi" debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 with 404,000 copies sold during its first week, making it Carey's highest first-week sales in her career and became her fifth number-one album in the country & her third album to debut at the top.
Ten months after its release, the album was certified 6x platinum by the RIAA, hitting its sales mark of 6 million copies in the United States as of 2013.
"The Emancipation of Mimi" received a 64 out of 100 (indicating "generally positive reviews") on Metacritic, a website that averages professional reviews from critics into a numerical score.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic called it a "highly crafted piece of dance-pop" and "relative comeback" for Carey, although it is not as "catchy" as he thought it should have been.
Erlewine voiced a common criticism of the album: that Carey's voice seemed "damaged" in comparison to her "glory years" in the 1990s. He commented that in the belted songs such as "Fly Like a Bird" and "I Wish You Knew", Carey's voice sounded "as airy, thin, and damaged as it did on Charmbracelet".
Michael Paoletta from Billboard was less critical of her vocals, writing that "while her voice has lost some of the power through the years, Mimi deftly showcases her still-considerable pipes with strong lyrics and slick production." Paoletta praised The Emancipation of Mimi as Carey's best album since "Butterfly."
Michael Dougall Bell from the Calgary Sun called Carey's voice "very impressive". He concluded: "While Emancipation may not send Carey's stock or star back up to where it once was and where that voice deserves to be, at least she's not plummeting – she's merely levelled off."
Entertainment Weekly editor Tom Sinclair noted that almost every song "showcases Carey's undeniable vocal strengths".
Reviewing "Fly Like a Bird", Sinclair concluded, "It's so moving that we'll resist the temptation to be crass and interpret the song as a plea for heightened record sales. Help from above is always welcome, but Emancipation sounds like it just might do fine all on its own."
Jennifer Vineyard of MTV News considered the album's title to be influenced by Janet Jackson's Damita Jo, which was also based on an alternate persona.
According to Jenson Macey from BBC News, The Emancipation of Mimi was Carey's strongest effort from the 2000s; he said that the album "took her straight back to the top of the A-List."
Caroline Sullivan from The Guardian gave the album four stars out of five, calling it "cool, focused and urban."
The New York Times's, Jon Pareles, complimented how Carey wrote all of the album's material. He felt the record's sound was fresh and innovative: "on The Emancipation of Mimi, she disciplines herself into coherence, using fewer tricks and sounding more believable. She also finds what lesser singers can take for granted: a certain lightness that eases her constant sense of control."
Cummings from PopMatters gave the album seven stars out of ten, claiming it to be Carey's redemption from the manacles of her previous two releases. He praised the album's singles, but called some of its music "corny" and "unnecessarily overproduced".
Todd Burns from Stylus Magazine gave the album a B−, admiring its assortment of beats and tempo. However, he called some of The Neptunes and Dupri's production "ill-advised".
He called some of Carey's vocals "strained, thin and airy." While considering it as an improvement over her previous releases of the decade, he concluded that it "suffers from the fact that her vocals have deteriorated – a simple fact of the ravages that her voice has undergone in the past fifteen years."
Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine gave "The Emancipation of Mimi" three and a half stars out of five, calling it "redemption". He complimented its array of beats and its production.
Andre Meyer of CBS News thought the material on the album was "stronger" than on Charmbracelet, and described it as a move in Carey's long-term plan for pop domination, while giving off the "jittery R&B vibe that made Destiny's Child so potent." He added that "Mariah has returned to singing – while still pushing the limits of good taste with her barely there outfits."