For the modern era, commercial comebacks don’t come any bigger than Mariah Carey‘s powerful return to prominence with ‘The Emancipation of Mimi.’
As widely documented, the songbird’s career was in precarious position prior to the April 2005 release.
Mimi’s music had not been flying off the shelves for years. Indeed, the bombastic bombing of 2001’s ‘Glitter’ effectively tombstoned her huge Virgin Records deal and 2002 follow-up ‘Charmbracelet’ (her first release for Island Def Jam), while embraced by critics, did not deliver commercially.
The latter would prove to be the calm before the storm, though. Because, following the one-two punch thrown by ‘Emancipation’s preceding singles ‘It’s Like That’ and ‘We Belong Together,’ Mariah would go on to enjoy one of the hottest streaks of her illustrious career.
She earned her 16th and 17th #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, was certified 6x Platinum in the US (sales not streams), and sold 12 million copies of the LP worldwide. Very much a Tina Turner ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ moment for the 00s.
Beyond the music, the era was especially memorable for Mariah’s promotional omnipresence and the performances that brought along with it. Join us below as we count down our top live showings from the ‘Emancipation of Mimi’ era…
6) ‘With You I’m Born Again’ (w/ John Legend) At VH1 Save The Music 2005
Though not a song on the ‘Emancipation,’ this duet cover of Billy Preston and Syreeta’s hit easily serves as one of the era’s most sensational showings. An exquisite blending of talent by two of music’s top titans at the time.
5) ‘We Belong Together’ At MTV Movie Awards 2005
As one the most successful songs not just of the ‘Emancipation’ era – but of the decade, ‘We Belong Together’ performances are plentiful.
However, Mariah’s reliance on pre-recorded vocals to perform it (given its dangerous demands on her voice) have rendered most showings impressive but “samey.”
Still, the grandeur of the MTV Movie Awards rendition cannot be denied. Vocally on-point and visually stellar, this is one offering of the song that is permanently etched in the mind.
4) ‘Make It Happen’ At Live 8
Mariah sprinting? Who’d have thought it!
At her uninhibited best, the diva let go and let rip with the Children’s Choir Of Africa at Bob Geldof’s world-watched fundraiser.
Charging across the stage with power and purpose, the songbird soared with the 1992 single.
3) ‘It’s Like That’ At VH1 Save The Music 2005
If ever there’s a performance’s modern Mimi needs to reference from a “working the stage” standpoint, it’s this!
Oozing confidence, she visually captured the carefree air of the song; she strutted, she danced, and she felt every whip of that wind machine.
In the years since, she would clam up and seem unsure of herself on-stage. However, after recently catching her on her ‘Sweet Sweet Fantasy’ tour, we witnessed the return of “this” Mariah and it was a welcome pleasure.
2) ‘Vision of Love’ At BET Blueprint
Music critics will agree that ‘Vision’ is one of the most vocally taxing songs in modern memory. A reality which makes Mimi’s rendition of it at the ‘Emancipation’ BET Blueprint special that much more impactful.
A beacon of brilliance, the showing re-affirms the wonders embedded in Carey’s “new voice” when warmed and conditioned.
1) ‘We Belong Together / Fly Like A Bird’ At Grammy Awards 2006
Beyond delivering a double helping of our favorite tracks from the ‘Emancipation,’ Mariah’s 2006 Grammy showing is memorable 11 years on for a multitude of reasons.
Sonically, visually, and lyrically, it encapsulated everything the era represented. Redemption, vindication, resilience, and the rising (like a phoenix) of a star many had considered dimmed.
Vocally, it wasn’t flawless, but in this case even the imperfections added positively to the performance narrative. Mariah was in a war for her career, which when viewed this way, almost makes it natural to have scars of imperfection along the way.
Watching this was like witnessing the (re)coronation of a Queen after her victory in battle. And in many ways it was exactly that.