Contemporarily, commercial comebacks don’t come any bigger than Mariah Carey‘s seismic return to chart dominance with ‘The Emancipation of Mimi.’
A legendary body of work that is now celebrating its sweet 16th anniversary.
Prior to its release on April 12 2005, the diva’s career was on uncertain terrain.
The underperformance of 2001’s ‘Glitter’ (which has become a legend in and of itself) effectively KO’d the star’s colossal Virgin Records deal; and then 2002 follow-up ‘Charmbracelet’ (her first release for Island Def Jam) did not deliver commercially either — despite favorable reviews and her omnipresence on the media promo trail.
Fortunately for the songbird, the latter LP – her first to be shepherded by LA Reid – would prove to be the calm before the showstopping storm.
For, following the one-two punch thrown by ‘Emancipation’s preceding singles ‘It’s Like That’ and ‘We Belong Together,’ Carey would go on to light the match on one of the hottest streaks of her iconic career. Unquestionably, the album saw her blaze her way to the top of the Pop cultural landscape once again.
With ‘Mimi,’ the star earned her 16th and 17th #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, was certified 6x Platinum in the US (pure sales), and sold over 12 million copies of the album worldwide. For many, the era served as a millennial mirroring of Tina Turner’s’ ‘Private Dancer.’ And arguably such a comeback story and level of success that has yet to be seen since.
In salute of the set’s 16th anniversary, That Grape Juice has tallied our top tracks from ‘The Emancipation Of Mimi.’
Check out the list below…
7) Don’t Forget About Us
With this project, Mimi and her creative cohorts – Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox, and Johnta Austin – cemented the “ballad that bops” format and this serves as one of their strongest efforts yet. It’s bested by one other song, but we’ll get to that later.
6) Get Your Number
Versatility has long been one of Mariah’s strong points and she’s renowned for turning up the tempo with dazzling results. This funkified club jam remains a TGJ favorite and we wish it was given a more measured push. Internationally, it was rolled out as a double a-side with ‘Shake It Off,’ which of course slayed the charts. But, if you ask us, this was always more deserving.
Beyond the album’s titan-sized vocals, ‘Mimi’ really pushed Mariah’s pen-game. Case in point this engaging ballad about being love-lorn. The conviction in the vocal delivery and engrossing lyrics made for a magical match.
4) Mine Again
Ballads have Mariah’s sonic mainstay, but one of our favorite traits of the album is the diversity – even within its slower jams. With this track especially, the pairing of her potent voice with live instrumentation, such as trumpets, flutes, drums makes for audio bliss.
3) It’s Like That
As an era opener and album opener, this banger deserves all of its flowers. Even in being somewhat of a bait-and-switch (given the LP’s more mid-tempo flow), this set the tone on several levels. Plus, “them chickens is ash and I’m lotion” may be one of our most revered Mariah lyrics ever. Like, ever.
2) Fly Like A Bird
A Gospel explosion that, for us, has alternated as our top pick over the years. It’s remained one of Mariah’s too, per her own words and its residence on many of her setlists in the 16 years since it first took flight.
Lyrically and vocally it builds towards an almighty praise break that would have even the staunchest atheist jumping at the pulpit. A classic.
1) We Belong Together
If ‘Emancipation’ is the car, this iconic ballad is the song that drove it to the mountain top. Mastering the elusive art of being both lyrically and vocally astute while melodically universal too, this deservingly dominated with a stronghold like no other. And took its place as one of her career-defining songs, no small feat given the enormity of her smashes prior to that point.