Mariah Carey is back with her eleventh studio album, E=MC˛, which translates to the emancipation of Mariah to the second power. Basically, Mariah is trying to duplicate the mega success of 2005’s "Emancipation of Mimi". The album includes an entourage (over ten!) of producers such as Jermaine Dupri, LA Reid and Mariah herself, who writes or co-writes all of the fourteen tracks.
E=MC˛ is everything you love and hate about Mariah Carey. Predictable but yet likable ("That Chick"). Childish but yet fun ("Side Effects"). Sugary but yet trampy ("Touch My Body"). However, the most lofty shortcoming of Carey’s second emancipation is how she seems to be downplaying her immense musical talent with songs that are, quite frankly, beneath her.
"Migrate", featuring T-Pain, includes lyrics like, "Speed dial connecting me to Rae-Rae, click in Shawntae and Mae-Mae." Rae-Rae, Mae-Mae and Shawntae? Is this a Mad TV skit or what Mariah really thinks "urban" listeners want to hear? While this might be acceptable for a song from Cassie (Who is Cassie, you ask? Exactly!), but not a pop icon like Carey.
Songs like "O.O.C.", "Thanx For Nothin’", all have Carey whispering in a weak, teen R&B voice that she would’ve never used in the nineties. Also, for some reason, each of the songs include ridiculously bad grammar, which I’m assuming Carey equates as R&B. The grammatically incorrect, urban Mariah, who was raised in ’80’s Long Island, New York, feels pushed like a Madonna British accent.
The oddest moment on "E=MC˛" is when Mariah goes reggae in the song "Cruise Control" featuring Damien Marley. Yes, Jamaican Mariah... she sings with a Jamaican accent, "I’ve been told so many sagas, he brings the drama, six baby mamas", as she cries she needs cruise control. Really, Mariah? The song is embarrassing, uncomfortable and about as inauthentic as Senator Hillary Clinton suddenly gaining a Southern accent when she’s campaigning in red states. This is a song for Rihanna, but not an international superstar who has one of the greatest voices of all time. Carey is trying too hard with her venture into the urban playground that dumb down her musical gifts.
Whatever the case, Mariah Carey is the queen of redemption. Just when you are about to give up on the Butterfly diva she manages to save the album with the fun "I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time" and a throwback to classic Mariah, "I Wish You Well", produced by James Poyser, who has worked with Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu.
"I Wish You Well" is just her voice and a piano, which ends the album and makes us wonder if Carey will ever return to the great vocal songs she once mastered in the ’90’s. Oddly, listening to Mariah first few albums, her music was more mature eighteen years ago then it is today. While we understand Mariah is "eternally twelve", as she says, there is a difference being an eternally twelve year-old singing songs like "Migrate" or singing songs like "I Wish You Well".
Mariah Carey is in the history books. You can criticize her for being formulaic, immature, or syrupy, but the 38 year-old pop diva has found the equation for success. Furthermore, any pop artist who survives the viciousness of the music industry (Madonna, Janet Jackson) and still manages to rake in hits will always be held to a high standard. The criticism hasn’t affected Mariah -- she just broke Elvis’ number one hits record. Still, I can’t help but yearn for an album full of vocals, instruments and classic music. If Alicia Keys and Mary J. can do it, why can’t Mariah?
by Mariah Carey
Original Release Date: April 15, 2008
Label: Island / ASIN: B000UMKCYC