3 years ago, after the disaster of her first film Glitter, and the failure of her album Charmbracelet to gain traction with audiences, it seemed that Mariah Carey would be left behind as a has-been from the 90's. Fortunately, she dropped past pretensions, headed into the studio with a number of top r&b and hip-hop producers and performers, and is suddenly back in a familiar place. That place is at the top of the charts, where she spent most of the first 10 years of her recording career.
Steering away from formula
The music here is not as radical of a shift for Carey as you might expect from the title. However, she does seem to free herself somewhat from past formula and venture into more soulful territory than in much of the past. She has been helped into new territory by such stellar guests as Jermaine Dupri, Snoop Dogg, and the Neptunes. Although she bills herself as THE voice, it's quite clear that her voice is not what it was 10 years ago. Fortunately, the producers are kind and do an outstanding job of hiding flaws. Mariah Carey's voice also has a welcome edge of experience now.
The first two singles from the album, "It's Like That" and "We Belong Together," show off, respectively, the dance and ballad sides of Mariah's music. This is familiar for fans, but the obvious respect for old school r&b in the choruses of each song gives the music stronger roots than the airy flights of much of her music in the past. Other standout cuts here include the perfect matchup of Mariah Carey and Snoop Dogg on "Say Somethin'" and the exploration of bitter pain in relationships on "One and Only" featuring Twista. One serious disappointment is the failure of "To the Floor," a collaboration with hip-hop superstar Nelly, to catch fire.
5 years ago, according to reports, Mariah Carey was paranoid about the threat to her superstardom of an upstart Jennifer Lopez. Now it is Mariah in the underdog spot, and it looks like Beyonce may have some competition for the diva crown.